Mayor Lightfoot joins World Business Chicago to announce the 2022 Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food this May 25-26 

Chicago’s flagship VC & startup conference will evolve as the city’s inaugural event focused on Chicago’s thriving food & ag innovation ecosystem



CHICAGO –  Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined World Business Chicago (WBC) to announce the expansion of the Chicago Venture Summit series with a Future-of-Food event this May 25-26, 2022. The city’s inaugural food innovation conference will return to 167 Green in Chicago’s Fulton Market District. As the city’s flagship investor and startup conference – the Chicago Venture Summit connects local founders with VCs from across the country, invites investors and corporate leaders to explore the city’s startup & innovation ecosystem, and promotes Chicago as a global destination for founders, innovators, and investors. 

 “With $7 billion in VC funding and over $9 billion in total funding for local founders, our city remains one of the best destinations in the world for founders, innovators and investors,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “This is especially true when it comes to the food industry, as Chicago leads as the global capital for this fast-growing sector. I’m excited to welcome founders, corporate leaders, and venture capitalists from across the country this May for our city’s inaugural food innovation conference.”

Mayor Lightfoot joined Michael Fassnacht, the City of Chicago’s Chief Marketing Officer and President & CEO of World Business Chicago, and Mark Tebbe, Chair of WBC’s Innovation and Venture Council to announce the city’s new flagship food innovation conference. WBC is the city’s economic development organization chaired by the Mayor, and organizer of the Chicago Venture Summit series. The most recent 2021 event was the largest Chicago Venture Summit ever with 600+ registered participants which included 160+ investment/VC firms and showcased 150+ local startups. 

“Since our first summit in 2014, the Chicago Venture Summit has evolved to one of the nation’s premier venture events,” said Mark Tebbe, Chair of WBC’s Innovation & Venture Council. “Chicago is home to some of the world’s best investors in the food & ag industry, and we’re excited to invite national and international sector leaders to connect with our local founders.”

The Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food event will be fully in person, following all CDC, state, and Chicago Department of Public Health guidelines. The Chicago Venture Summit series is part of WBC’s innovation and venture portfolio of programs which also includes Startup Chicago (WBC’s VC attraction & startup growth program), ThinkChicago (WBC’s STEM talent attraction & retention program), and Venture Engine (corporate-startup program) with the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC).

“More than 300 food and agricultural companies call Chicago and Illinois home, up from about 100 three years ago,” said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO, World Business Chicago, and Chief Marketing Officer, City of Chicago. “Chicago is the number one city for food innovation in the country, and this sector is a strong driver of our city’s economic recovery, job growth and neighborhood expansion.  For those reasons – and because of the support of World Business Chicago board members and local industry leaders who enthusiastically stepped up to support – I’m confident our first-ever flagship conference for food innovation will be a resounding success.” 

WBC is proud to announce Cleveland Avenue, Ferrero, Ingredion, JLL, JP Morgan Private Bank, P33, and Quaker Foods as presenting sponsors for the 2022 Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food event. Innovation sponsors include SRS Acquiom and Valor Equity Partners. Startup sponsors include 2112, Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network, Clique Studios, Food Foundry, Supply Change Capital, The Hatchery, and TSX & TSX Venture Exchange. Venture Partners include Bluestein Ventures, Hyde Park Angels, Lofty Ventures, and Sandbox Sustainability Ventures. 

“Chicago is rich with talented entrepreneurs,” said Don Thompson, CEO & Founder of Cleveland Avenue, LLC.  With founding investments in food and beverage brands, Thompson’s firm possesses global operational expertise, a passion for consumer innovation, and a deep respect  for entrepreneurs.  Today, Cleveland Avenue invests in lifestyle consumer brands and technology companies that positively disrupt large and growing markets.  “With over 40% of our portfolio companies based in Chicago communities, Cleveland Avenue provides resources to global and local companies with a focus to build and extend each brand.  We are thrilled to partner with Mayor Lightfoot and World Business Chicago to host the first Chicago Venture Summit for the Future-of-Food event and highlight our city’s world-class food startup ecosystem.” 

“Ferrero is proud to make some of America’s favorite treats here in the heart of the country’s food and confections industry,” said Todd Siwak, President & Chief Business Officer for Ferrero North America and WBC Board member. Ferrero’s Butterfinger®, CRUNCH®, and Baby Ruth® brands are manufactured in Franklin Park and Bloomington, Illinois, and its Fannie May® brand is headquartered in Chicago and enjoyed throughout the Midwest. “We are thrilled to be able to imagine and shape the future with other industry leaders at the Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food event this May.”

“We are actively engaged in driving food innovation and new product development in Chicago and around the world by leveraging our global network of Ingredion’s Idea Labs that deliver consumer-preferred innovation through customer co-creation,” said James Zallie, President and CEO of Ingredion. “Ingredion’s global headquarters has deep roots, especially to Chicago’s food community and we look forward to this year’s Chicago Venture Summit where we can connect founders with new opportunities. Ingredion is a global ingredient solutions provider that develops on-trend, nature-based ingredient solutions for nearly 60 industries across more than 125 countries that helps customers navigate and adapt to the accelerated pace of the food industry by creating innovative products that win in the marketplace.”

“JP Morgan is a proud long-time supporter of World Business Chicago’s venture programs, focused on supporting local founders and their innovative startups,” said Heather Webster, Managing Director for J.P. Morgan Private Bank in Chicago. JP Morgan is also a member of WBC’s Board of Directors. “As a key driver of the growth of the Chicago Venture Summit program, our-ever Future-of-Food Summit will be a significant catalyst to highlight the rapid-growth of our startup ecosystem, especially with our local food sector.”

“It’s been exciting to watch the rapid momentum with Chicago’s food sector,” said Dan Ryan, President for the Central Region at JLL and World Business Chicago board member. “Our city has proven to be a national leader in COVID recovery, especially when it comes to our thriving food and ag ecosystem led by our local founders and startups.”

“Chicago is very well positioned as a hub for food innovation,” said Robbert Rietbroek, General Manager and Senior Vice President of Quaker Foods North America, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, and World Business Chicago board member. “Quaker is one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies, and since 1877, Quaker brands have been known for quality, great taste and nutrition. Our Chicago headquarters is home to some of the most talented professionals in this sector, and we are excited to welcome our peers from around the world this May to experience Chicago’s food industry and innovation.”

“Chicago has all the fundamental pieces for a thriving innovation ecosystem: the talent, the companies, the academic institutions, and the investors,” says Brad Henderson, CEO of P33, a non-profit driving inclusive growth for Chicago’s technology sector. “Our local ag sector represents a core slice of Chicago’s economy at 10 percent, and we see only more growth in this sector on the horizon. As digital trends continue to accelerate food and agtech innovation, the Chicago Venture Summit unlocks a valuable opportunity for our startup leaders to connect with local and national executives and investors.”

This year’s Summit will return to 167 Green in Fulton Market District, a 645,000 square foot office building, developed by Shapack Partners and Focus and owned in partnership with Walton Street Capital. As a testament to its location and design, CCC Information Services and Foxtrot have announced their headquarters’ relocation to the building, joining Kroll, WeWork and other innovative companies at 167 Green in their move to Fulton Market District. 167 Green features one of Chicago’s largest town hall spaces, which doubles as a full size basketball court on the top floor of the building, in addition to a rooftop terrace, sitting room, game room and gym. 

“We were proud to host the largest Chicago Venture Summit ever this past September in Chicago’s Fulton Market District,” said Jeff Shapack, Founder and CEO of Shapack Partners and World Business Chicago board member. “As a central social district and one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city, I’m excited to welcome both founders and investors to the neighborhood of many of Chicago’s most innovative companies.”

As part of WBC’s mission to drive inclusive economic growth, a portion of the proceeds from this year’s Chicago Venture Summit will be donated to the Children First Fund (The Chicago Public Schools Foundation), the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Hatchery Chicago, and Urban Growers Collective. You can learn more about the 2022 Chicago Venture Summit Future-of-Food event via Registration for the invite-only investor and startup conference will open in the coming weeks. For more information, please contact Julie White Schuster, World Business Chicago’s head of venture programs:

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