Mayor Lightfoot joins World Business Chicago & partners to announce the fall edition of ThinkChicago Advanced Degree Exchange 2021

ThinkChicago’s exclusive event for advanced degree students and professionals connects top-tier talent with rapidly-growing Chicago companies & startups 

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined World Business Chicago to announce the fall edition of ThinkChicago Advanced Degree Exchange 2021. This flagship event exclusive to advanced degree students and professionals first launched this past June. This four-day, hybrid event from October 4-7 will provide a behind-the-scenes tour of Chicago’s thriving tech & innovation sector. Over 150 selected participants will gain access to a series of keynote speakers, panels, and networking sessions with local companies and startups. 

“This has been an incredible year for our growing tech industry and innovation economy,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “With so many founders scaling in Chicago, ThinkChicago will help to connect top-tier, diverse talent with many of our city’s most promising startups. I hope this year’s attendees have an incredible time forging connections and learning new skills at this exciting event, and wish continued success for our startups and tech companies.” 

ThinkChicago Exchange 2021 is led by World Business Chicago, in partnership with the Chicago Biomedical Consortium, P33,  University of Illinois System, Discovery Partners Institute, and GET Cities. As WBC national STEM talent attraction and retention program, ThinkChicago connects diverse, top-tier university talent with the city’s leading innovative companies and startups. 

“World Business Chicago’s national STEM talent attraction and retention program, ThinkChicago, is credited with helping fuel our city’s pipeline of diverse talent,” said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO of World Business Chicago, and Chief Marketing Office for the City of Chicago. “Of critical importance to our employers is access to diverse talent in Chicago. Through innovative partnerships with the University of Illinois System and City Colleges of Chicago, through ThinkChicago, we are able to provide that access and maintain our city’s competitive advantage.” 

“As part of Chicago’s Recovery Task Force (RTF) strategy, the city has doubled-down on several sectors within our innovation ecosystem,” said Mark Tebbe, Chair of World Business Chicago’s Innovation & Venture Council of 250+ local leaders, and WBC Executive Committee Member. “ThinkChicago Exchange is part of our long-term strategy when it comes to scaling promising companies and startups in our city’s most high-growth sectors.”

The fall edition of ThinkChicago Advanced Degree Exchange includes partner P33, a privately funded non-profit focused on driving inclusive, global tech and innovation leadership for Chicagoland. 

“Chicago continues to be one of the best destinations for top-tier STEM talent, and with one of the most diversified economies in the world the opportunities are bountiful,” said Brad Henderson, CEO of P33. “Our partnership with WBC and various ecosystem partners is essential as we continue to build our city’s role as a global tech & innovation powerhouse.”

ThinkChicago’s long-time anchor partners include the University of Illinois System and the City Colleges of Chicago. Led by the University of Illinois System in partnership with top research university, The Discovery Partners Institute empowers people to jumpstart their tech careers or companies in Chicago. DPI’s three priorities include: training people for high-demand tech jobs; conducting applied R&D; and supporting Chicago’s tech community. 

“Even as we navigate the end of this ongoing pandemic, our local tech and innovation ecosystem is stronger than ever,” said Tim Killeen, President of the University of Illinois System. “ThinkChicago has proven to be one of the most innovative efforts to connect our local talent with some of the city’s and state’s best companies.”

The Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) and GET Cities are also lead partners for the fall edition of ThinkChicago Exchange. Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities is an initiative designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women in tech to meet the demands of the industry’s future.The Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC) is to stimulate collaboration among scientists at Northwestern University, The University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago and others to accelerate discovery that will transform biomedical research and improve the health of humankind.

“GET Cities’ national hub is right here in Chicago – a national destination for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship,” said Leslie Smith, National Director of GET Cities. “Our partnership with World Business Chicago is essential when it comes to collective efforts towards gender and racial equity in the tech sector.”

“Our Chicago area institutions turn out some of the world’s best graduate students.  Retaining them to build our world class STEM companies is another win for the region” said Michelle Hoffmann PhD, Executive Director of the Chicago Biomedical Consortium (CBC). “CBC is excited to see the growth of ThinkChicago Exchange as a new flagship offering of the ThinkChicago program year.”

Chicago’s own tastytrade is ThinkChicago’s 2021 presenting sponsor. Founded in 2011, tastytrade is a unique and fast-growing platform advocating for and empowering the individual investor. A disruptive force in the U.S. derivatives market, tastytrade provides differentiated financial content, retail trader education and brokerage services. tastytrade is one of the most-watched online financial networks, engaging investors and traders across 190 countries with 8 hours of daily, live, cost-free and commercial free programming with over 100 million hours viewed and programming 7 days a week.

“ThinkChicago’s evolution to expand its programing for grad students and PhD talent has been key for our recruitment efforts,” said Kristi Ross, Co-CEO & President of tastytrade. “As a leader and champion for Chicago’s tech and startup community, we’re proud of supporting this program which benefits everyone in our ecosystem.”

ThinkChicago has an alumni base of more than 4,000 talented students and professionals, many of whom now work in Chicago’s tech economy. Due to the ongoing pandemic, ThinkChicago has successfully pivoted to lead a series of virtual and hybrid events to ensure accessibility for all students to participate.

The four-day hybrid immersion event includes:

  • Keynote remarks by:
    • Thomas Jonas – CEO & CoFounder, Nature’s Fynd
    • Aidan Mouat – CEO & CoFounder, Hazel Technologies
    • David Rabie – CEO & Founder, Tovala
    • Anna Lisa Somera – CEO, Rhaeos
  • A series of panel discussions and networking sessions with various leaders of Chicago’s tech and innovation ecosystem. 
  • Career exploration opportunities which include: startups from leading innovation hubs like 1871, MATTER, mHUB, and companies/startups like Azul 3D, Cast21, Evozyne, G2, GTI, Innovare, NanoPattern Technologies, Partum Health, SplitPass, Temprian Therapeutics, Xeris Pharmaceuticals, Spotivity, weeBID, Volexion, and others. 

About World Business Chicago (WBC):

World Business Chicago 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 2021 and supported by the ChicagoNEXT Council of 250+ local leaders, WBC Innovation & Venture manages a portfolio of programs driving inclusive growth and opportunity for the city’s tech economy and innovation ecosystem. Flagship programs include the Chicago Venture Summit, Startup Chicago, Venture Engine with the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC), and ThinkChicago. 



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