The lake view city of Chicago has always been a hub of bustling activity. The Windy City has risen to become one of the largest tech hubs of the United States. From startups to major corporations, almost everyone in the tech industry has at some point called Chicago home. There are a variety of people who have helped the Chicago tech scene become what it is today. Let’s meet some of the Chicago tech scenes’ most influential people.
Tech Job Trends in Chicago
Before we meet the cities most influential techies, we need to take a step back and look at the city’s tech scene as a whole. As stated previously, Chicago has consistently been a hub for technological innovation in the United States for the past several decades.
From Lake Shore Drive to the suburbs, every part of the city is immersed in code, tech, and pure innovation. Many tech companies and startups who are looking for a central location in the heart of the Midwest but still want the hustle and bustle of a major city, decide to call Chicago home.
Chicago by Numbers
What do you think of when you hear about the city of Chicago? Do you think of hotdogs and deep-dish pizza? Or do you think of the stunning views of Lake Michigan? While it might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of the Windy City, Chicago’s tech scene is booming. As the third-largest city in the US with almost 3 million people, it’s easy to see why Chicago is a hub of action.
Chicago has always been a major bustling hub of industry. As a major port city, Chicago has always been a center of action and jobs. With the founding of the Chicago Stock Exchange back in 1882, the city took on a different view of economics and job availability. The city remains today as one of the most culturally and job diverse cities in the world. With multiple industries including manufacturing, finance, and tech all booming, the city is a constant nonstop whirlwind of innovation.
The Chicago tech scene experienced a growth in over 6,000 more available jobs this year alone. The current average salary for tech workers in Chicago was around $82,000 in 2019. This number of course merely reflects an average and is not based on specific industry jobs. The Chicago metro area currently has the sixth-largest pool of tech workers in America with around 166,000 tech workers residing and working in the area. Chicago is also the sixth-highest technology degree producing city with 7,400 graduates last year alone.
Chicago’s Tech Influencers
Now that we’ve gotten back to the Chicago tech scene’s roots, let’s now take a look forward towards the future. Here are the top tech influencers in Chicago who have helped shape and innovate the city’s tech atmosphere.
1. Kristi Ross
Founder and Co CEO of Tastytrade
Kristi Ross is the Founder and Co CEO of Tastytrade. Tastytrade is an online financial network that is dedicated to making finance fun and actionable. The company is focused on empowering the “do it yourself investor” to do more with their finances through a combination of technology, content, and fees.
Ross also cohosts the show Bootstrapping in America, where she interviews innovative entrepreneurs throughout Chicago’s tech scene. She is also currently a board member of both the ChicagoNEXT FinTech Council and 1871. In 2014, Ross won a variety of awards including Entrepreneur of the Year, the Women in Tech Award, the Chicago Innovation Award, and many more.
Founder and Co CEO of CancerIQ
Feyi Olopade Ayodele is the Founder and CEO of CancerIQ. CancerIQ is a medical technology company that helps providers use genetic information to predict and prevent disease, starting with cancer. With locations in both Chicago and San Francisco, CancerIQ has risen to be one of the leading technologies in the fight against cancer and other major diseases.
CEO Imagineer Technology Group
Jeremie Bacon leads the Imagineer Technology Group which provides relationship management software to the asset management industry. Imagineer provides software and services to hedge funds, private equity, venture capital firms, as well as a variety of other financial sectors. The company has been booming as they’ve recently increased their staff by 30% in the past 18 months.
Bacon is the chair of the Illinois Technology Association and is also the founder and chairman of the Highwater Foundation, which is a foundation that helps young entrepreneurs in technology.
4. Jayna Cooke
Founder and CEO of EVENTup
Jayna Cooke has been taking the Chicago tech industry by storm for the last decade. Currently, Jayna Cooke is the founder and CEO of EVENTup, an online marketplace that helps companies find the best venue for events. EVENTup is currently the world’s largest online marketplace for event spaces with over 15,000 venues in 300 U.S cities.
Prior to founding EVENTup, Cooke was the VP of Business Development at Groupon, where she was integral to the company’s early success as she secured the sales funding that would later push the company to IPO four years later.
Jayna Cooke is a long-time investor and philanthropist, she is a firm supporter of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. She currently serves on the board of directors for The Chris Gardner Foundation.
Founder of Black Tech Mecca
Fabian Elliott is currently an Advertising Technology Consultant at Google. In his ad-tech career, Elliott works with clients such as Target, Ford, and many others to produce digital strategies that leverage consumer data and strengthen the company’s core marketing strategies.
Fabians burning vision for black empowerment led him not only to spearhead many initiatives at Google, but to also become the Founder of his company Black Tech Mecca. Black Tech Mecca is the world’s only data-driven think tank focused solely on the black tech community. The company has since taken the Chicago tech community by storm and changed the way black tech entrepreneurs navigate the tech industry.
CEO of Built In
Maria Christopoulos Katris is the CEO of Built In, one of the world’s largest online tech and business job networks. The Built In sites showcase a behind the scenes look at some of tech’s biggest players and companies. Built In regularly creates and writes original content to entertain, educate, and inspire tech and business people from all walks of life.
Co Founder and Chairman of Groupon
Eric Lefkofsky is absolutely a serial entrepreneur. Currently worth $2.2 billion dollars, Lefkofsky founded Groupon in 2008 with partner Brad Keywell. The pair later went on to start VC firm Lightbank, which has made investments in over 100 companies. The pair has also founded Uptake, which is a company that uses data science to improve other companies’ operations and safety.
Eric Lefkofsky currently spends most of his time running the healthcare startup Tempus, which uses data to improve cancer treatment. Through his immense spirit of entrepreneurship, Lefkofsky has helped to radically change the Chicago tech industry for the better and has even created thousands of jobs in the process.
How Does This Benefit You?
If you’re new to the coding scene, you’re probably wondering why knowing the names of all these people matters. The simple answer is the fact that knowing who built a name for themselves can actually help you do the same thing.
You never know who you might meet in a coffee shop or an elevator ride. Staying informed about the tech industry’s latest happenings can help you advance your own coding career!