Thousands of people flocked to Techweek Chicago last week and I am happy to say I, and others from Wellspring Worldwide, were among them. For those not familiar with Techweek Chicago, the event is a great opportunity to check out the latest in technology and innovations here in Chicago and the Midwest. As someone who works in the tech industry, I was dying to see what was out there. It also helped that the event was at the sprawling Merchandise Mart, just a few steps from us at Wellspring Worldwide.
Techweek accomplished its goal of being a giant display of all that is growing in the Chicago tech scene, from software that can help a company better manage its accounting to one that will help you choose the right bottle of wine at the grocery store. If you have a problem or a way your life can be improved, as Apple says, there’s an app for that.
For me, however, I wanted to take a step beyond and look at the growing tech scene here in Chicago. It seems like across the country there is a fight to be the “next Silicon Valley.” Chicago is certainly making a big push to be a contender.
Looking around the Techweek expo, I saw that in Chicago and the Midwest, we do have what it takes. We have creative talent, capital, and the support from a community that wants to make us a hub. That was even one of the big draws for Wellspring Worldwide in the decision to relocate the company here.
What we’re missing though is a strong base of game-changers. Don’t get me wrong, the companies and products I saw at Techweek Chicago were impressive. But what I see the Chicago tech scene lacking is a wide-ranging base of companies that are so innovative that they change the way we go about our daily lives.
Having more consumer apps represents great strides and short-term opportunities here in Chicago, but platform, enterprise products are the ones that change the world. We do have some, but when you’re going up against a region that is currently home to companies like Facebook and Google (not to mention the many, many others), we need to build even more if we want to truly be the “next Silicon Valley.”
Without a doubt, tech is the place to be and the Chicago tech scene is brimming with the talent and capital needed to take it to the next level. One look around Techweek and you could see that. However, until we develop a strong foundation of those innovative businesses here in Chicago, ones that vastly change the way we approach the digital world, we’re going to remain a powerful hub with a much, much more powerful big brother on the West Coast.