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The Chicago technology revolution isn’t coming – it’s already here

Members of the Chicago tech community have spent a lot of time in the past year talking about Groupon and this new class of startups that is going to transform the technology industry. They think that the story of Chicago entrepreneurial success is new, but what they’ve lost is the fact that there’s amazing things that have been going on in Illinois for quite some time.

The story of Chicago tech is about the technology industry that has been around for decades and producing companies that create jobs and $300M+ in revenue in a variety of important verticals. We have thousands of companies doing amazing things - in financial services, in health care, in real estate, in logistics - all of these companies have taken the lead in their respective industries and helped position Chicago as a center of innovation.

Indeed, Chicago has not one tech industry but a dozen. Chicago has had a variety of industries, and as each one has gotten more productive and innovative technology has grown up around them. If you look at finance, for example, that’s an industry where Chicago has always owned the marketplace. Companies like Archipelago Holdings grew out of rich trading history because they were looking to be innovative and technology was a natural outgrowth. Some people saw the opportunity to take the trading that was happening on the floor and make it more efficient by doing it electronically and bringing in new people to trade. It’s created a set of opportunities, a whole new market for options trading that has led to billions in revenue and transformed the options industry. it is because of Chicago that the NYSE works the way it does.

The story of Archipelago Holdings is a common theme – Chicago has a lot of people with tremendous domain expertise that are pioneers in their respective fields. While the company may view itself as a part of the vertical industry it grew out of, in reality it should be perceived and recognized as a tech innovation as well. As a community, we need to log these successes and get more bullish about them. We need to recognize these companies – the Archipelago’s, the ArrowStreams, the AllScripts, the ECHO Global Logistics - because they’re the true future of Chicago innovation. If we start to recognize, celebrate, and connect with the technology leaders we already have, we will be able to further expand in a technology revolution that we have been quietly participating in for decades and continue producing companies thatprovide technology solutions that impact the nation and the world. Much work to be done!

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