In just a few short years, Chicago’s startup scene has blossomed from humble beginnings to one of America’s largest hubs of innovative industry, especially in the technology sector. From the youngest startups to the biggest brands, Chicago is a breeding ground for the cutting edge. Last year, $1.7 billion was raised by over 179 tech companies—a statistic that becomes even more impressive when compared to the numbers just four years earlier, when $391 million was raised in 2012.
2016 Chicago Startup Report (Source)
The thriving tech startup scene is not just nourished by the creative, forward-thinking minds attracted to an industrious metropolis like Chicago. It’s also thriving due to the countless tech-based events, accelerators, and meetups hosted by the city year-round.
Techweek, for example, is an annual conference that offers innovators, entrepreneurs, and designers an opportunity to exchange ideas about the future of tech in Chicago.
Just last month, Chicago was ranked top ten in the Metro Startup Economy Index, a metric based off empirical data collected from the Progressive Policy Institute.
With such a booming startup community, it can be tough to discern which tech companies are going the distance. Here are a few you’ll definitely want to keep your eye on in 2017.
Top 10 Metro Areas, Measure By Metro Startup Economy Index (Source)
As last year’s recipient of Chicago Innovation’s Up-And-Comer Award, Proxfinity has made major progress since their founding in 2015. In less than two short years, the female-founded tech startup has made waves in the networking world with their patented smart badge.
When attending a conference or networking event, the smart badge hangs around the neck, just like a name tag or other event credential. When you share common interests with a nearby attendee, the smart badge lights up with that person’s initials and vice versa.
The badge determines these connections by a questionnaire the user completes beforehand, which asks about the types of people they’d like to meet, or the kind of conversations they want to have. It’s the perfect remedy for awkward silences or missed chances at networking events.
Best of all, Proxfinity offers an accompanying app that can record interactions (no more remembering names), and even track attendee data for event coordinators.
Proxfinity has already worked with over 3,500 event participants and partnered with Fortune 500 companies to revolutionize how peer-to-peer interactions occur; it’s likely they’ll grow even larger in 2017.
By developing a cloud-based, logistics software, FourKites looks to reshape the notoriously outdated industry of shipping and freighting. Their platform offers comprehensive, real-time tracking for shippers, brokers, and the carriers themselves.
The company has undergone a meteoric rise since their founding in 2013, garnering accolades from Northwestern University to Entrepreneur.
One of the most notable of these achievements was being named one of Chicago Innovation’s “50 On Fire”, an elite collection of the city’s most game-changing visionaries. It’s an honor only fitting after FourKites completed Chicago Inno’s $16 million Series A funding round last fall.
In 2017, the company expects the growth to continue—they plan on adding at least fifty more employees to its already-sizeable Chicago office.
Offering the “premier back-office solution”, Bridge Financial Technology has developed an automated SaaS platform for financial advisers in the registered investment adviser (RIA) market.
Their comprehensive software offers users a management solution that allows them to easily view and analyze client returns and cash flows, as well as easy-to-use billing and trading interfaces.
Bridge Financial boasts enterprise-level partners like Charles Schwab and TD Bank, but their most recent accomplishment was receiving an investment from SixThirty, an acclaimed business accelerator that works exclusively with FinTech startups.
In exchange for the sizable investment, SixThirty will receive an equity stake from Bridge. Becoming a portfolio company for SixThirty is a major success, and an excellent way for Bridge Financial to start off 2017.
Beginning as a simple research project by a handful of undergraduates at Northwestern, Rise Science has burgeoned into a company that provides groundbreaking sleep technology to optimize athlete performance.
Rise Science offers their clients with a full-time sleep coach, personalized plans, a high-tech sleep sensor, and a robust app that manages all of it, ensuring their athletes receive the highest performance-booster possible: a good night’s sleep.
It’s just not the company’s extensive sleep-based research that backs up their success—they’ve received funding from Chicago Ventures, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and IDEO.
With that backing, Rise Science has been able to bring their business to some of the biggest names in sports, including the Miami Dolphins, the Tennessee Volunteers, and Chicago’s very own Bulls.
At first glance, not much.
The companies featured in this article were born and raised in Chicago’s nurturing startup scene, but all inhabit different sectors, from networking and shipping, to finance and athletics.
Their commonality lies in a staple of each of their services—superbly usable software, designed either themselves or through the hiring of a UX design agency. If your Windy City startup wants to compete with successes like these, consider an app design company in Chicago.