Tech In Chicago

By Colin Keeley
About this podcast
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 for more information.
In this podcast



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Episodes published before Dec. 31, 2016
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