City Seeks New Investor Dollars for Startups

The fifth-floor office of Chicago’s chief technology officer, John Tolva, sits a few doors down the hall from the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Tolva is the city’s first CTO, tasked with providing access to, by digitizing, the enormous banks of data that the city has hoarded over decades.

These days, Tolva’s job takes him beyond data and face-to-face with hundreds of the city’s eager, hopeful new technology entrepreneurs. Immersed in an environment where, the Mayor says, two new startup companies are launched each week, a big part of Tolva’s responsibilities include finding ways to support that burgeoning tech community.

What Chicago needs, local entrepreneurs say, is a larger pool of investors. In a recent ranking of the Top 10 American startup cities, by USA Today and the National Venture Capital Association, Chicago came in 7th behind these cities:

  • San Diego (6)
  • Washington, DC (5)
  • Los Angeles (4)
  • New York (3)
  • Boston (2)
  • Silicon Valley (1)

The survey ranked cities based on how much funding their young tech companies received in 2011. Chicago startups received $750 million while, in top-ranked Silicon Valley, investors forked over $11.8 billion to fund new businesses.

As Tolva explains, the Mayor has launched “ChicagoNext“, an effort to bring more cash-rich investors to Chicago. The council, headed by World Business Chicago, and co-chaired by J.B Pritzker, Eric Lefkofsky, Jeff Aronin and Pat Ryan, Jr., will focus its efforts on helping to find funding for companies in the digital, clean technology, and the life sciences sectors. ❒

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