Every successful ecosystem has at its core a central defining factor, usually a neutral platform where connections are easy, great ideas are celebrated and shared, and momentum builds quickly around successful first steps. The basis for a community.
The original core to Chicago’s tech ecosystem? The Illinois Technology Association.
Fifteen years ago, as the Internet was truly beginning to shape the future of the American and global economies, Chicago remained steadfast in its traditional ways. Companies that marked time in decades and business models that had succeeded in the face of war, recession and other perils were beginning to see the writing on the wall. Disruption was coming for those who failed to innovate, but where would the innovation come from…if not a direct threat from an upstart competitor?
The answer lay in ITA’s ability to create a community that enabled collaboration between start-up and growth-stage technology companies as well as with the enterprises that defined Chicago’s economy. The result yielded meaningful market opportunities for technology pioneers right in their own backyard, at the same time reinforcing the foundations on which some of our most important companies depend.
That ecosystem – eventually involving more than 4,000 companies and begetting a network of more than 60 diverse organizations – started with a few people and a good idea back in 2005. Today, alongside Terry Howerton, we wish the joint organization all the best as it seeks broader impact in the years ahead.
To be honest, it’s not a new idea. We’ve seen this alignment forming for a while now and had deliberated before we moved on from ITA. But all things considered, it’s time to bring the parallel workstreams into one, in a meaningful and prosperous way that will serve our Chicago community for a long time to come.
There is still a lot of work to be done for Chicago to be recognized as a top-tier technology ecosystem, one that competes on a global level for talent and funding. We’re encouraged by the work of groups such as P33, DPI and others, who will help accelerate our momentum in the next phase. We remain champions for bringing the Chicago community together for common cause and common good. We will continue to forge new paths in this vein through TechNexus Venture Collaborative and our affiliates.
We are as optimistic and confident about both the progress and future of Chicago's tech community. The only difference? Our community is no longer simple. It’s a good problem to have.