• 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:

  • ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza 2018

    Wednesday, August 1 – Friday, August 3

  • Past Speakers & Mentors

    Look Who's Talking

    Fadi Abuelroos


    Fadi Abuelroos is a technology consultant with an empathetic approach to engaging his clients. By day Fadi works in the digital world for North America and Global clients in industries automotive, insurance, manufacturing, travel, transportation, and telecommunications. A civic-minded, creative yogi with a strong analytical side he bridges his career in technology with his passion for social good. With over 15 years engaging in social justice and gender equality issues, Fadi has a strong pulse on the social-economic issues that impact our communities daily. Fadi enjoys cooking daily and experimenting with food. When not cooking, Fadi is often engaged in social good conversations through hosted dinners and focused book clubs.

    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.

    Jeremy Bird

    CEO & Founding Partner, 270 Strategies


    Jeremy Bird is CEO and a Founding Partner at 270 Strategies with extensive experience working with startups, domestic and international political campaigns, labor and policy organizations, and Fortune 500 companies. He helped launch 270 Strategies after serving as the national field director for the 2012 re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.

    Dubbed the campaign's "Field General" by Rolling Stone magazine, Jeremy was listed among "The Obama Campaign's Real Heroes" and has been cited as "a former Harvard divinity student who took to political organizing as though it were his higher calling." In 2013, he was featured in Fortune magazine's "40 Under 40" list, which highlights 40 individuals the magazine considers to be the most influential executives and "the year's most important young innovators, risk-takers, and rule-breakers in business."

    Jeremy is the founder of Battleground Texas, a long-term grassroots effort to get out the vote and register millions of Texans whose voices have been silenced in the political process. His work with the organization has garnered extensive media attention, including in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, POLITICO, The Colbert Report, MSNBC, and Bloomberg News.

    Jeremy serves on the Board of Directors of iVote, a voting rights organizationdedicated to the notion that every eligible citizen should vote. He explored the issue of voting rights as part of his 2014 TEDx Talk and penned an op-ed on the topic for The New Republic, "We Can’t Just Play Defense on Voting Access. It's Time to Make Voting Easier." While at 270, Jeremy has been an advisor on several mayoral, gubernatorial, and Congressional races. He also works on issue campaigns, like the Scouts for Equality’s push to reverse a decades-long anti-gay discrimination policy by the Boy Scouts of America.

    The Wall Street Journal described Jeremy's theory of organizing as "one part data, and one part emotional connection. He keeps close track of which states are making their targets each day, but also preaches the value of relationships - between the campaign and its volunteers, and between volunteers and voters." His contributions to this groundbreaking organizing model led Rolling Stone to recognize him on its 2012 "Hot List," calling him "the Obama campaign's secret weapon" with "a massive army of staff and grassroots volunteers for which Romney has no answer."

    Prior to organizing with the President, Jeremy worked for several issue campaigns and candidates at the federal and local level, including the presidential campaigns of then-Senator John Kerry and former Governor Howard Dean. He also has experience advocating for educational equality and worked as a field director for the United Food and Commercial Workers international union.

    Jeremy is a graduate of Wabash College, where he serves on the Board of Trustees, and Harvard Divinity School. He grew up in a trailer park in High Ridge, Missouri and is passionate about grassroots politics, traveling the world, and talking about sports - especially his hometown St. Louis Cardinals and his newfound love of soccer.

    Brenna Conway

    ThinkChicago Program Manager, World Business Chicago


    Brenna Conway joined World Business Chicago in July 2017 as Program Manager of ThinkChicago, inviting top university students to meet Chicago technology leaders, explore innovative companies, and encouraging graduates to choose Chicago to live and work.


    Prior to joining World Business Chicago, Brenna served as Director of Strategic Partnerships and Illinois Director for the Roosevelt Institute, a national student think-tank with chapters on over 130 campuses in 40 states. She opened the organization’s first local office serving Illinois students, and designed a curriculum to support student policy research and advocacy projects across the country. Brenna has experience in state and local advocacy, working previously as Campaign Director for the Active Transportation Alliance, where she designed a policy agenda on public transportation, organized transit riders, and lead community engagement around projects such as Bus Rapid Transit in Chicago. She got her start in local politics, working for Governor Pat Quinn and other campaigns at the state and local level in both Chicago and Milwaukee.


    Brenna is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. She has lived in Chicago since 2010 and currently resides in Bridgeport. In her free time Brenna serves as a volunteer leader for Chicago Cares, remains active in local politics, and can be found bike touring throughout the Midwest.

    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.

    Kristi Dula

    Network Relationship Manager, Pritzker Group


    Kristi Dula is an accomplished sales and operations professional with extensive experience developing corporate partnerships and building community relationships. She is responsible for facilitating relationships for Pritzker Group’s family of companies and connecting them with the firm’s wide network of experts, strategic partners and potential customers.
    Prior to 1871, Dula was vice president of events and content creation for 1871, the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center’s flagship technology incubator. Dula operationalized 1871’s focus on connecting businesses, organizers and entrepreneurs during its early stages and oversaw all marketing, communications and logistics efforts for more than 1,500 events.

    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.

    Peter Fiflis

    Director of Research and Development, Tovala


    Peter Fiflis is the Director of Research and Development at Tovala, a company that makes an internet-connected smart oven that pairs with its companion meal service. The company’s mission is to deliver a healthy and convenient home cooking experience. Before joining Tovala, he was a graduate student at the University of Illinois, graduating with a Ph.D. in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering. Fiflis had participated in the Cozad New Venture Competition at the University of Illinois with a startup called BreakfastBox, an internet-connected appliance that would automatically cook breakfast in the morning. He is also an alumni of the ThinkChicago program, both at Chicago Ideas Week, and Lollapalooza.y.

    Josh Goldstein

    Vice President of Product, CityBase


    Josh is the Vice President of Product at CityBase, where he is responsible for organizing CityBase's product strategy and overseeing product management. Before CityBase, Josh was CEO and co-founder of the Department of Better Technology (DOBT), a company that was acquired CityBase in 2017. Before DOBT, Josh was a PhD candidate at Princeton University, where he worked on prediction problems in public policy. Josh is an ultra-marathon runner and a small time investor, most recently in Duma, a Kenyan startup to help job seekers connect with employers.

    Rajesh Karmani

    Head of Technology, Farmer's Fridge


    Raj Karmani is the the Head of Technology at Farmer's Fridge, a venture-backed startup on a mission to make fresh food available 24/7 through smart fridges. He oversees all technology projects including mobile, fridge and web applications as well as back-end and data infrastructure, with a vision to deliver a personalized fresh food experience for its customers.


    Raj has a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During the last year of his PhD, he co-founded a public benefit corporation Zero Percent, which combined his passion for technology, volunteerism, and entrepreneurship. Zero Percent provided an online food rescue platform for restaurants and food operators to donate any excess food to local charities in an easy, reliable and safe way. The platform coordinated more 1.5 million meals from 100+ businesses to 80+ nonprofits in Chicago, Champaign and Nashville.

    Brad Keywell

    Founder and Co-Chairman, Chicago Ideas Week; Co- founder and CEO, Uptake


    Brad is the Founder and Chairman of Chicago Ideas Week. one of the major ideas and innovation platforms in the world He is an Adjunct Professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, where he teaches a course on entrepreneurship and disruptive technology. He is the Immediate Past Chairman of the Illinois Innovation Council, appointed by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. He has served on the Mayor’s Committee on Technology. Brad Keywell, is the Co-Founder and CEO of Uptake Technologies. He is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Lightbank. He is a Co-Founder and Director of Groupon. Brad is the Chairman of the Future Founders Foundation, which runs programs designed to help teach and inspire high school students in entrepreneurship, and connect them with mentors and role models for guidance and inspiration. He received his J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan School of Law (1993) and his Bachelor of Business Administration with honors from the University of Michigan (1991). He also studied in 1990 at the London School of Economics. He is a member of the State Bar of Illinois and the Michigan Bar Association.

    Alex Niemczewski

    CEO & Co-Founder, BallotReady


    Alex Niemczewski is CEO and co-founder of BallotReady, an award-winning voter guide to every race and referendum on the ballot. Previously she founded a human-centered design consulting firm and taught coding at the Booth School of Business and The Starter League. She has a background in workforce development and is an alum of the University of Chicago. She was recognized in Crain’s Chicago Business “20 in their 20’s” list, Techweek100, and as a Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellow.

    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.

    Rohit Pasam

    Co-Founder & CEO, Xaptum, Inc.


    Co-founder & Chief Executive Officer, Xaptum, Inc. - an industry trailblazer who runs technology businesses through the life cycle of start-up to exit with an incisive understanding of value drivers for technology products in the marketplace. Pasam had previously founded successful technology businesses in technology services and outsourced product development. In 2013, AT&T named him one of AT&T’s innovators in Internet of Things. Pasam is the co-founder & CEO of Xaptum, the company that built the Internet for Things – a IP network optimized for IoT that exchanges IoT data between the world of Things and the world of Cloud Applications and Big Data securely, reliably at massive scale.

    Neal Sales Griffin

    CEO, CodeNow


    Neal Sales-Griffin left a position as founder-in-residence at a venture capital firm in 2010 to fulfill a three-part desire: solve problems, make things, and have fun doing it. His company was the first to work in the 1871 Chicago incubator space, and one year later Sales-Griffin launched The Starter League with his partner Mike McGee, one of the first coding boot camps, with the goal of helping people solve problems through technology and code. Since The Starter League's launch in 2011 up until its acquisition by Fullstack Academy in March 2016, over 1,500 students learned tech and entrepreneurship skills through the program. Today as CEO of CodeNow, Sales-Griffin is bringing that philosophy to a new audience: middle school and high school students. The nonprofit hosts coding workshops for students from low-income backgrounds.

    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.

    John Tipton

    Head of Research Operations, Morningstar


    I’ve worked for Morningstar since 1992 where I’ve held various product development and operational roles. In particular, I was IT Director for eleven years and also ran a major product development initiative on Morningstar’s flagship software platform. Currently, I manage operations in the firm’s Research Group.
    Outside of Morningstar, I’ve published two collections of poems, surfaces (2004) and Paramnesia (2016) and two translations of Greek tragedies, Sophocles’ Ajax (2008) and Aeschylus’ Seven against Thebes (2015), all four books published by Flood Editions. I am, in turn, the publisher of Verge Books, a small literary press. I sit on the boards of Hypocrites Theater, where I’m vice-president, and Green Lantern Press.

    Larry Tsai

    Digital Product Manager


    Larry is a digital product manager, who enjoys solving problems at the intersection of business and user impact. Passionate about design thinking, Agile principles, and marketing analytics, he leverages tools from each to ensure that the products he manages delight users and drive business value. His experience brings impactful digital solutions across a range of industries: retail, utility, health, gaming, finance, non-profit and mobile payment. Larry received his undergraduate degree from University of Florida, Master’s from Northwestern University and is currently pursuing his MBA at Chicago Booth. In his spare time Larry enjoys hitting the links for a quick 9, trying new food spots in Chicago and volunteering for causes related to education and animal advocacy.

  • 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

  • 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 2018

    Connecting Top Talent with Innovative Business

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

    October 24, 2017

    University of Illinois

    Urbana-Champaign, IL

    January 19, 2017

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor, MI

    February 12, 2018


    Los Angeles, CA

    February 20, 2018

    Harvard Graduate School of Design

    Cambridge, MA

    February 28, 2018

    University of Wisconsin

    Madison, WI


    March, 2018

    Purdue University

    West Lafayette, IN

    April 9, 2018

    Illinois Institute of Technology

    Chicago, IL

    April, 2018

    Northwestern University

    Evanston, IL

    October, 2018

    University of Iowa

    Iowa City, IA

  • 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 thought-leaders

  • Sponsors

    Thank you to our ThinkChicago Roadshow Sponsors

    Title Sponsor

    Sophomore Level Sponsors

    Freshman Level Sponsors

  • #ThinkChicago Tweets

  • #ThinkChicago Posts