Chicago is climbing to the top of the list of the world’s most important tech hubs. Here are six startups leading the way.
To help, we’ve put together the following guide to one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the entire world.
Chicago City Tech Market
Chicago’s tech sector is growing rapidly and the world is starting to pay attention. In fact, a recent KPMG report expects Chicago to be among the top ten global tech innovation hubs over the next four years.
This hasn’t gone unnoticed at home either, as both the state and local governments have supported the city’s tech growth. In 2012, the city launched ChicagoNEXT, which promotes Chicago’s tech scene globally. In 2016, the state founded the Illinois Department of Innovation and Technology with the goal of updating technological infrastructure and improving efficiency.
A tech-friendly environment has encouraged the growth of a dynamic startup ecosystem, which saw almost $1.4 billion in funding raised in 2018. In addition, some of the world’s largest technology companies have opened offices across the city in the last few years, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Uber – to name a few.
Notable Chicago City Tech Companies
The number of people employed by Chicago’s biggest tech companies rose 15 percent from 2016 to 2017, after rising 17 percent a year prior.
Here are some of the largest Chicago-based tech companies:
Aon is “is a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions.” The company, which is headquartered in Chicago, has over 50,000 total employees in 120 countries around the world.
CNA is an insurance company with a tech-angle: the company offers products like computer insurance, hacker protection, and cloud coverage, among others. Based in the Loop, CNA has over 7,000 employees.
Slalom, which has over 500 employees in Chicago, is a consulting firm, providing strategy, business transformation, and tech services, with an eye toward helping clients use new tech and data.
Based in the Loop, ZS employs over 4,500 people, providing tech, marketing, and business services companies around the world. ZS helps “clients develop new products and solutions to grow their businesses.”
Motorola Solutions is a data communications and telecommunications equipment provider that succeeded Motorola in 2011. The company’s platforms are used in command center software, video security solutions, and managed and support services, among other uses. The company has 2,500 employees in Chicago, and 17,000 around the world.
Fintech company TransUnion aims to be more than a credit reporting agency, offering global risk information to companies striving to use information for good. The company has 1,500 local employees and more than 5,200 employees around the world.
HERE Technologies is a location platform that provides advertising data, tracking for devices and live maps. The company, which is based in the West Loop, has more than 1,500 employees.
Grubhub is a mobile and online food order service that currently operates in 2,400 cities and works with over 125,000 restaurants. The company has secured $84.1 million in funding, and now has 1,200 local employees and more than 3,000 employees around the world.
Gogo, which employs more than 1,100 people, is “an internet company keeping people connected while in the air.” Their services allow passengers to work or be entertained while in flight.
The parent company of Paypal and Venmo, Braintree is behind the payment tools of many leading businesses, providing services like fraud protection, data security, and payment authorization. They currently employ over 500 people.
Sprout Social is a social media management platform that allows users to schedule posts, engage with followers, and track key metrics across major social media platforms. The company has 450 employees, with team members across 25 cities worldwide. In 2018, the Chicago Tribune named it a Top Midsize Workplace for the fourth year in a row.
Speaking of Sprout Social, Chicago startups raised nearly $1.4 billion in VC funding last year. A number of notable, fast-growing startups led the way, including celebrity-booking service Cameo, data-driven pharmaceutical company Tempus, and G2 Crowd, a peer-to-peer platform that lets users review business software
In the meantime, major companies from outside Illinois announced expansions to their Chicago operations. Facebook, for example, will be opening a 263,000 square feet office downtown, with 500 new employees in the city. Google, meanwhile, has leased an additional 132,000 square feet of office space in the Fulton Market district.
Chicago Tech Events to Attend
Chicago Tech Summit
The Chicago Tech Summit is carefully designed to provide attendees with knowledge of the latest digital trends and issues, with presentations from local industry leaders, seminars, and tons of networking opportunities.
Techspo Chicago is a two-day technology expo that brings together “developers, brands, marketers, technology providers, designers, innovators, and evangelists.” The event is meant for exhibitors to showcase their companies to consumers, investors, press, and talent, which makes it a great opportunity for job seekers.
Trend Hunter’s Future Festival is a type of traveling innovation conference, which brings together more than 700 innovators from the world’s top brands. The event has even been dubbed one of the top Technology and Innovation Conferences by Inc. Magazine.
R&D Innovation Summit
The R&D Innovation Summit brings together thought leaders from the world’s most respected companies, with presentations, panel discussions, and workshops covering some of the latest advances in R&D Innovation.
Chicago City Tech Groups to Join
Illinois Technology Association (ITA)
ITA focuses on scaling Illinois tech companies and prides itself on being “a network you access, a resource you leverage, an advisor you trust.”
IEEE Computer Society
The IEEE Computer Society is the “premier source for information, inspiration, and collaboration in computer science and engineering.” Started in 1946, the IEEE Computer Society provides access to over 200 conferences, a digital library, magazines and journals, and more.
“The largest racial equity community in tech,” Code2040 is a nonprofit working to “dismantle the structural barriers that prevent the full participation and leadership of Black and Latinx technologists in the innovation economy.”
Chicago Coworking Spaces
Whether you’ve found your dream job in the tech space, or are looking to make your own ideas a reality, a workspace outside of your bedroom is often a good first step.
Here are some of the best coworking spaces available to you in Chicago.
Industrious is the coworking space leader in the city, with eight beautiful spaces offering private offices and premium coworking options for teams up to 100.
1871 offers co-working space as well as a number of private office spaces and meeting rooms to accommodate the many stages of your company’s growth.
The office spaces at Life Working will give you a “beautiful, clean, city feel” with all then needed amenities to run your side hustle. They also provide ongoing learning and networking events for members.