The city of Chicago is uniting to attract the tech talent needed to power a herd of rapidly growing unicorns – nine this year already – and a region full of established companies accelerating their digital transformation, such as Allstate and Caterpillar.
Chicago is on a record pace for startups achieving valuation of at least $1 billion this year. ShipBob, the latest startup to achieve unicorn status, announced Tuesday that it raised a $200M Series E round that values the company over a billion. The other eight companies in this impressive group are G2, ActiveCampaign, Enfusion, Project44, Bringg, Relativity, Cameo and Amount. This record pace of companies achieving unicorn status is just another proof point that the Windy City’s startup ecosystem is quickly emerging as one the top startup ecosystems in the country.
Fast-growing companies have unique talent needs. As companies continue to reach unicorn status, there will be increased need and desire to work in Chicago. Amount CEO Adam Hughes explains, “With the list of ground-breaking start-ups in Chicago growing exponentially, the city is fast becoming a world-class hub for entrepreneurs city is fast becoming a world-class hub for entrepreneurs. By attracting the best and brightest in technology and data science, Amount is excited to help accelerate the pace of innovation in Chicago and make it a top destination for tech talent.”
In a bold effort to attract world-class tech talent, P33 and World Business Chicago united a coalition of businesses executives, startup founders, educational institutions leaders and startup incubator directors to collaborate on how to attract the best tech talent and share all of the assets that the city and region have to offer.
Based on those efforts and the powerful trends that emerged from the pandemic, it became clear that talented people who moved away from Chicago and the surrounding regions were looking to come back to the city. This is a logical path given how much talent the state develops; Illinois is the 3rd largest producer of computer science degrees in the U.S. People are returning to Chicago for opportunity.
As a result of the group’s work, TECHicago and the Come Back to Move Forward campaign was launched. It targets 100,000 diverse and homegrown tech professionals to convince them to come back to Chicago over the next two years. The goal? Deepen Chicago’s ecosystem and talent pool so that the city can continue to grow and evolve as a center of tech excellence. With top talent calling Chicago home, new and innovative tech-focused startups can emerge and existing tech corporations can continue to thrive. Come Back to Move Forward is aimed at mid-career tech workers with in-demand tech skills, including data science, software programming, computer science, machine learning and AI and engineering.
The support for the initiative is city-wide. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot supports the goals and efforts of the Come Back to Move Forward campaign. Speaking of the campaign she said, “from our diverse tech ecosystem and our world-class universities to our booming business and startup scene, our city has so much to offer. Especially given the recent reopening of our city, now is an incredibly exciting time for the tech here in Chicago. I am beyond proud of how our city’s tech ecosystem has attracted talent both during and long before the pandemic ever hit our city and am excited to see which new tech professionals choose to call our great city home in the near future.”
With the recent reopening of Chicago, career development and job opportunities in the city will continue to emerge. The growing opportunities will likely draw interest from a diverse pool of candidates, which is another aspect of the initiative’s goals. The Come Back to Move Forward campaign is also part of P33 and Chicago’s long-term vision to reshape talent recruitment efforts to overcome the longstanding challenges of developing a diverse, tech-ready workforce,” noted Chris Gladwin, CEO and Co-founder of Ocient and Cleversafe. “It will also create a unique network of top-tier tech professionals that participants can leverage along with a direct connection to Chicago employers looking to hire.”
According to TECHicago, the Windy City is home to over 6,150 tech companies and in the last five years alone, over 375 startups were founded. Additionally, the city currently has the highest percentage of women-owned startups anywhere in the world (34%).
Brad Henderson, chief executive officer for P33, noted that Chicago has one of the most dynamic and fast-growing startup scenes in the country. “As a city, we’re partnering to help further diversify our tech talent base to build the most diverse ecosystem in the country.”
P33 aims to transform the region into a technology hub that fosters diversity and inclusive economic growth. The impact of and in Chicago has only just begun.