Preview of April 20th's Online Companies: Chicago's Home Grown Successes

Preview of April 20th's Online Companies: Chicago's Home Grown Successes

April 14, 2010

CHICAGO - “ To preview the next IVCA Education Luncheon Event on Tuesday, April 20th, the moderator of the forum, Michael Gray (Partner of the event sponsors Neal, Gerber and Eisenberg) and panel organizer Lon Chow (General Partner, Apex Venture Partners) were briefly interviewed by the IVCA in anticipation of what attendees can expect from the event topic of - ˜Online Companies: Chicago's Home Grown Successes.'

IVCA: What kind of issues will be discussed at this luncheon and what kind of information should attendees expect?

Michael Gray: We're going to talk about online digital media; why we've had successes, where future successes are going to come from and what we need as a community to support future growth. We will have a great discussion with a group of people who've been involved with growing the sector here in Chicago. There has been a nice group of successes here and we believe we're going to see more companies formed since there is a lot of expertise in the Chicago area.

The entrepreneurs will talk about what they need to build companies here, in terms of people, market place, capital, technology, infrastructure, and clients among other things. The investors will talk about management teams, the market place, the amount of capital necessary for the area and related items.

Lon Chow: We hope to have a lively discussion about what will it take for Chicago to develop into a major online player. We may never get to the same scale as Silicon Valley, but we hope to get to the point where people view Chicago as a significant online hub, comparable to New York or Boston.

IVCA: From a historical perspective, where does Chicago rank in online innovation and commerce as compared to the rest of the country?

Chow: During the Internet bubble - “ 1998 to 2000 - “ there were a lot of online start ups in Chicago, but the start up activities were driven by the abundance of capital, not by abundance of the right entrepreneurs or market opportunities. Compare to markets such as New York, Boston or the Bay Area, the success rate in online start ups from that period was quite low. That said, over the past five to six years, we have seen a lot of exciting development in the online industries here, and I am quite bullish on this market's future prospect.

Gray: There are a lot of Fortune 500 companies spending their money on online media and advertising. There is expertise here to help them with those dollars, and that should help if we get the right people into those companies to sell them products and services. If we can dominate the local fortune 500 companies purchasing from local entrepreneurs, it will make a big difference.


IVCA: Lon, since Apex Venture Partners is a heavy players in online venture investment, what fundamentals about that investment will you be emphasizing at the luncheon?

Chow: The kind of ecosystem will we need to cultivate here in Chicago in order for young online companies to succeed.

IVCA: Why is the timing right for this kind of forum and what does the future hold for Chicago and the Midwest for online innovation?

Gray: One of the keys is great entrepreneurs and capital. If this combination continues in Chicago and in the region, we can continue to succeed in this niche.

Chow: Here's one perspective: Chicago has always had a strong advertising industry presence. Having this presence in our own back yard can be a competitive advantage for online businesses, but it is not today. Can we make it happen?

On the startup side, we have an emerging group of seasoned and successful entrepreneurs and executives who are starting companies, running companies, and investing in companies as angels. That's a really positive development and it bodes well for the future of online innovation here in the Midwest.

This event is free for IVCA members but space is limited. To RSVP, CLICK HERE