IDEA: Put the Sexy Back in Chicago Startups

The startup scene in Chicago has gone under the radar compared to hubs like Silicon Valley, but as more entrepreneurs seek to expand their ideas and innovations, there’s going to be a need for creative-minded companies at the forefront.

Last week, entrepreneurs and aspiring leaders gathered at Bucketfeet, one of the successful startups that has made a name for itself over the last few years. Only four years old, the fashion- and art-driven business was built from the ground up by Raaja Nemani, and he had some advice for startups.

“You can’t be the cool guy from L.A. — you have to talk to as many people as you can,” he said.

A main conversation point was Chicago’s own startup scene culture, compared to booming places like Silicon Valley in California or the big dreams of the Big Apple in New York City. Will Flanagan of Chicago Inno, a startup itself, spoke of Midwest mentality in relation to Chicago’s culture.

“Everyone here says ‘Yes’ to a cup of coffee. Chicagoans will give you five to 10 minutes of their time and will hear you out, which makes it a good environment for startups,” he said.

Startups in Chicago have one good thing going for them: There isn’t as much competition in Chicago, especially for product startups. Most of the startups in the city are data-driven and tech-specific, but no one is really paying attention.

“People don’t realize how many massive companies are in Chicago and that they’re doing innovative things. They’re flying under the radar,” Nemani said.“There aren’t enough Warby Parkers, Airbnbs or industry-changing companies coming out of Chicago.”

Basically, Chicago is lacking “sexy startups,” or companies that are generating buzz and interest around their brand. One thing Nemani suggested to make this happen is to take Chicago’s culture seriously and be proactive about it, as he has with Bucketfeet.

“People like brands that build an emotional connection,” he said. “You have to have a story to tell.”

And not enough Chicago startups have a gripping first chapter to their story, or at least, not a good enough cover that makes you stop to read it. But people looking to pursue a startup in Chicago shouldn’t be discouraged, because for the startup industry, it is all about taking that first step.

“It’s better to do a few things really really well than to do a lot of things average,” Nemani said.
When Chicago does find its focus in the startup world, it has the potential to be a main hub for business entrepreneurs.

[Via: The Idea Forge]

About Allison Murray