TechWeek Chicago 2013 provided an inside glimpse into the emerging technology ecosystem in Chicago. More than 70 startups competed for $100,000 in cash and pro bono services at the third annual conference.
The big winner? WeDeliver, a company disrupting local bike and foot messenger services by providing real-time tracking on its deliveries.
Six judges — Constance Freedom (Second Century Ventures), Troy Henikoff (Chicago TechStars), Noah Knauf (Warburg Pincus), Andres Moreno (Open English), J.B. Pritzker (New World Ventures), Chuck Templeton (Impact Engine) — selected WeDeliver from among 4 other finalists including Crowdfynd, Furywing, NextStep.io, and 24 Fundraiser.
Four of the five finalists come from Chicago. NextStep.io hails from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The companies were launched recently in either 2013 or 2012 except for 24 Fundraiser which was founded in 2007.
Founded in January 2013, by CEO Jimmy Odom, WeDeliver tracks packages in real-time and provides transparency with both delivery and quick pricing quotes. They began delivery in February 2013 and became profitable in their third week. Recently, they raised $100K from family & friends. The company has five full-time and four part-time employees. They expect 250 merchants on their platform this year and want to hire 50 delivery specialists in the next three months.
Founded in August 2012 by Pinaki Saha and Jay Sebben, Crowdfynd is a mobile and social application that uses crowdsourcing to find and return lost property and report on crime or suspicious behavior. Since launching their website in May 2013, they have attracted close to 1000 users, raised $140K of a $500K seed round, and been featured by Time Magazine, WGN Radio, and Fox News. They have four employees in Chicago and eight developers in India.
Founded in early 2012 by Jared Steffes, Furywing offers social gambling mobile games. They have partnered with a gambling license holder in the UK and will develop free apps for those countries that don’t allow real money gambling.
Founded in January 2012, NextStep.io identifies and tracks healthy lifestyle goals that are not based on physical activity but habits that affect physical activity. Their dashboard allows users to track behavioral patterns and adopt minor lifestyle changes that encourage better habits. They have five employees.
Founded in 2007, 24 Fundraiser provides a platform to create online auctions, live silent auctions, and mobile auctions. Their software tool can help any organization–schools, churches, charities, non-profits, businesses, or individuals — raise substantial sums of money through auctions and events.
The startups that did not advance to the finals should not be disappointed. The conference was populated with an abundance of promising startups and only five could be chosen. In addition, selecting startups is more art than science and judges, no matter how talented and experienced, don’t have the capacity to thoroughly analyze 70 or more companies in such a short period of time.
One startup, Snip.ps, created quite a stir on the Expo floor where startups and more mature companies showcased their products and/or services throughout the 3-day tech conference. Serial entrepreneur and founder/CEO Brandon Guttman sold his last startup, Interclick, for $270MM to Yahoo. Celebrity Jennifer McCarthy is one of their investors and, not surprisingly, drew considerable attention from photographers and onlookers. ❒
[Photo of WeDeliver team courtesy of TechWeek.]