Now that things have settled down across our nation…let’s get down to business in Chicago. The coming year will be a transformative one for Chicago tech and the city in general. Regardless of political leanings, the new administration will not have the strong ties to Chicago that we have maintained in the previous eight years. Despite the lack of weight in Washington, local tech has the opportunity to truly become self-sustaining and develop a forward-looking framework that could make 2017 a superlative year for Second City tech.
A brief look at our ever-scaling ecosystem reveals many segments that are poised for evolution but here are the five that in my estimation will see the greatest upheaval in the coming year:
1) Mergers & Acquisitions
It is likely, with some tax changes, that an influx of cash that’s been outside of the country to date will now provide large tech companies the opportunity to significantly increase their acquisitions. I expect to see the number of mergers and acquisitions in the marketplace grow at a rapid pace, both locally and nationally. When consolidation is the name of the game, Chicago firms have traditionally been the ones to be acquired. While that will continue, also expect to see a few of Chicago’s companies acquirers instead of the acquires. All will create new initiatives and collaborations for Chicago.
Chicago continues to be a mecca for talent. Simply, we are rapidly becoming the interior capital of tech. The community continues to amaze in its successful engagement of talent coming from the Midwest. In concert with the universities and the government, the tech community wants to bring tens of thousands of additional workers to Chicago; this steady stream will continue to fundamentally change the dynamics of the city.
That being said, Chicago’s recruiting standing is only hampered by the reputation of Chicago as crime ridden town. 2017 is a pivotal year and inflection point for talent. Hard-line initiatives will be needed to ameliorate our stature and improve our position. Chicago remains a draw but removing these hindrances will allow us to draft talent beyond just the region.
The community continues to mature in 2017. It’s been a process over the last 18 months. We’ve gotten over the exuberance of establishing ourselves as tech town and gotten down to the brass tacks, driving forward the essentials to our success. Additionally, we will start to see more and more business come to the fore that have significant growth and increased revenue.
At the same time, we will see some growing pains and some staff trimming as companies manage growth properly and scale within Chicago’s diverse sector. Growing pains are inevitable. Thankfully, our ecosystem is not a bubble waiting to pop since the name of the game in Chicago has always been about sustainable and measured growth.
IoT - IoT continues to be a major component for us as a community. There are companies here in Chicago that are on the cusp of doing some very significant things. And the infrastructure we have in place is ripe for such integrations; ultimately making our urban fabric more accessible and efficient. Through these fresh initiatives, we will continue to drive ourselves as an IoT capital and by the end of 2017 begin to be recognized as a major hub for IoT development.
Retail - Retail is an area where we are also beginning to see tremendous growth in the tech community here locally. Companies such as ShopperTrak and Shiftgig are transformative for the state of retail tech here in Chicago. Look to them for setting the new standards in this emergent space.
FinTech - FinTech in Chicago will come up to the plate in 2017. I expect to see lots of community activity around fintech startups which. is great for the city. If we are smart we can leverage our current large-scale assets and historical foundation to strategically get back in the game globally as a Fintech center.
5) Innovation & Disruption
Innovation is obviously a buzzword that everyone talks about but this is the year that corporations locally begin to actively recognize that their future is cloudy if they don’t begin to innovate or change the way that they do business in novel ways. We are going to see many of the traditional corporations that are the bedrock of Chicago’s business community actively working towards preparing their corporations for the opportunities and challenges of the new economy. Chicago’s success in the new year and beyond requires this evolution even if it means leaving the old conventional ways behind.