Mayor Emanuel announces efforts to attract venture capital

Posted on November 11, 2013


Mayor Rahm Emanuel

CHICAGO (Built In) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced efforts to attract more venture capital and double the number of technology jobs in the city of Chicago. He addressed startups at Chicago incubator 1871 Monday with a panel of entrepreneurs who recently raised funding.

Chicago technology employment has grown by a third from 30,000 to 40,000 since Emanuel took office, he said. “No other sector of the economy of the city of Chicago has seen that much growth in that short a period a time.”

But he said he wants to add 40,000 jobs in the next decade, and that there are four ares of attention being addressed to grow the sector: entrepreneurship, talent, workspaces and funding. He announced a venture capital summit would take place two days before Lollapalooza 2014.

“We have now outgrown our shoebox here just in Chicago,” he said. “There’s more talent than there is money.”

“We see this huge pipeline of students coming in,” said serial entrepreneur Matt Moog, who moderated the panel. And the number of students might only grow, as the mayor also announced a new MBA program launching in 2015 by Purdue aimed at science and technology.

The three entrepreneurs part of the panel with the mayor collectively raised approximately $80 million locally, but they agreed that budding talent must be supported by rising investment coming from outside the city.

“The times have changed,” Emanuel said, noting that while people used to move to the coast to find tech success, he wants to make the Third Coast a capital in recruiting and retaining tech talent.

“Where PayPal’s founders once left Illinois, they came back so they could buy Braintree for nearly a billion dollars,” he said. “And Braintree’s here to stay and grow here in Chicago.”

Outside interest has been shifting to Chicago with one of the world’s largest venture firms, New Enterprise Associates, movement to Chicago last year. Google is moving its Motorola Mobility headquarters this year in the Merchandise Mart, drawing in an additional 3,000 tech employees.

And in less than a year, Chicago moved from No. 15 to No. 10 on a list of cities with top technology companies, according to a Startup Genome report. And venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, who introduced the mayor, said there are 20 companies on the verge of an IPO or large enough so that they could go out on an IPO.

“There are companies with a lot of revenue, some of them profitable, all of them on a trajectory to be profitable,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker said that while the city has invested significantly in tech, calling Emanuel the “tech mayor,” he also said the effort to expand will require continued commitment from both the private and public sectors.

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