New Mafia: Rise of the Chicago Startups
With the meteoric rise of Chicago-based Groupon, interest in the Windy City startup scene has spread to both coasts and beyond, bringing new companies and hundreds of millions of VC dollars to the region. This panel features top Chicago investors, entrepreneurs, and journalists with diverse perspectives on the emergence of a Chicago startup community. Combining lifelong Midwesterners and recent transplants, young founders and seasoned venture capitalists, the panel will discuss how the Chicago startup scene has evolved in the past year, what it will look like in 5, why they chose Chicago over New York and the Valley, and the unique challenges of building a business in the Midwest.
Matt Maloney is the co-founder and CEO of GrubHub. Before conjuring up plans with his good friend Mike Evans to take over the online delivery world, Matt majored in physiology at Michigan State University. But as the Internet was emerging, he dreamt of becoming a “World Wide Web-master” and decided to turn on, boot up and jack in. Switching gears, he picked up a master’s in computer science at University of Chicago and jumped headfirst into building major Internet websites. After earning his master’s degree, Matt worked at Chicago-based Classified Ventures as a software engineer creating online solutions for Apartments.com. In 2004, Matt and Mike founded GrubHub, and the world has been a better place since.
Melissa Harris is a business columnist at The Chicago Tribune. Her twice-weekly column chronicles the city's business elite. Prior to the Tribune, she covered criminal justice for The Baltimore Sun and local politics for The Orlando Sentinel. A graduate of Northwestern and Johns Hopkins universities, she landed her first "job" at age 15, covering prep sports for the Mason (Ohio) Pulse-Journal. In her senior year of high school, she thought she had made it when the paper paid her $25 for a story.
Paul Lee joined Lightbank as a Partner in February 2011. Previously, Paul was Managing Director and Group Head for Digital Ventures at Playboy Enterprises where he was responsible for acquiring, investing in, and launching digital businesses on behalf of the enterprise. In addition, Paul also spearheaded the digital strategy implemented in positioning the company for a take-private transaction. Prior to Playboy, Paul was a founding member and Senior Vice President at the Peacock Equity Fund, a joint venture between NBC Universal and GE Capital. In his capacity as a deal partner, some of Paul's representative Board and Observer seats include 4INFO, Greystripe, and Ramp. He first started in digital media as a co-founding employee of Click2Asia, a venture-backed online media company. Paul received a dual undergraduate degree in Mathematical Methods in Social Sciences (MMSS) and Economics from Northwestern University and an MBA from The Anderson School at UCLA.
Tom leads the incredible Threadless team and drives strategy and growth…like a boss. He spent a decade launching and growing Internet music businesses at companies like EMI Music, eMusic and Cductive (a digital music retailer he founded and sold to eMusic). Now he focuses on bringing community-based design to the world, and lives in fear that someone will invent a file-sharing network for t-shirts. Tom is also on the boards of Smule, a mobile social music company, and Trunk Club, a clothing service for guys. In his spare time, Tom likes to DJ, practice foreign languages, discover craft beer, and spend time with his amazing wife and French bulldogs.
Zachary Smith is Co-Founder and CEO of gtrot, a platform for discovering and sharing local restaurants, nightlife, deals, events, and more based on social data. Under his leadership, the company took top prize in the Harvard Innovation Challenge and attracted Series A funding from Lightbank, the Chicago-based VC headed by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell. gtrot was recently named a Top 5 Startup at Chicago TechWeek 2011 and winner of the PhoCusWright 2011 Innovation Award for Social Media.