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Mayor Lightfoot, ChicagoNEXT & World Business Chicago Announce Startup Chicago

The new startup growth program will drive investment for the city’s
most promising startups during COVID-19

CHICAGO — Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, ChicagoNEXT, and World Business Chicago today announced the launch of Startup Chicago, a new startup growth program to drive national venture capital investment for Chicago entrepreneurs.

“Chicago’s incredible startup ecosystem is among the most dynamic and fastest growing in the nation thanks to our world-class entrepreneurs and visionary investor community,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Even as we’ve navigated the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Chicago has continued to serve as the world’s leading destination for innovation and investment. Now, with the launch of Startup Chicago, our city’s tech industry is set to grow even further as we provide our homegrown talent the resources they need to connect with investors and business partners in our shared mission to grow Chicago’s innovation space, expand opportunity, and change the way we experience the world.”

Startup Chicago has developed an official startup database for regional and national VC firms and investors to explore investment opportunities in Chicago. The database includes more than 100 startups who are preparing for their next round of funding. Startup Chicago will also lead a series of virtual showcases to spotlight local startups with select investors and corporate partners, an ongoing effort to showcase Chicago entrepreneurs nationally.

“Chicago is not only one of the best cities for entrepreneurs to build a business, it’s also recognized nationally for VC return on investment” said Mark Tebbe, Chair of ChicagoNEXT. “Startup Chicago provides national investors an opportunity to explore and hopefully participate in our thriving startup ecosystem.”

Startup Chicago is led by ChicagoNEXT, World Business Chicago’s dedicated initiative driving inclusive growth and opportunity for the city’s tech economy and innovation ecosystem.

“Chicago is a prominent startup hub. Connecting our city’s diverse startup community and entrepreneurs with investors has a multiplier effect on the economy, including job creation,” said Andrea Zopp, President and CEO of World Business Chicago. “In that spirit, we look forward to engaging with investors from across the country and demonstrating why investments in Chicago offer the best return.”

Startup Chicago is an extension of the Chicago Venture Summit, the city’s flagship VC conference and one of the largest venture events in the Midwest region.  J.P. Morgan and William Blair, lead sponsors of the Chicago Venture Summit, are also lead sponsors of Startup Chicago. Additional Startup Chicago sponsors include Silicon Valley Bank and the Toronto Stock Exchange & TSX Venture Exchange.

“Even as we help clients navigate the complexities of the global pandemic, we remain invested in the success of local entrepreneurs and their innovative startups,” said Heather Webster, Managing Director for J.P. Morgan in Chicago. “We’re excited to be a lead supporter of Startup Chicago and the Chicago Venture Summit efforts.”

“We are focused on driving growth in Chicago’s tech community and one of our primary goals is increasing access to capital for early-stage startups,” said Jim O’Connor, Managing Director and Head of Venture Capital for William Blair in Chicago. “Startup Chicago will showcase our city’s venture-ready startups to accelerate deal flow and grow our VC ecosystem.”

Chicago venture funding hit a decade high in 2019 as VC funding surpassed $2 billion. A total of 279 Chicago-area companies landed $2.186 billion in VC investment according to a report by Pitchbook and the National Venture Capital Association. That’s up from $1.9 billion in 2018, $2 billion in 2017, and $1.3 billion in 2016.

“Chicago has become one of the most active and largest VC ecosystems in the country and Startup Chicago will help build upon the momentum we’ve seen in recent years,” said Dennis Grunt, Managing Director, Silicon Valley Bank. “We’re proud to join Startup Chicago as a partner to fortify our city’s tech and innovation ecosystem.

“Giving startup founders in Chicago and across the Midwest a viable financing option to propel their growth plans is something we are deeply committed to,” said George Khalife, Vice President of U.S. Capital for Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX). “We are both excited and proud to partner with Startup Chicago in continuing to push the envelope on what is already a robust innovation ecosystem.”

Investors interested in exploring the official Startup Chicago database and learning more about exclusive virtual events can visit The Startup Chicago platform was developed by Clique Studios, a national award-winning web design and development firm with headquarters in Chicago.

# # #

World Business Chicago (WBC) is a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business, and promotes Chicago as a leading global city. Launched in 2012 and supported by a council of 200+ tech community leaders, ChicagoNEXT is WBC’s dedicated initiative driving inclusive growth and opportunity for Chicago’s technology economy and innovation ecosystem. Their flagship programs include Startup Chicago, ThinkChicago, and the Chicago Venture Summit.

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