• Explore Chicago's Innovation Ecosystem

    Each year Mayor Rahm Emanuel, along with World Business Chicago and the University of Illinois, invite some of the brightest engineering, design, and entrepreneurial university students to ThinkChicago where they can explore the city’s vibrant innovation ecosystem.


    The program takes place during two of Chicago’s signature cultural events, Lollapalooza and Chicago Ideas Week, with the goal of retaining and attracting talent from throughout the country to increase job growth in Chicago’s technology industry.


  • ThinkChicago


    Here's a look at a past ThinkChicago event:

  • Global Entrepreneur-in-Residence (GEIR) Program

    Helping Immigrant Entrepreneurs Start Businesses in Chicago

    Mayor Rahm Emanuel and ThinkChicago are proud to assist in the launch of Global Entrepreneur-In-Residence (EIR) programs at five Chicago-area universities. The programs will provide opportunities for immigrant entrepreneurs to start or grow their companies in Chicago. Through partnerships with these university, entrepreneurs can more easily apply for a visa in order to grow their company. These new businesses will become an important part of Chicago’s start-up ecosystem, supporting the universities and the Chicago community with mentorship and job opportunities.

    Participating Institutions

  • Roadshow 2017

    Connecting Top Talent with Innovative Business

    This year, ThinkChicago is also going on the road to connect with students where they’re at. The delegation will include business leadership alongside the Mayor and other civic leaders, telling Chicago’s story to top talent.

    January 30, 2017

    University of Illinois

    Urbana-Champaign, IL


    February 6, 2017

    Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    April 13, 2017

    Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA

    April 14, 2017

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Cambridge, MA


    Carnegie Mellon University

    Pittsburgh, PA


    Purdue University

    West Lafayette, IN


    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor, MI

  • Featuring

    Leadership Talks

    By Mayor Rahm Emanuel and some of Chicago’s top technology entrepreneurs

    Panel Discussions

    With Chicago leaders discussing the city's technology industry and business opportunities

    Interactive Sessions

    For students to meet with Chicago's leading business and civic leaders

    University Partnership Opportunities

    For members of the Chicago delegation to meet with university though-leaders

  • Agenda

    For ThinkChicago: Lollapalloza 2017

    Wednesday, August 2


    Check-In & Breakfast at Motorola Mobility



    Welcome Remarks



    Morning Keynote from Chicago Mayor's Office



    Housekeeping & Overview of Company Tours



    Civic Tech Panel: How Chicago Solves Big Challenges



    Introduction to Civic Tech Challenge



    Civic Tech Challenge Group Brainstorm & Lunch



    Keynote and Q&A "My Chicago Success Story"



    Welcome Remarks from mHUB at mHUB Chicago



    Civic Tech Challenge Activity & Introduce Mentors



    Dinner & Networking with Lost Arts Makers at Center for the Lost Arts


    Thursday, August 3


    Check-In & Breakfast at Uptake



    Welcome Remarks from Uptake



    Keynote Speaker



    Civic Tech Challenge Activity



    Company Showcase & Lunch at 1871



    Company HQ Tours - Meet at Merchandise Mart by no later than 4:00pm




    Friday, August 4


    Check-In & Welcome from C3 Leadership at Lollapalooza Grounds



    Civic Tech Challenge Final Presentations



    Backstage Tour & Group Picture



  • Past Speakers

    Look Who's Talking

    Alya Adamany Woods

    Executive Director, ChicagoNEXT


    Alya Adamany Woods is the Executive Director of ChicagoNEXT, World Business Chicago’s dedicated effort to drive growth and opportunity for Chicago’s tech economy. Governed by a council of technology leaders, ChicagoNEXT strategic focus areas include capital, talent, industry and community and her portfolio of programs includes the Chicago Venture Summit, ThinkChicago, and the Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge.


    Prior to her role at World Business Chicago, Alya was the Managing Director for Innovation Initiatives at the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC), a statewide advocacy group dedicated to cultivating technology-based economic development in Illinois. She co-founded and managed the ISTC’s award-winning Corporate-Startup Challenge, a program designed to create a bridge between major corporations and startup and emerging growth technology firms. She was also the co-creator of the Illinois Innovation Index, a monthly publication developed in conjunction with World Business Chicago to benchmark the city and state’s ability to attract capital, create and retain talent and business, and drive dynamic technologies.

    Prior to that, Woods worked for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, where she most recently served as the Assistant Director for studies, and prior to that as the Interim Director for the Global Midwest Initiative. There, she tackled global policy issues including energy, immigration, and agriculture.


    Alya received her bachelor’s degree in political science from Yale University and a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago. She has lived in Chicago since 2002 and currently resides in Logan Square with her family.

    Charles Adler

    Founder, Center for the Lost Arts and Founder, Kickstarter


    A Kickstarter co-founder, designer, and lifelong nomad. Born in the U.K., raised in the U.S., living life exploring the world. Previously founded the now defunct web-based arts magazine Subsystence as well as Source-ID, a multi-disciplinary design studio. Since 1994, much of his work has centered on supporting independent artists. Additionally, he is a passionate runner, cyclist and outdoorsman. Nature heals.

    Haven Allen

    Executive Director and Co-founder, mHub​


    Haven Allen is an entrepreneur and technology strategist who most recently concentrated on growing the manufacturing industry and strengthening its community throughout Chicagoland. As an economic development strategist at World Business Chicago, he directed the Advisory Council for Chicagoland Manufacturing through which he established and led the implementation of an economic development agenda to support growth and job creation in the manufacturing sector.


    During his graduate education, Haven served as a Mayoral Fellow at the City of Chicago. As a fellow he provided research and analysis on policy initiatives dealing with infrastructure, electricity markets and municipal marketing. In order to give back to his country, Haven joined the Peace Corps and served as a community economic development volunteer in Panama where he worked to strengthen the management and leadership capacities of rural cooperatives and local organizations in order to increase economic opportunities. In addition, Haven was a small business owner in the production and publishing industry.


    Haven has a Master of Public Policy and a Certificate of Graduate Studies in Science, Technology and Public Policy from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from University of Illinois at Chicago.

    Terri Brax

    Founder & CEO, Teacher Care, Women Tech Founders


    Terri connects progressive people, organizations, and ideas. She is the founder and CEO of TeacherCare, a national agency for private teachers and Women Tech Founders, a grassroots organization that advances women into technology. Terri is on the board of mHub, the Chicago Leadership Alliance, and the Chicago Woman Magazine. She directs children's activities at Shelter Inc, speaks at leadership conferences, and has been published in numerous publications including Forbes. Terri been recognized through numerous leadership awards, including Chicago Inno, the Trib and Tech week. She hopes her life will help to break the barriers that hold underrepresented people back.

    George Burciaga

    Managing Director, Global Development and Innovation, CIVIQ Smartscapes


    George Burciaga is an international thought leader and subject matter expert in entrepreneurship, government and IoT technology. He specializes in the areas of Innovation, Digital Intelligent Cities and Connected Technology. George is highly regarded for his software development across smart cities and recent IoT deployments.


    Among his numerous accolades, Burciaga is an inductee of the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame for Technology, a Chicago Who’s Who (2014) and honored in Washington D.C. by two U.S. Presidents as a National Technology leader. These accolades, decades of leadership and business relationships have positioned him exceptionally to offer the following engagements.

    Charlie Catlett

    Founding Director, Urban Center for Computation and Data; Senior Computer Scientist, Argonne National Laboratory; and Senior Fellow, Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory


    Charlie Catlett is the founding director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data, UrbanCCD. He is also a Senior Computer Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and a Senior Fellow at the Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. Crain’s Chicago Business recognized him in 2014 as one of Chicago’s “Tech 50” technology leaders and in 2016 Government Technology Magazine named him one of the Top 25 “Doers, Dreamers & Drivers.” He has held previous roles including Chief Information Officer at Argonne National Laboratory, Director of the National Science Foundation's TeraGrid initiative, and Chief Technology Officer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He has co-authored more than sixty scientific papers in international journals, international conference proceedings and edited volumes.

    Joe Catrambone

    Vice president of Product, Uptake


    Joseph Catrambone, III, VP of Product at Uptake. Joe leads the Product, Innovation, and Ideation functions at Uptake, a $2 billon analytics company for industrial giants like Caterpillar and Berkshire Hathaway Energy. Joe comes from a strong data analytics application background in the legal industry (kCura) and the logistics industry (Echo Global Logistics). His career has been focused on transforming development organizations to performant Agile environments by leading with Product Management excellence.




    Cameron Croft

    Social Entrepreneur, Investor, Philanthropist, Youtopia


    First with Legos, then with code, Cameron Croft has always learned best by building. His latest challenge is taking good non-profits and transforming them into great ones. Studying Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering at the University of Illinois was a natural fit. While at school he was active in building his network, leading several organizations like the Illinois Society of General Engineers and The Illini Waterski Club.


    After graduation, he served a two-year term as President of the Chicago Illini Club, and visits Champaign often to speak to classes and catch some Illini Basketball. He is known in Chicago’s young professional community for hosting dozens of charity events and galas each year like Lookingglass Theatre’s Madhatter’s Ball, Art Institute’s Night Heist, and ChicagoTEN’s Alumni Challenge, and has helped raised over a million dollars for charity.

    Danielle DuMerer

    Chief Technology Officer and First Deputy Commissioner, City of Chicago


    Danielle DuMerer is Chief Technology Officer and First Deputy Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Innovation & Technology (DoIT). She is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the City’s central IT department and oversees its key technology initiatives. Since joining the City, Danielle has directed the development of WindyGrid (the City’s award-winning situational awareness and incident response system), its Office 365 migration, data center relocations, digital inclusion programming, and Data Portal. Danielle also serves on the Smart Chicago Collaborative's Operations Committee, an organization founded in part by the City and focused on improving lives through technology. Before joining the City of Chicago, Danielle developed K-12 educational technology products at the McGraw-Hill Companies, and worked in the Library and Archives field, serving a variety of educational and non-profit organizations. Danielle holds a Master of Library Science from the University of Maryland, College Park and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

    Derek Eder

    Lead Organizer, Chi Hack Night


    Derek is an entrepreneur, developer and one of the leaders of the civic technology community in Chicago. He is founder and partner at DataMade, a company that tells stories and builds tools with data, co-founder of Open City, a collective that makes civic apps to to improve transparency and understanding of our government, and organizer for the Chi Hack Night, America's premier weekly event for building civic technology with open data.

    He has built and collaborated on dozens of civic and data applications including 2nd City Zoning, Chicago Lobbyists, Look at Cook, Chicago Councilmatic and Dedupe.

    Rahm Emanuel

    Mayor​, City of Chicago​


    Rahm Emanuel has served as the 55th mayor of the city of Chicago since 2011. During that time he has made the tough choices necessary to secure Chicago’s future as a global capital. The Mayor added more than 200 hours to the school day and year, taking Chicago from having the least educational time of any large school district in the country to being on par with its peers. He implemented full-day kindergarten for every Chicago child, and fought for and won new accountability measures to ensure every teacher and principal had the necessary resources to succeed. The Mayor’s comprehensive public safety strategy is focused on expanded prevention programs for at-risk youth, smarter policing strategies, and empowering parents and communities to reduce violence in their neighborhoods. He attracted numerous companies to Chicago and helped to build the next generation of start-ups, while investing in the infrastructure, public transportation, open space and cultural attractions that make Chicago a great place to live, work, and play. And he has worked to make our government more effective, to deliver better services at a more competitive price, and to open government to the public.


    Prior to becoming Mayor, Emanuel served as the White House Chief of Staff to President Barack Obama and served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Chicago’s 5th District. He previously served as a key member of the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1998, rising to serve as Senior Advisor to the President for Policy and Strategy.


    Mayor Emanuel graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981 and received a Master's Degree in Speech and Communication from Northwestern University in 1985. He is married to Amy Rule, and they have three children.

    Dima Elissa

    CEO & Founder, VisMed 3D


    Dima Elissa is CEO and founder of VisMed-3D, a biomedical design and consulting firm that designs and 3D prints body parts. Dima was selected by Chicago magazine as one of the top Women in Tech, ChicagoInno’s 50 on Fire, MakeItBetter’s Top Chicago Women in Science and by Chicago Tribune’s BlueSky Vault as one of the Top 100 entrepreneurs in Chicago. Alongside this novel start-up, she is pursuing her passion — devoting time, energy and guidance to women founders and entrepreneurs leveling the playing field for girls and women in STEM.


    As an LGBT White House delegate on Technology and Innovation, an adjunct faculty member teaching Entrepreneurship or as an in-demand speaker, she exemplifies her commitment to giving back and paying it forward. Her most recent designation as the American Medical Woman’s Association (AMWA) Tech and Innovation Lead under the Diversity, Inclusion & Innovation (DI&I) sector, she is building an accelerator to drive STEMM for girls and women seeking healthcare careers or who want to commercialize business ideas to improve the practice of medicine.


    Dima also serves as a member of the board of trustees of Hanover College, board member for mHUB, is Chicago Chapter President for Women in Bio, and Chair of the STEM steering committee for the Apareció Foundation. Dima holds a B.A. in Chemistry from Hanover College and has earned her MBA from Texas A&M’s May’s School of Business with a concentration in Finance.

    Bill Fienup

    Founder and Managing Director, mHUB


    Bill Fienup, managing director and co-founder, is a mechanical engineer, product developer and serial entrepreneur who has designed toys for Hasbro and researched fusion energy for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Bill holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a co-founder and president of Catalyze Chicago, which provided space, equipment, mentorship and community to dozens of early-stage product development entrepreneurs.


    Before merging into mHUB, Catalyze occupied 8,000 square feet, served close to 200 members who filed 80 patents, raised $21M, generated $57M in revenue and created dozens of new jobs. Bill started his career as a product design consultant for IDEO and Insight Product Development, where he was noted for his imaginative, innovative solutions to client needs. With deep experience in mechanism design, product development and complex electromechanical systems, Bill shifted from consulting to become an entrepreneur. He started several companies, including Ecofurn and MB Labs, which focused on connected devices. Bill holds 11 patents — including a bandage dispenser, biopsy needle and a NERF Atom Blaster™ with more pending, including several related to 3D printing.


    Bill’s reputation as a thought leader extends beyond Chicago. In addition to being a repeat visitor to the White House for topics ranging from international trade to the maker movement, Bill has appeared on national television with his inventions.

    Peter Fiflis

    Tovala, ThinkChicago Alum


    Peter a ThinkChicago Alum is the lead engineer of Tovala. He just wrapped up his PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Illinois. Before joining the Tovala team, he started BreakfastBox, an automated breakfast appliance.

    Steve Koch

    Deputy Mayor, City of Chicago


    Steven Koch is the deputy mayor of Chicago. His responsibilities include oversight of the Mayor’s Economic Council, as well as focuses on job creation and retention, budget issues, municipal finance and revenue, and economic development throughout Chicago.

    Prior, Koch spent 27 years at Credit Suisse. During his tenure at CS, he both ran and was the Chairman of the global Mergers and Acquisitions business. In his career, Steve has advised on landmark transactions across a broad range of industries that together comprise more than $1 trillion worth of transactions.
    Koch also has a deep interest in service to the community. He served as Chairman of the Board of both the Sinai Health System of Chicago and the Greater Chicago Food Depository; Co-Chairman of the Green Ribbon Committee on Sustainability and Climate Change of Chicago; and as a life trustee of the Francis Parker School. He helped develop and taught in the Director's Consortium, a seminar sponsored by Dartmouth, the University of Chicago and Stanford Business Schools that trains corporate directors and served as a Presidential appointee to the Independent Advisory Panel of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.

    Eric Mills

    Chief Technology Officer & Co-founder, LitHit


    Katie Olson

    Director, Program Design, City Digital


    Katie Olson is the Deputy Director of City Digital at UI LABS. In her role, Katie oversees all lab operations and leads partner communications and outreach to industry, university, government, and start-ups to facilitate the development and growth of the consortium. Before joining UI LABS in February 2014, Katie led the Neighborhood and Place-Based Assets strategy at World Business Chicago to drive Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Plan for Economic Growth & Jobs. Previously, she worked for The Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia-based community development financial institution, and served as a Mayoral Fellow for the City of Chicago in 2011.


    Katie holds a master’s in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelor’s in Communications, Economics, Legal Institutions & Government from American University. Katie also served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi from 2008-2010.

    Tom Schenk

    Chief Data Officer, City of Chicago


    Tom Schenk is a researcher, author, and an expert in a number of fields, including open government, data visualization, business and research and policy in education. He is currently the Chief Data Officer at the City of Chicago, which includes overseeing Chicago’s open data portal, advanced analytics team, and the City’s data and business intelligence team. He leads the strategic use of data to improve the efficiency of city operations and improve the quality of life for residents.


    Tom has lead the expansion of Chicago’s leading open data portal, deployed predictive analytics in the City to improve data services, and has streamlined the City’s data operations. Tom wrote Circos Data Visualization How-To, an introductory book on using the biology data visualization libraries for use in the social sciences. He has previously served as a consultant for Institutional Effectiveness and Accountability at the Iowa Departments of Education, where he led efforts to use student-level longitudinal data to evaluation education programs, including an evaluation of Project Lead The Way and calculating rates of return for community college graduates. He also led science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) policy in Iowa and a coauthor of Iowa’s STEM roadmap.


    Tom was a visiting scholar with Iowa State University’s Office of Community College Research and Policy where he studied graduate-student unionization. He was also a lecturer at Grand View University where he taught statistics and economics. He earned a Master’s degree in economics from Iowa State University and a Bachelor’s from Drake University.

    Shelley Stern Grach

    Director & Community Advocate, Microsoft Chicago


    They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.

    Howard Tullman

    CEO of 1871


    Mr. Tullman has over 45 years of start-up, management, IPO and turn-around experience and an extensive operations background in web development, online services, large-scale information assembly and delivery systems, database design and implementation and the development, creation and production of all types and formats of multimedia, computer games and audio/video digital content. He has designed and developed GUI and natural user interfaces, interactive and immersive games and instruction systems and other electronic entertainments, training products and services, as well as other information-based products and services in a variety of fields including automotive, insurance, CRM, employment, real estate, consumer goods and social media.

    Kenneth Watkins

    Chief Security Officer, Blue 1647


     Kenneth Watkins is a Mobile and Web developer, speaker and instructor from Chicago. Kenneth also designed, and created applications (mobile and web) for organizations and Hackathons. Kenneth has worked with various sized organizations from startups to corporations. Additionally, Kenneth teaches and mentors high school and university students who are building applications and developing hardware products. He has keen awareness of multiple organizational perspectives, and has the skills to coordinate these functional views to achieve business goals.

    Courtney V. Welton

    General Counsel, Lenovo Mobile Business Group


    Courtney V. Welton as Global MBG General Counsel leads legal matters across Lenovo’s Mobile Business Group in North America, Asia Pacific, Latin America, and EMEA. Previously, she led commercial legal teams focused on relationships with Lenovo’s key suppliers and channel partners. Courtney was also instrumental in re-launching Motorola’s philanthropic Foundation, including overseeing the company’s charitable work, engaging employees as volunteers, and fostering relationships with strategic nonprofits. Prior to joining the company, Courtney clerked for the Honorable David W. McKeague on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, litigated global disputes at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and led a large health care facility. She also recently served on the board of directors for a successful software company. Courtney received her B.A. from Hope College, and her J.D. from Northwestern University School of Law, where she served on the executive board of the NU Law Review. Courtney is based in Chicago and serves on the board of the Chicago Foundation for Women.

  • Company Tours

    Visiting Chicago Tech

  • #ThinkChicago Tweets

  • #ThinkChicago Posts

  • Alumni Stories

    Learn about past participants in the ThinkChicago program

    Allison Bedell

    Northwestern University


    “I design and engineer medical devices. I listen to the patient and the doctor. I deliver solutions that are feasible, desirable, and viable.”


    Allison is an engineer and human-centered designer with a focus in the medical device industry. As an academic, Allison received a BS in Biomedical Engineering and, followed it up with an MS in Engineering Design and Innovation both from Northwestern. There she learned how innovation is cultivated, and designed user-centered medical and consumer solutions for companies like Procter & Gamble, Samsung, and her own medical device startup. She was individually recognized by the James Dyson Foundation for innovative for work on this device. She attributes these accomplishments to thoughtful synthesis, enthusiastic brainstorming and effective collaboration. Through life she aims to promote and create innovation in medicine, making a significant difference in the lives of patients, whether by improving medicine itself or by improving the patient’s experience with it.


    Current Position: Senior R&D Engineer at Fenwal, a Fresenius-Kabi company. Fenwal develops technologies and products for blood separation, collection, and transfusion.


    On ThinkChicago: “ThinkChicago brings together a group of very like-minded students who might otherwise never cross paths, but should! You will meet wonderfully interesting speakers and students, and be inspired by many of the city’s success stories.”




    Natalie Fratto

    Illinois Institute of Technology

    “Aspiring full-time food critic and yelp reviewer, paying the bills as a strategy consultant.”


    Natalie is an avid University of Michigan alum & fan, a lover of all things tech and a happy River North resident. She studied political science, so in addition to TechCrunch and Mashable, she always has a browser tab open to a political blog. “DC is juicier than the Real Housewives!” When asked about her favorite thing about Chicago, she revealed her inner foodie, “Girl and the Goat [is the best thing about Chicago]…no, seriously. The food in Chicago is amazing. I could live here for 100 years and still not make it through the massive list of restaurants I want to try.”


    Natalie was on the founding team of Will Work For Food that launched over 40 campus clubs, recruited 1,000+ new volunteers, and sponsored countless local volunteer efforts in support of our goal to end malnutrition globally. The organization is entirely run by college students, and while that presents many challenges, she attributes its success to this \"student-social entrepreneur\" model.


    Current Position: IBM rotational strategy consulting program - she has worked across multiple industries and companies. Projects have been centered on mergers & acquisitions strategy as well as digital customer experience strategy.


    On ThinkChicago: “ThinkChicago exposed me to a variety of companies that I hadn't previously considered, and more than anything, highlighted the diversity of opportunity available in Chicago. There is literally every type of company you could imagine, and the community of people working here is strong enough to rival Silicon Valley.“

    Ted Gonder

    Illinois Institute of Technology


    “Evening the odds for future generations through financial education.”


    Ted grew up in Los Angeles but moved to Chicago for college. In college, he and his friends - economics students at the University of Chicago--were struck by the resource disparity between their ivy-decked campus and some of the local communities on the south side. So, they put their heads together to find a way to even the odds for local youth. They came up with a simple solution: to create a tutoring program that focused on money instead of academics. Since starting in 2009, the organization--called Moneythink--has trained 1000 college volunteers to provide financial mentoring for 7500 inner-city teens in 30 communities across 10 states. Ted was recently appointed by President Obama to serve on the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans. In Ted's free time he enjoys practicing the martial art of aikido, watching videos of puppies and wild animals, and writing on his blog.


    Current Position: CEO of Moneythink, young people restoring the economic health of the US through financial education; member, U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans.


    On ThinkChicago: “Nobody succeeds alone - ThinkChicago provides the exposure, perspective, and community to elevate Chicago, one relationship at a time.”

    Neil Gupta

    Illinois Institute of Technology


    “I am a Chicago-based software developer, UX designer, entrepreneur, and board game enthusiast. I like beautiful code and awesome startups.”


    Neil has a strong background in software development, UX design, and business. Growing up in California, he was surrounded by inspiring tech companies and engineers. He started programming in middle school, where he wrote calculator games in TI-Basic, and quickly moved on to writing increasingly complex web applications. After studying Computer Science, Psychology, and Entrepreneurship at Illinois Institute of Technology, he founded an angel-funded ed-tech startup.


    In high school Neil started a profitable web design business, leveraging the experience he gained from having entrepreneur parents. He credits this early experience as instilling a “business side” passion that eventually lead to him founding Tabule ( a startup focused on creating a better student planner) here in Chicago. “Even though I grew up in the Silicon Valley, I chose to keep my startup in Chicago thanks to the support of ThinkChicago and my Chicago-based investors, who worked to provide me with the resources, network, and exposure I needed to grow.”


    Current Position: working at a Chicago-based energy supply startup, developing software, while he also continues to push Tabule


    On ThinkChicago: “ThinkChicago has helped expand my network and gotten me significant media coverage, both of which have had positive outcomes on my career. It also helped me cross off several items from my bucket list, such as attending Lollapalooza or a large TEDx conference”


    “If you already live in Chicago or are planning to move here, it's an excellent opportunity to be exposed to all the resources available in the city. Even if you have no desire to live in Chicago, you get to have a fun week in Chicago, and you may be surprised by how you feel after the event. Chicago is a large city, but feels like a small community. Chicagoans are approachable and always eager to help, which is great for creating new opportunities.”




    Shauna Martin

    Illinois Institute of Technology


    “On a never ending journey to an unknown destination, just enjoying the ride.”


    Shauna graduated from a CPS high school on the south side of Chicago, attended Illinois Institute of Technology and graduated with a bachelors in information technology and management. Quickly after graduating, she began work as a software engineer at Officemax. She worked there for 2 years before transitioning to work at eClinicalWorks as a software training specialist, where she is dedicated to becoming a product manager. However, it is all not all work for Shauna, she also started a non-profit organization(501c3 pending) and successfully runs a summer robotics program for 8th graders.


    Current Position: software training specialist at eClinicalWorks, a leading provider of ambulatory clinical information systems, including electronic health records (EHR)


    On ThinkChicago: “Do it! Do it! Do it! Go for the chance to experience Chicago like never before. It's a chance to get an inside look at the entrepreneurial environment of this city and you never know who you might meet or where it might take you.”


    “Chicago is GREAT...The culture. Businesses, people, diversity, architecture and so much more. Just everything mixed together is great. The culture of Chicago is unlike any other, and that culture fosters innovation.”

    Matt Unger

    Marquette University


    “Building great products that make life better for people. Building great teams behind those products”

    Matt grew up programming, when he was 12 his father bought him a domain for his birthday and he has been hooked ever since. “The internet gives anyone the ability to affect a large group of people.”


    He founded Roompact, where he is excited about building a team of passionate and hardworking people. It takes him being “tenacious and vision-driven” to inspire others to believe in the mission.


    He attributes ThinkChicago for kickstarting his career in Chicago's technology arena by providing connections that would have otherwise been difficult to get.


    Current Position: founder & ceo of Roompact, a software service that enables University administrators to predict, prevent, and reduce roommate conflict.


    On ThinkChicago: “You get to meet interesting people, tour innovative companies, and eat free food. At the very least, you get to take a free vacation with permission from the Mayor of Chicago. ThinkChicago was one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my college career. And if you're looking for a job -- ThinkChicago gave me an inside track to several recruiters at the companies we visited. It definitely gives participants a leg up in the job search”


    “They, along with many other people in the community, are really building up something great here. It was also exciting to get a peek inside a handful of industry-leading companies.”


    “As a developer, the lure of California was very enticing, but ThinkChicago steered me back home, and I've been able to poach a couple of other folks from the Bay Area as well.”




    Brittany Vacchiano

    Purdue University


    “I am determined, and I am not scared.”


    Brittany grew up on the southwest side of Chicago and attended an all-girls liberal arts high school called Mother McAuley. She spent her free time learning about computers, web development, and programming instead of focusing on other frivolous endeavours. “Computers just clicked for me.” This passion led her to Purdue’s Computer Science program. At Purdue, Brittany has interned at companies like Google, Qualcomm, JPMorgan, and Clarity Partners, LLC, and learned numerous programing languages including Java, C, C++, Ruby, Python, and .NET. In her free time she enjoys marathon training, cooking, and mentoring a Girl Scouts First Lego League Robotics team.


    Brittany started Purdue's largest student-run hackathon called BoilerMake. BoilerMake is a 36-hour, 400 person coding competition with over 26 sponsoring companies. This event will continue its legacy this Fall - adding to the entrepreneurial community on campus at Purdue.


    Current Position: senior at Purdue working on a project called Swag Swap, a clothes lending website, “a mix between AirBnB and Craig's List.”


    On ThinkChicago: “If you're a developer and you've even remotely considered looking for technology jobs, you need to be at this event! It's eye opening.”




    Joel Vasallo

    Depaul University


    “Difficult takes a day, impossible takes a week. Everyday is an opportunity to learn something new and to get better.”


    Joel’s is a classic story of the American dream. In 1980 his family left Cuba and came to the US through Madrid, Spain. It was not the shortest route, but the US did not have an Embargo with Spain, and his family were problem solvers. After spending time in New York, Joel’s family eventually ended up in Chicago where Joel has flourished. He graduated Summa Cum Laude and at the top of his class with a BS in information technology, and now works as an Application Engineer for Gogo inflight (The IVCA company of the year 2013). “ I love my job, and love the people I work with.”


    Joel describes sacrifice with odd degree of fondness. Sacrifice is something his mother has done throughout her entire life fro Joel and his family, unlike her brother and sister she forwent college to begin supporting the family, and when Joel’s father met an untimely death, he says, “my mother refused to give up on me; she is my biggest supporter. Working very hard, she continued to sacrifice a lot, putting me first, to put me through school. Joel did not take that for granted, and attributes sacrifice of his own for graduating Summa Cum Laude.


    “Money is money, it comes and goes. Appreciate it and be wise with it, but don't let it rule your life. Enjoy what you do, and you will be happy forever.”


    Current position: Application Engineer at Gogo. In addition to this, he is actively working on his own Python based programs, and pushing various automation tools


    On ThinkChicago: “It is arguably one of the best 3 day events that not only helps me improve oneself but also got to network and meet great people too!”


    “Chicago is growing, and its tech scene is its driving factor! With tech hubs popping up left and right, it is almost hard to miss! This partnered with the work ethic of Chicago's awesome citizens makes for one amazing city!"


    Twitter: @JoelVasallo