IVCA Preview: 2nd Annual Chicago Venture Summit Will Take Place April 20-21, 2016

IVCA Preview: 2nd Annual Chicago Venture Summit Will Take Place April 20-21, 2016

March 16, 2016

Coming off a hugely successful inaugural event, World Business Chicago (WBC) and ChicagoNext – the WBC’s council of technology leaders – is presenting the 2nd Annual Chicago Venture Summit, taking place on April 20th and 21st, 2016, at the new Google headquarters in the city’s West Loop (1000 West Fulton Market). The summit will feature VC firms, start ups and seminars, with interaction being a key component.

The IVCA got the opportunity to talk with ChicagoNext, in anticipation of the upcoming Chicago Venture Summit, and they provided the following preview.

IVCA: What is the Chicago Venture Summit, who would most benefit from it, and what are the goals of the summit for both the hosts and the participants?

ChicagoNext: The second Chicago Venture Summit is supported and organized by ChicagoNext, the tech and entrepreneurship strategy of World Business Chicago. The summit’s design is intended to spark, stimulate and grow the engagement of the local, regional and national Venture Capital community with the region’s emerging technology companies. This also ties into the size of investments in and around the city of Chicago.

The goals are of course to help startups get exposure to VC investors from around the country, but also there is a goal to increase the exposure of the firm investors themselves to the startups. We want the VCs to get more active within the start up community and we want to facilitate and start the conversations between the firms, so they can team up for various deals.

IVCA: You created a need for this event when you launched it in 2014. What is it about the atmosphere for innovation that made the Summit successful enough to bring back for this year?

ChicagoNext: The first event was a huge success, given the relative size of the summit and its inauguration. At the late 2014 gathering, we had Uber cofounder Travis Kalanick speak, we had Peter Thiel speak, and we had VC firms represented from the West coast, East coast, the South regions, and of course the Midwest. The companies that presented went on to raise a combined 225 million. It was a huge success for the start ups that attended.

IVCA: Since this is your second summit, what valuable lessons did you learn from the first summit, and what adjustments did you make to evolve the agenda of the event?

ChicagoNext: One of the items of feedback we got from the last event was that VCs needed more time to talk to each other – simply to meet, talk and network. So we went back to the drawing board and created a new format for the main day. In a nutshell, it was analyzing how the start ups would be integrated in the program on that day, and how they will be pitching to the investor firms.

The start ups will pitch during what we call “commercial breaks,” between the rest of the main presentations. It will be done as five minute intervals, spread out throughout the day. It is designed to keep all participants engaged, and highly activated, but mostly it allows flexibility so the VC firms can meet among themselves, and interface with each other.

IVCA: You are hosting the summit in Google's new headquarters in Chicago’s West Loop. How do companies like Google add to Chicago's growing reputation as a tech hub destination?

ChicagoNext: The first thing we want to say, is that we’re very thankful for Google’s contribution to the 2016 Chicago Venture Summit. We’ve been to the space twice with our event coordinator, and we’re all continually blown away by the space and set up – as well as the energy that is in the whole area. We are excited to have that space as our home base for the summit.

Overall, Google has brought a rather significant vibe and energy to the Chicago start up scene, and within tech development as well. They’ve sponsored so many events and they’ve supported many diversity enabling functions. They’ve been a wonderful partner in Chicago so far, in addition to all the other companies like Microsoft, Twitter, Salesforce and Uber, who have also planted their flags in Chicago with large and growing offices. Chicago is a great base for these companies to do business from, which connects out to the entire Midwest region.

IVCA: Chicago was also recently ranked 7th in the world for 'best start up ecosystem.' What factors of the last ten years were crucial for establishing this high reputation?

ChicagoNext: We had a few big exits, and some high-profile success stories, that has been noted by the investment community. The ‘lay’ population doesn’t really know about it, because a lot of those success stories have been B2B companies – but these are billion dollar valuations.

The energy and the excitement is real. We have the first class incubator facilities like ‘1871’, MATTER, TechNexus and Blue 1647, and those places have been pillars for the ecosystem. They are great ‘farms’ for different entrepreneurs to grow in fertile conditions and environments. We cannot say enough about this support structure.

IVCA: You have several seminars planned, with many of the city's superstar company founders, educational leaders, corporate leaders and investors all participating. What are some of the specific highlights participants should expect?

ChicagoNext: There are so many auxiliary leaders on these seminars, which includes the presidents of our powerhouse universities. We want to energetically display how our whole ecosystem is coming together, and making an impact.

Besides what you mentioned, I also want to say that we have a diverse line up of start ups, ranging from FinTech to Deliveries to Education Tech, in both the hardware and software space. As a result of this event, we’re hoping that the investors from the coasts will want to have continuous engagement with the Midwest, and specifically Chicago-based start ups.

IVCA: Beyond that 7th-in-the-world ranking, what do you believe Chicago means to the rest of the VC and investing industries?

ChicagoNext: Chicago-built and Chicago-made, it’s really something that our start ups and rock star founders are really starting to rally behind. We relate it to if you’re doing some training on another planet, with a higher gravitational pull, you’ll be able to jump a little higher when you come here.

It also is about what our successful startups have been through, when in the past access to capital has not been as free flowing in our environment compared with some other areas of the country, for early stage startups. That has actually forced companies here in Chicago to focus on serious milestones, and have built their teams, missions, brands and companies around a very solid set of metrics. The growth metrics that were needed for these companies to raise capital in that environment were built on much higher standards and better fundamentals.

IVCA: What would you tell the membership of the IVCA about the value for them specifically, in participating in the Summit?

ChicagoNext: We appreciate the official support from the IVCA, and what we can provide as far as value is an increased level of what’s-going-on-here information, and to be able gather hard data for the association. We all get excited when that data begins to show the onward-and-upward signs, the increases that generate higher levels of great enthusiasm. We are also excited to provide an opportunity for IVCA members to interact with their peers from around the country. That 7th ranking in the entire world allows that investors in other parts of the globe want to peek in, and get in on it all. We want the IVCA to be a part of it as well.

For more information about the 2nd Annual Chicago Venture Summit, April 20-21, 2016, at the Google Headquarters at 1K Fulton in Chicago, click www.chicagoventuresummit.com