300 of the nation’s top engineering and STEM students virtually exploring Chicago’s thriving tech ecosystem and vibrant urban culture

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and ChicagoNEXT of World Business Chicago (WBC) today announced the launch of ThinkChicago Chicago Ideas 2020, a three-day, all virtual event from October 27-29 that will introduce the city’s fast-growing technology industry and innovation ecosystem to the nation’s top STEM, business, and design students from across the country. ThinkChicago immerses selected students in the city’s innovation ecosystem, giving them an opportunity to meet various tech industry leaders, explore career opportunities with local companies, access Chicago Ideas programming, and participate in a civic tech challenge.

“Despite the incredibly challenging times COVID-19 has presented, Chicago continues to lead as a global city for technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “It’s because of this leadership that events like ThinkChicago are possible. This year’s ThinkChicago event will not only build on our ongoing efforts to connect local tech companies with talented students from universities across our city, region and country, but it will also give these students the professional development and career opportunities they need to thrive post-pandemic.”

Led by ChicagoNEXT of World Business Chicago, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office, the University of Illinois System, and Chicago Ideas – ThinkChicago connects diverse, top-tier talent with the city’s leading innovative companies. tastytrade, a leading Chicago technology company, is ThinkChicago’s 2020 presenting sponsor.

“Our ThinkChicago events and activities are developed and planned to create informative access to our city’s rapidly-growing tech economy,” said Andrea Zopp, President & CEO of World Business Chicago. “Participating students will enjoy behind-the-scenes experiences to learn firsthand why entrepreneurs and their innovative ventures thrive right here in Chicago.”

“ThinkChicago is laying the foundation for new waves of progress across the city and beyond. By virtually showcasing Chicago’s remarkable and growing tech ecosystem, it ensures our students understand how they can stay right here to launch their careers and supply the world-class talent that drives innovation and economic growth,” said Tim Killeen, President of the University of Illinois System.

Students from 55 schools across 24 states were selected to participate. For the second year in a row, the majority of selected ThinkChicago are students of color, and almost half are female –  reflecting the program’s long-term commitment to the inclusion of underrepresented communities within our local tech economy.

“For Chicago to remain a leading city for technology and innovation, it is critical that both students and recent graduates continue to choose Chicago,” said Mark Tebbe, Chair of ChicagoNEXT. “In 2020 alone, our ThinkChicago efforts have supported more than forty (40) local tech companies and innovation hubs with their talent needs.”

As with previous years, ThinkChicago is proud to continue its partnership with Chicago Ideas for its annual fall flagship event. Founded by Chicago serial entrepreneur Brad Keywell, Chicago Ideas is a year-round platform designed to make visionary ideas accessible to a wide audience, fostering meaningful connections to spark positive change in the world. Featuring globally-recognized speakers and interactive experiences, it is a space for innovators, thinkers, doers, and interested citizens from across Chicago, the greater Midwest, and the world.

“ThinkChicago highlights Chicago’s role as a technological and entrepreneurial powerhouse, and draws graduates to our city to launch their careers in technology and beyond,” said Brad Keywell, Chair and Founder of Chicago Ideas and CEO of Uptake. “We’re proud to continue our partnership with the City of Chicago, the University of Illinois System, ChicagoNEXT, and World Business Chicago to attract the best and brightest students from across the city and country.”

ThinkChicago has an alumni base of more than 2,000 talented students and professionals, many of whom now work in Chicago’s tech economy. Due to COVID-19, ThinkChicago has led a series of virtual events to ensure accessibility for all students to participate.

“As a growing tech company, it’s imperative we take a leading role in engaging with our local universities to create opportunities for students,” said Kristi Ross, Co-CEO & President of tastytrade – ThinkChicago’s 2020 presening sponsor. “ThinkChicago is an essential program for our recruitment efforts and a platform for innovative companies to work together in attracting the vital talent we need to scale our companies in Chicago.”

The three days of all virtual programming include:

  • Keynote remarks by:
    • Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot
    • Brad Keywell – Founder, Chicago Ideas, and CEO, Uptake
    • Kristi Ross – Co-CEO & President, tastytrade
    • Victor Jones – CEO, dough
  • Participation in a civic tech challenge where student groups will propose innovative solutions aligned with the City’s COVID-19 Recovery Task Force
  • Career exploration with Chicago’s leading tech companies and innovations, which include: 1871, 2112, ActiveCampaign, G2, HERE Technologies, Kalderos, MATTER, mHUB, OppLoans, Protiviti, Relativity, Rheaply, Richardson RFPD, Sprout Social, ThinkCERCA, Workbox, and others.

World Business Chicago (WBC) is a public-private, non-profit partnership that drives inclusive economic growth and job creation, supports business, and promotes Chicago as a leading global city. Launched in 2012 and governed by a council of tech community leaders, ChicagoNEXT is WBC’s dedicated initiative to drive inclusive growth and opportunity for Chicago’s technology and innovation ecosystem. Their portfolio of programs includes ThinkChicago, the Chicago Venture Summit, and the Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge.

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