Tech In Chicago takes you inside the Chicago tech world. Each week Colin Keeley is joined by Chicago’s top startup founders and venture capitalists to talk about the amazing companies being built right here. Visit TechInChicago.co for more information.
Sept. 13, 2017
Rebecca Sholiton and Nate Cooper are the Co-Founders of Wise Apple(formally Pak'd), a startup that delivers pre-made, customizable school lunches directly to families’ homes. They just announced their $3.6 million seed round led by Pritzker Group Venture Capital and Levy Family Partners with Chicago Ventures, Greycroft Partners, BoxGroup and Irish Angels also participating. Wise Apple was also part of Techstars Chicago class of 2016 which included previous podcast guests Bright and PartySlate. Use code "chicagotech" for $20 off your first week or this link for it to be automatically applied. In This Episode You Will Learn: The inspiration behind Wise Apple How they made their first lunches How they collected 300 emails from interested customers on day 1 The importance of customizations to their business The value of hand delivering your orders and collecting feedback How they balance healthy and tasty for kids How a new porn site led to the name change What it was like working with the legendary Red Antler branding agency in New York Why Wise Apple won out as the name Any concern around going with a name without having the .com locked down How influential their Kellogg MBAs have been and whether they think they needed it Why starting a business with a bunch of MBAs is a mistake How Rebecca and Nate met Whether copycats and competitors in the food space is a concern for them How their space differs from the meal kit business How they arrived at their price The value in going through Techstars The importance of balancing realistic numbers and unit economics with a big vision Why we need more female investment professionals Why Rebecca won’t look at resumes unless there are non-white/male resumes included The value in having a big anchor tech company in Chicago Selected Links From The Episode: Red Antler, branding agency behind Casper and All Birds Carter Cast, Professor at Northwestern Kellogg and Venture Partner at Pritzker Group Venture Capital Troy Henikoff, Managing Director at MATH Venture Partners Brian Luerssen, Former Techstars Chicago Managing Director Dan Willoughby, Techstars Chicago Director Amanda Lannert, CEO of Jellyvision Favorite Books: Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
Sept. 1, 2017
Brian Barnes is the CEO and Founder of M1 Finance, a startup making an automated investment tool that lets users put their money to work in a balanced portfolio without the hassle of actually managing it. Just a few years after graduating from Stanford, Brian raised $9 million and moved back to Chicago to build the platform. In This Episode You Will Learn: The motivation behind Brian starting M1 Finance How Brian went about launching a MVP in the heavily regulated finance industry How Brian raised $9 million pre-launch The benefits of robo-advisors over all ETFs What M1 Finance costs and how they plan to differentiate from other robo-advisors How Brian got his first customers What Brian has learned about life and business from his mom Brenda Barnes, Former CEO of Pepsi and Sara Lee? What the most effective marketing channels have been How M1 Finance's message has evolved over time How to communicate a relatively complicated product to consumers quickly The importance of design in fintech Why Brian moved back to Chicago after going to Stanford and whether he thinks it matters Why Chicago has to improve our risk appetite Selected Links From The Episode: Favorite Books: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas père Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst y Robert M. Sapolsky
July 29, 2017
Michael LaVitola is the CEO and Founder of Foxtrot, a startup that could be thought of as a curated cornerstore with on-demand delivery. It is basically what you imagine your ideal convenience store would look like with an in store cafe and a ton of super cool beer, wine, food, gifts, and basic necessities. Use code "ab079e" for $10 off your first order In This Episode You Will Learn: Why Michael decided to start Foxtrot What the first version of the product looked like Why they moved away from on demand to retail Why they splurged on pricey retail spots Why they will be having a coffee bar in all their stores going forward How they curate the products they stock What are their best selling and weirdest products What Michael thinks of Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods What the future of retail looks like How they plan to differentiate themselves from Amazon's offerings Why it is important to know who your ideal investor really is Selected Links From The Episode: New Venture Challenge Craig Wortmann, Professor at Northwestern Kellogg Eater Favorite Books: Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Danny Meyer Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
May 13, 2017
Julie Novack is the CEO and a Co-Founder of PartySlate, a startup building a two-sided platform that allows event professionals to share their work and party hosts to gain inspiration from it. PartySlate has raised $2.6 million from investors including Hyde Park Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels and InvestHER Ventures. In This Episode You Will Learn: Julie's motivation for starting PartySlate The importance of throwing a great party for fundraisers The wildest party someone has thrown using PartySlate How to use content marketing and promotional events to drive traffic Why you have to "super-please" one side of the market to start a two-sided marketplace How PartySlate decides where to focus their content marketing efforts The biggest benefits of going through Techstars What Julie would like to see Chicago tech improve on How we get more women involved in tech The importance of role models for women in tech The hardest thing about selling The 3 most critical elements to being a high performing salesperson What made her leave a large company for the startup world The value of dreaming outloud about your idea The fallacy of being protective about your idea How Julie decided to expand geographically before proving out the business model in one geography What their process looks for expanding in to new geographies The importance of owning and managing technology Advice for planning a great wedding Selected Links From The Episode: WiSTEM Favorite Books: Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen Bossypants by Tina Fey Tune In: The Beatles: All These Years by Mark Lewisohn Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
March 23, 2017
Jeff Kahn is a Co-Founder and CEO of Rise Science, a sleep behavior change startup that provides sleep coaching for elite athletes. They harness the science behind sleep, and give elite athletes the power to perform at their best with the help of continuous, personalized insights, guidance and feedback. Rise Science is currently working with many major sports organizations like the Chicago Bulls, Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, West Virginia Mountaineers, and Tennessee Volunteers. Jeff's research and work has been featured in the NY Times, ESPN and the Wall Street Journal. In This Episode You Will Learn: How the idea for Rise Science came about What the first version of their sleep tracking looked like How to determine how much sleep you personally need Comparing different sleep tracking tools The compliance rate with professional players Why they sell the players on sleep tracking and not the coaches What kind of performance improvements teams are seeing What the ideal nap looks like Whether morning (larks) or night (owls) people exist Do owls or larks have a performance advantage in life/sports The most common sleep mistakes athletes make How do justify $80-100k a year to GMs of professional teams What Jeff’s sleep habits look like How you can improve your sleep Selected Links From The Episode: Zeke Markshausen, Designer at IDEO Favorite Books: Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You're So Tired by Till Roenneberg The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night's Sleep by William C. Dement Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million by Mark Roberge
Feb. 22, 2017
George Souri is the Founder and CEO of LQD Business Finance, a startup providing quick, convenient, and affordable financing to small and medium-sized businesses that are traditionally underbanked. LQD is leveraging data to offer business loans in the $250,000 to $3 million range to help businesses scale faster. George is a serial entrepreneur, self-taught mathematician, and musician. He got his entrepreneurial start with a string of dance clubs at 18 years old before founding his own investment bank. In This Episode You Will Learn: What is alternative business lending Why you should try to disprove your idea How George got his start in entrepreneurship The importance of viewing failure as opportunity The power of small efficient actions Why banks turn down good companies How LQD made its first loans The differences between consumer and business lending The value of doing an autopsy on a business The biggest red flags LQD sees when examining a business Why you should be trying to find people that make you feel dumb Selected Links From The Episode: Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist Principles by Ray Dalio Nash equilibrium Al Goldstein, Founder and CEO of Avant Books Mentioned: A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram The Economics of Life: From Baseball to Affirmative Action to Immigration, How Real-World Issues Affect Our Everyday Life by Gary Becker Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Jan. 18, 2017
Troy Henikoff is the Managing Director at Techstars Chicago, a Managing Director at MATH Venture Partners, and a Professor of Entrepreneurship at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Business. If you haven't heard of Troy yet, he is one of the biggest figures in the Chicago tech scene and has been instrumental in getting Chicago tech to where it is today. He is also one of the nicest guys you will ever meet and a hard core cyclist. Prior to launching Techstars Chicago, Troy was a serial entrepreneur. He was the CEO of OneWed.com, President of Amacai, and co-founder and CEO of SurePayroll.com. Troy built the technology for Jellyvision (creators of “You Don’t Know Jack!”), was the President of Systemetrics, and his first company was Specialized Systems and Software. Troy has an undergraduate degree in Engineering from Brown University and a Masters Degree in Project Management from Northwestern. In This Episode You Will Learn: How cold is too cold when biking to work The story of how Troy got into entrepreneurship How Excelerate Labs came about The story of creating BB8 for Star Wars What the application process is like for Techstars How to find the right balance between tenacious and coachable Which entrepreneurs get the most out of Techstars What the timeline looks like for their 90 days in the program What goes into making a perfect pitch in front of 500 venture capitalists What companies really excite him Why Mark Achler and Troy started MATH Venture Partners Whether or not there is a signalling problem by only investing in some of your accelerator companies Why Groupon would have been impossible to build in San Francisco Why you have to be honest with yourself first Selected Links From The Episode: Michael Krasny, Founder of CDW Alex White, Founder of Next Big Sound David Cohen, Founder of Techstars Sam Yagan, CEO of Shop Runner Brad Feld, VC at Foundry Group Sphero Fitbot Casey Jenks, Founder of Fitbot Favorite Books: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist by Brad Feld Sponsored By: Propllr: a Chicago public relations firm that helps startups and innovators build credibility and awareness for their companies, people, products and services.
Dec. 31, 2016
Greg Tepas is the Founder and CEO of CarAdvise, a startup that makes car maintenance easy and transparent. CarAdvise acts as a personal auto repair concierge and advisor for car owners. They provide an unbiased opinion on proposed work and estimated cost to save car owners from the traditional mistrust and stress associated with car repairs. In This Episode You Will Learn: Why Greg decided to build CarAdvise How commercial car fleets typically handle repairs How to begin building a two sided marketplace How CarAdvise makes money How the product has evolved Impact of self driving cars on the car repair industry Why you should be talking to everyone about your startup Favorite Books: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush Sponsored By: Propllr: a Chicago public relations firm that helps startups and innovators build credibility and awareness for their companies, people, products and services.
Dec. 7, 2016
Jeff Judge is the Founder and CEO of Bright, a startup that helps SaaS companies quickly understand their core metrics, and gives them the tools to grow faster. Bright just graduated from the 2016 Techstars class here in Chicago. Before founding Bright, Jeff cofounded and led Signal (acquired) and he was an early engineer at Orbitz. In This Episode You Will Learn: Why Jeff founded Bright after selling Signal What kind of optimizations Bright can deliver What setting up Bright entails Why he applied to Techstars as an experienced founder What he got out of the Techstars accelerator Why he is a big fan of having a distributed team The tools Jeff finds helpful to make a distributed team work Why he would have raised money earlier Why he’d like to see Chicago tech be more collaborative The motivation behind starting the Bright conference How to plan a successful conference in just two weeks What goes into making the perfect pitch The importance of having the right support structure in enterprise selling The value of submitting imperfect creations Selected Links From The Episode: Fredrik Olsen, CTO at Bright Brian Flanagan, CPO at Bright Troy Henikoff, Techstars Chicago Managing Director Brian Luerssen, Techstars Chicago Managing Director Dan Willoughby, Techstars Chicago Program Manager SaaStr Annual Conference Bright Conference Favorite Books: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz Managing Oneself by Peter Ferdinand Drucker Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Dec. 3, 2016
Rob Royer is the Founder and CEO of Interior Define, a startup that builds furniture on demand and will customize everything, including the size, shape, color, fabric, filling, and frame. Rob was one of the early employees at Bonobos and took much of what he learned over to Interior Define, which he launched in 2014. Shopping for a big purchase like a couch online without sitting on it beforehand kind of seems crazy so we talk a lot about how they have gotten people over that hesitation. We actually recorded this episode sitting on one of their sofas in their Lincoln Park guideshop. In This Episode You Will Learn: How Rob got involved with Bonobos What he learned at Bonobos and brought to Interior Define How he got into the furniture industry The importance of partnerships in the lifestyle space Why they added customization options How they got PR in their early days How do they convince someone to spend thousands of dollars on a sofa they haven’t seen in person The importance of having a guide shop as an online brand What their most effective marketing channels are today How they picked the location of their guide shop The benefits of having the office directly above the guide shop How to sell a big potential hire from a larger company on working at a startup Future products that Rob’s excited about Selected Links From The Episode: Maxwell Ryan, Founder of Apartment Therapy The Everygirl Monica + Andy Trunk Club Favorite Books: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Nov. 22, 2016
Mia Saini & Laura Lisowski are Co-Founders of Oars + Alps, a new e-commerce startup selling men’s skincare products that target an "athleisure guy on the go". Their first products are a face moisturizer, a deodorant, and a face wash in stick form. Mia Saini is a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School and a former reporter for Bloomberg TV. Early last year, Mia quit her job at Bloomberg and her Co-Founder Laura Lisowski quit her job at Facebook to start building Oars + Alps out of 1871. In This Episode You Will Learn: The difference between men's and women's skin care How they decided to start with these products Where the name comes from How they met on a party boat in Thailand The benefits of being an outsider in the industry How they choose ingredients Why you have to set the price before making product decisions What men are doing wrong in their grooming How they plan to cut through the noise and get the word out How they position their brand Another startup brand they look up to The value of content and influencer marketing How they landed features in Esquire and Bloomberg within months of launching and how you can to Selected Links From The Episode: Sunski Sunglasses Harvard Business Review The New Yorker New York Times Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg Sponsored By: Propllr: a Chicago public relations firm that helps startups and innovators build credibility and awareness for their companies, people, products and services.
Nov. 10, 2016
Zach Kaplan is the Founder and CEO of Inventables, which makes software and hardware for 3D carving. Their flagship products Easel, Carvey, and X-Carve are used by a new wave of makers to make everything from circuit boards to skate boards. Zach was named a “modern Leonardo” by the Museum of Science and Industry and a 40 under 40 by Crain’s Chicago Business. Inventables has the stated goal of putting a 3D carver in every classroom by the end of the decade. In This Episode You Will Learn: The differences between carving and 3D printing What can you make with a 3D carver Who is buying and using these carvers How they prepared to raise $600k on Kickstarter How they plan to get a 3D carver in every school by the end of the decade Why they decided to make their very expensive software free How they plan to make money while giving away software What the future of 3D printing and carving is What will be the result of having all these carvers available Favorite Book: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman
Nov. 3, 2016
Amanda Lannert is the CEO of Jellyvision, which makes ALEX, an interactive decision-support tool that talks you through traditionally boring and confusing human resource decisions like picking health insurance and makes them fun and engaging. The Jellyvision of today has one of the more interesting founding stories, which Amanda describes in the beginning of this episode. It was born from the ashes of You Don't Know Jack. Amanda was named CEO of the Year at the Moxie Awards in 2014 and 2015. Under Amanda’s leadership, Jellyvision has doubled its revenue three out of the last four years. In This Episode You Will Learn: How Jellyvision got into the B2B space The value of a liberal arts background in tech How Jellyvision got its first customers Keys to selling to big businesses How their product evolved and what eventually led to growth How important humor is to their brand Whether their diversity is intentional or accidental How they are trying to improve diversity How they attempt to identity redact interviews How to build a strong culture across team members of different generations The impact of remote workers on their culture How Jellyvision caters to introverts in an extroverted office Amanda’s favorite interview questions How they ended up with a room dedicated to a massage chair Why Amanda would like to see more audacious dreams from Chicagoans How to find mentors What is the best bang for your buck networking Selected Links From The Episode: Harry Gottlieb, Founder of Jellyvision Jai Shekhawat, Founder & Former CEO of Fieldglass Troy Henikoff, Techstars Chicago Managing Director Mark Achler, VC Math Ventures Hyde Park Angels YPO Chicago ITA A Few of Amanda's Favorite Books: A Little Life by by Hanya Yanagihara Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
Oct. 27, 2016
Eddie Lou is the CEO and Co-Founder of Shiftgig, a mobile, two-sided labor marketplace connecting large venues in the service and hospitality industries with locally available and previously vetted hourly workers. Shiftgig is one of the leaders in the gig economy, acting as a technology bridge connecting millions of workers with millions of shifts. Shiftgig has raised $35M in venture funding from many local VCs including Chicago Ventures, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, and Corazon Capital. Before founding Shiftgig, Eddie was a general partner with OCA Ventures, where he invested in software, consumer internet, and business services companies. In This Episode You Will Learn: Why Eddie started Shiftgig after being a venture capitalist for many years Who are the people working in the gig economy What have been their most interesting gigs How they got their first customers How they pivoted away from their social network idea How they dealt with a business model that wasn't working and struggling to raise capital Eddie’s keys to building a two-sided marketplace What he’s learned as a VC that has benefited him as an entrepreneur Why he would like more series B investors in Chicago Why he would like to see more risk taking from executives Why Shiftgig acquired BookedOut What's the future of the gig economy What's next for Shiftgig Why you shouldn't be afraid to talk about your idea What's the best way to reach out and cultivate potential mentors A Few of Eddie's Favorite Books: The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance
Oct. 20, 2016
Dan Wagner is the Founder and CEO of Civis Analytics, a startup that helps companies, non-profits, and campaigns leverage their data to develop smarter strategy, make better decisions, and build stronger, data-driven organizations. Before founding Civis Analytics, Dan Wagner was the Chief Analytics Officer on President Obama's 2012 campaign, overseeing a 54-person team of analysts, engineers and organizers that provided analytics and technologies for voter contact, digital, paid media, fundraising and communication. After a discussion with Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Alphabet Inc., on election night, Dan decided to keep his team together and start a company. In This Episode You Will Learn: How Civis Analytics started with great people and no set idea How President Obama built an empowered meritocracy in his 2012 reelection campaign The differences between building a company and a campaign How Civis Analytics got their first customers What you need to do excellent data science Why the government is getting involved in fighting cancer The timeline for making progress on the cancer moonshot Why they decided to build an innovative data science company in Chicago Why Dan would like to see more risky financing in Chicago The three things you need to ask yourself before starting a company Selected Links From The Episode: David Plouffe, 2008 Campaign Manager to President Obama David Axelrod, Senior Advisor to President Obama Civis Analytics's Cancer Moonshot Report NCI Genomic Data Commons A Few of Dan's Favorite Books: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddartha Mukheriee Meditations by Marcus Aurelius Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez "The Future of Data Analysis" (1962) by John Tukey
Oct. 13, 2016
Tracey Wiedmeyer is the CTO and a Co-Founder of InContext Solutions, the leader in scalable virtual reality (VR) shopping and retail solutions. InContext Solutions lets manufacturers and retailers simulate real in-store shopping situations to ideate, evaluate and activate all types of merchandising, display, layout and other in-store shopping experiences within a VR store environment before implementing them in the real world. Just last month, they closed their Series E round of funding, bringing their total funding to $42.5M. In This Episode You Will Learn: Why Tracey and his co-founders started InContext Solutions How he raised their seed capital from his family over Christmas How similarly do people behave in virtual reality vs the real world How InContext Solutions recreates stores How they landed their first customers How they try to lure tech talent away from quant trading What he’d like to see big companies improve on Why you have to focus on ROI and business cases when selling to large enterprises Whether we are in a simulation or not Where the future of virtual reality is heading in 5-10 years What the future of retail may look like How they landed a partnership with Intel How a partnership with a big company can benefit a startup Favorite Books: The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't by Jim Collins Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology by Ray Kurzweil Best Sources to Learn More About Virtual Reality: Unreal VR NextVR Samsung VR Microsoft HoloLens Google VR
Oct. 6, 2016
Mark Lawrence is the CEO and Co-Founder of SpotHero, an on-demand parking app and website that makes drivers’ lives easier by helping them find and reserve a parking for up to 50% off. Mark along with his co-founders started the company after managing to rack up thousands of dollars in parking tickets. SpotHero is now one of Chicago's bigger consumer startup success stories. They raised $20 million in Series B funding last year, are in 15 cities, and have a team of 120 now. In This Episode You Will Learn: Why he and his co-founders started SpotHero How the product has evolved from the initial idea How they got their first customers What was going through his head when competitors were raising massive rounds Keys to growing a marketplace business How SpotHero approaches launching in a new city Why "If it's not a fuck yes, it's a fuck no" when hiring The benefits of meditation and floatation tanks Keys to keeping the culture as company grows Selected Links From The Episode: TechNexus Ezra Galston, VC at Chicago Ventures Favorite Books: Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time by Howard Schultz Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson The Virgin Way: If It's Not Fun, It's Not Worth Doing by Richard Branson Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman Shogun by James Clavell Sponsored By: Propllr: a Chicago public relations firm that helps startups and innovators build credibility and awareness for their companies, people, products and services.
Sept. 28, 2016
Canh Tran is the CEO and Co-Founder of Rippleshot, a startup that detects payment card data breaches. They take a big-data machine learning approach, more common in search, genetics and advertising, and apply it in a novel way for the payment processing industry to help banks, merchants and processors proactively monitor suspicious fraudulent activity and implement smarter fraud risk management strategies when card compromises do occur. It is a massive industry with a lot of room for improvement. In This Episode You Will Learn: How Rippleshot catches data breaches Why banks need outside help Where the name comes from What they are looking for in breaches The ingeneious ways credit cards are stolen How safe is our future when we pay with wearables How they got their first customers by starting small Why criminals target smaller banks The differences between Silicon Valley, Chicago, and St Louis What Canh would like to see chicago tech improve on The differences between 1871 and Catapult The benefits of growing up abroad The impact a handwritten thank you letter What the future of fraud loss looks like What gets Canh up in the morning Selected Links From The Episode: Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871 Craig Vodnik, Co-Founder of Cleverbridge and investor in Rippleshot Favorite Book: The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business; The Manticore; World of Wonders by Robertson Davies Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life by by Albert-laszlo Barabasi
Sept. 22, 2016
Raaja Nemani is a Co-Founder and CEO of Bucketfeet, a footwear startup that collaborates with a global community of artists to design limited-edition shoes. The idea began in Argentina when Aaron Firestein gave Raaja a pair of hand-designed canvas sneakers inspired by the city blocks of Buenos Aires. On the rest of Raaja's journey, these unique looking shoes sparked non-stop conversations across six continents with people of all races, religions, genders, and cultures. Upon returning home, he decided to start Bucketfeet with Aaron. In This Episode You Will Learn: The founding story What the first shoes looked like Where the name Bucketfeet comes from How they sold their first shoes How a party at Brian Splay's house jump started sales Why Bucketfeet walked away from a Nordstrom deal What is next for Bucketfeet Selected Links From The Episode: Aaron Firestein, Co-Founder of Bucketfeet Brian Spaly, Co-Founder of Bonobos and Trunk Club Context Media Luxury Garage Sale Threadless Favorite Book: The Road to Character by David Brooks
Sept. 15, 2016
Shaily Baranwal is the CEO and Founder of Elevate K-12 and Classblox. Elevate K-12 provides digital instruction and online resources to millions of at-risk students across the US. Since launching in 2008, Elevate K-12 has provided over 1 million hours of online instruction and has averaged a 35 percent increase in student test scores. Shaily's latest product, Classblox, is for consumers and it offers on-demand, online classes taught by real teachers. Students take hour long virtual, interactive classes from vetted teachers in subjects like algebra, Spanish, and ACT prep. Shaily and her company’s mission is to help ensure that every student gets one-on-one, online instructional support, irrespective of geography, demography and ethnicity. In This Episode You Will Learn: How Shaily started Elevate K-12 while still in school What makes Elevate K-12 better than MOOCs How they are able to provide personalized teaching for a reasonable price Why Shaily started her company in Chicago Why she hasn’t moved the company Why she’s a big fan of distributed teams How she was able to bootstrap for so many years Why she decided to finally raise money How she made her first sales What she wished she knew when she got started Why attitude and passion are everything when hiring Why she likes to hire athletes Selected Links From The Episode: 7 Semi-Serious Reasons I Chose Chicago Over San Francisco for the growth of my company by Shaily Baranwal Why I got my first investor after 5+ years of successful bootstrapping by Shaily Baranwal Favorite Books: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...And Others Don't by Jim Collins Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies by Jim Collins The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight Sponsored By: Propllr: a Chicago public relations firm that helps startups and innovators build credibility and awareness for their companies, people, products and services.