Almost a dozen years ago, I was drawn to the opportunity to lead ITA because I’m an entrepreneur at heart – and I relished the notion of being able to play a positive and meaningful role for scores of tech companies throughout Chicagoland. I also saw an opportunity to usher in a new era by treating an association as a start-up, itself.
As ITA has sprinted far past its start-up phase, it is time for me to begin the transition of returning more fully to my passion and entrepreneurial roots. I am stepping down as CEO and moving into the role of Executive Chairman. With this move, I will be able to increasingly focus my ITA time and leverage my relationships to create even more opportunities to drive our industry forward – with a greater emphasis on identifying and building strategies to exploit long-term trends as opposed to managing ITA quarter-to-quarter.
To be honest, this transition does not start today – it started 18 months ago, with the hiring of Julia Kanouse, who will be taking on the role of CEO. As a leader, she excels at operating the business and her passion lies in scaling organizations. Where ITA stands today is a position of strength, a position we have all worked to create together through intention, invention and discipline over the past several years, and I have every confidence that Julia will take us to new heights.
Part of the reason I’m confident is because of how dynamic ITA has become. We have literally evolved the traditional trade association model – we are consultants as much as we are conveners, and we are trend creators as much as service and benefit providers. ITA doesn’t just take some of the risk out of growing a new technology venture, we are creating completely new lanes for companies to fill.
As Executive Chairman, I will spend more time building the critical bridges that connect our growth-stage member companies with key facets of our community including corporations, universities and local tech groups. My focus will also include continuing to enhance the national reputation of our members and our unique position in the tech industry.
ITA has grown from a few dozen early members to more than 500 growth-stage technology companies and a multi-million dollar organization. We’ve gone from a select set of roundtables to 16 distinct service offerings and a team of 12. We’ve defined the tech industry, supported the development or founded four other organizations and paved the way for many community and government initiatives. We built a premier industry network in which over 5000 executives from 2000 companies engaged with ITA. It’s a long way from Terry Howerton and I sharing a small office with a diesel generator.
I want to thank all of you, the members and the broader community, for your ideas, support and faith as we’ve grown together. I particularly want to thank Terry and Jim Gagnard as preceding chairman and partners in driving this community's success. In addition to ITA, I am excited to build new companies and support the development of others in Chicago for many years to come.
Looking back on the past decade, it’s clear what we have created together at ITA is not your typical trade association, which is fitting because Chicago is anything but a traditional tech town. We are going to continue to evolve and grow – together – and in the next decade this tech community will achieve goals that we can’t even envision today.