In a recent article written by Alton Zenon III in Built in Chicago, an investigation was made into 8 tech company leaders in Chicago on innovation. Stressing the importance of innovation “for companies looking to stay competitive as markets evolve,” Zenon asked these individuals what they felt was needed to “ensure [their] company stays on the cutting edge.” He wanted to know how these leaders were creating new innovation at their firms and found the following answers:
According to founder and CEO of Project44 Jeff McCandless “you never know where the next great innovation will come from.” As such, he ensures everyone in his company has an opportunity to come up with a new idea/solution, etc.
Head of Product at Compass, Eytan Siedman is seeking to “simplify [the] fragmented experience [of] third party software tools bring[ing] engineers together with agents under one roof.”
One of CityBase’s senior software engineers, Jim Segal, says the company is “changing the way that constituents interact with their local governments by digitizing entire processes from the front end through the back end.”
Director of Engineering at Collective Health, Izi Aviyente links part of the company’s success to its “automation of processes leading to more productivity.”
Zenon III also spoke with senior executives at OneSpan, Keeper Security Inc., BRD and Eved for their input on establishing innovation at their companies as well.
Last week we covered the first 6 approaches to small business development recommended by members of the Forbes Chicago Business Council. Chicago’s small businesses do exceedingly well as a result of these marketing strategies. Ready for the next 6? \
7. Think about social responsibility. “Giving back” and appealing to people on a personal level garners more support than aggressive marketing techniques. ShoppingGives’ Ronny Sage explains that the company’s recent TechweekGives campaign brought more than 50 local companies together and raised more than $1 million.
8. Pull users in to marketing efforts. Encourage them to become your brand’s advocates by sharing their experiences, photos and reviews on social media, as suggested by Jonathan Treble of PrintWithMe, Inc.
9. Form ties with larger networks. Have them share you vision for you, such as FanFood’s Carson Goodale’s message: “You don’t need to be the sharpest tool in the shed to pursue a dream, rather to have the self-discipline to overcome obstacles, time and time again. ”
10. Recruit within your region. Don’t neglect local talent- keep recruiting within your community, if possible, for real investment and a stronger local network, according to Darren Guccione of Keeper Security.
11. Collaborate with universities, says Civis Analytics’ Dan Wagner. These connections will help your business locate unique, fresh talent.
12. Street teams are important, says Adam Hirsen of UPShow. Get people on the ground who encourage others to advocate for and get enthusiastic about your product.
Chicagoans now have access to a new, more affordable flight to Delhi thanks to WOW Air. The airline, which has been offering cheap flights to Iceland from all over the U.S., has begun to expand beyond Europe and North America, opening a whole new world of travel options. WOW’s new flight to Delhi starts at $199, and will also be departing from Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Washington D.C., among others.
WOW Founder and CEO Skúli Mogensen said: “I am thrilled to broaden WOW Air’s offerings and bring low-fare international flight service to India.
We are passionate about continuing our mission of enabling everybody to fly by making international travel accessible and affordable for all, and look forward to expanding our global service to provide travelers with the opportunity to see many parts of the globe, whether for business or pleasure.”
Every WOW flight has a layover in Reykjavik, which, while possibly inconvenient, gives travelers an opportunity to see a bit of WOW’s native country. The airline also offers a stopover feature to help make your delay more enjoyable.
Chicago mayor Ruben Pineda recently revealed that efforts to boost a business park in West Chicago are finally paying off.
According to Pineda, the city is teaming up with park owner DuPage Airport Authority and Choose DuPage to encourage additional growth on the 800-acre campus and “develop incentive plans for new development.”
“These efforts have led to several exciting prospects already bubbling to the surface,” Pineda said during his State of the City address.
The details of the plan have yet to be revealed, but Pineda shared several hints, including a plan to build 800,000 square feet of warehouse distribution space, as well as another 750,000 square feet of manufacturing and distribution.
“For the first time in over 10 years, I have been informed that we might be running out of available property in the DuPage Business Center,” Pineda said during the address. “That, my friends, is a great problem to have.
“We are committed to our pledge to our residents and businesses to provide exceptional service and transparent government while focusing on doing what we can do to relieve the financial burden on our customers.”
Crain’s Business Chicago and Best Companies Group recently revealed Chicago’s Best Places to Work, a survey and awards program which recognizes the top 100 businesses to work for in Chicago. The choices are made based on each company’s workplace policies, practices and demographics, as well as employee survey’s which assessed their attitudes towards their workplaces.
Final scores revealed Label Insight, a leading company focused on transparency and digital transformation, as one of the winners.
“We are honored to be recognized as one of the best places to work in Chicago,” said Label Insight chief executive officer Paul Schaut. “Label Insight was founded with the mission of providing greater product transparency to consumers- and that impacts everything we do from the products we create, to the companies we partner with, to how we run our business.
“Our team believes in this greater mission and collectively works toward our broader goal of helping consumers better understand what is in the products they use and consume,” he said. “I am grateful to the tremendous Label Insight team for their outstanding contributions to our company’s growth and continued success.”
Woodfield Mall’s Microsoft Store has earmarked February as Entrepreneurship Month. Offering workshops, seminars and mentors from Score Chicago, the idea is to help individuals in the region gain insight into how start and run a business, as well as other related subjects. Community Development Specialist at the Woodfield Mall’s Microsoft Store Paula Brkich explained: Several of our business workshops feature knowledgeable speakers from SCORE Chicago, industry partners and more, who bring tremendous value to our customers” For information and to register visit: www.microsoftstore.com/Woodfield.
If you missed that though, in conjunction with the University of Chicago, President Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton are hosting the (11th) annual Clinton Global Initiative University meeting. To be held at the University, the event is expected to attract over 1,000 students nationwide and worldwide. Topics discussed will be “some of the most pressing social, economic and environmental challenges facing the next generation.” The idea ultimately is for these discussions to result in “commitments to action,” ultimately bolstering local communities worldwide. Thus following the initial two days of workshops etc., the third day will be one of action whereby students will work with faculty and administrators on a priority project in one of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Talking of entrepreneurs, Chicagoan Mark Thomann is intending to bring back the drink Slice that was popular – and owned by Pepsico – in the 1990s. Via his companies Spiral Sun Ventures and Dormitus Brands, he is hoping to have the drink in stores by the end of next year. One of his changes is to make it healthier though as he explains that it will have less sugar, less calories and sweetened with “real – possibly organic – fruit juice.” Thomann added that it will be “pleasantly familiar to people of a certain age.”
Last month saw the launch of a regional economic development initiative to bolster partnership within various public sectors. It is hoped that this endeavor – the Chicago Regional Growth Corporation (CRGC) – will create growth, be mutually beneficial to participating organizations and in general boost the work of northeastern Illinois businesses.
CRGC can be used by locals for creating and developing Chicago’s identity, bolstering economic development and centralize programming. ultimately it is hoped and expected that the endeavor will fortify the economy, develop networks and connections and provide greater economic opportunity. As founding executive director of CRGC Tom Hulsman said:
“The economic growth of cities, from neighborhoods to suburbs, is highly interdependent. We have a huge opportunity to capitalize on our resources and bring all of the players to the table to set an economic development agenda that works for the entire region, with a strong emphasis on inclusive economic growth throughout all of CRGC’s programs and initiatives.”
Over in Matteson, Mayor Sheila Chalmers-Currin, discussed with locals about her mission to “feed the economy” there. People are very excited for this and as the Mayor pointed out, it should be “a great opportunity to share what we have in our focus for the Village and the Southland region. I’ve lived here for 35 years and I’ve seen the village grow from 10,000 to over 20,000. We’ve had some positive events and we have had some challenges,”
While Chicago ranks #3 in accommodating small businesses (boasting 230,000+ in its midst), unfortunately, the environment in which they should be thriving is not being nearly as accommodating as necessary. Given that the city’s principal banks seem to be more focused on big businesses, owners of SME’s and entrepreneurs are finding it increasingly difficult to get start-up loans from reputable sources. As such, many “alternative” lenders are filling the niche and taking advantage of this situation in a less-than-legitimate manner.
It is often minority groups who pay the price. Given that those struggling to obtain loans are usually minorities, women and veterans, vulnerability is running high. As such Chicago has to come up with a new, more trustworthy solution. One that is currently being promoted is SimpleGrowth – “the first lending platform built to strengthen the ability of Chicagoland small business owners to gain the capital they need to launch or grow their businesses.”
Should we look further afield to other parts of the state of Illinois, we find that SMEs are truly thriving. the figures speak for themselves. Currently approximately 1.2 million SMEs are in existence (lending employment to over 2.4 million individuals – comprising 46% of the private workforce). These companies are providing incredibly “innovative solutions, meeting the needs of consumers, and pursuing their own dreams.”
Other resources available include the Illinois District of the U.S. Small Business Administration which has a branch in both Springfield and Chicago. So there is good news in the Illinois area for small businesses; there just has to be more of a focus on giving a push start to struggling new firms in the Chicago region.