Let’s Go Horizontal

Chicago is a unique technology town, driven by the distinct vertical markets that have developed here over the past nearly two centuries. Whether that be financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, tech, real estate or advertising. We have a good significant sized industry in each of those. Unlike a Las Vegas where tourism dominates or Houston where oil reigns supreme, we have this diversified highly vertical economy. And contrary to those other communities our strengths lie in the fact that we have an economy where no one industry dominates more than 13% of the board.

Consequently, what has happened in the past twenty years is that a distinct technology industry has evolved around each of these verticals. And for a long time, they didn’t talk to one another. The travel folks didn’t talk to the financial services people. The financial services didn’t talk to healthcare and so on and so forth. This isolation prevented collaboration and innovation that could have nurtured the burgeoning sector further. All the while other consumer and one industry towns came together in their mega one industry bubbles to eclipse the B2B developments here.

For that reason, we built ITA around the idea that we should bring those various people together and bring synergy to these somewhat isolated systems. After all, the problems you have in healthcare from a technical standpoint are the ones that you have in financial services. And there are no worries about secret sauce because you’re not competing in the same markets. We have done a decent job of bringing these disparate parties to the table and burst the bubbles but the siloed nature of community in Chicago persists.

Therefore, we must continue to drive that collaboration forward if we wish to be successful in the future. ITA is committed to doing that. Part of what we have done is to focus on finding the commonalities between members of the Chicago tech sector. We have begun to break down these old barriers. Our recent IoT Summit brought cross vertical interests together on an issue that affects them all. We plan on doing the same in some other areas down the road in other horizontal interests. We also know that there is a preponderance of similar companies who want to join forces to solve analogous problems. And we hope our initiatives are just a bridgehead into being a broader more collaborative community.

Lastly, being one of the largest cities in America, Chicago has a lot of visitors. Including lots of visitors around various national industries. As part of our effort to embrace and showcase various verticals, we’ve championed ingenuity through a series of programs with vertical trade associations. Showcasing companies within the customer segment that they are targeting is one of our goals but we also think it’s important to showcase Chicago’s leadership as a national player in these markets. Our recent successful cooperatives with NACHA (National Automated Clearinghouse Association) and the Illinois Restaurant Association are demonstrative of these successful horizontals.

Chicago’s a tough market. I have no problem saying that. It’s not as forgiving as other markets. Smart companies come in and get involved in the community. They engage with ITA, share their stories with ChicagoInno and focus on making connections with local leaders. For the community to win at a national level, however, we need to do more. Tech success here means collaborating beyond our storied vertical ecosystem and combining to create something wholly new but wholly Chicago.

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© 2020 | Fred Hoch

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