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Mayor Lightfoot Joins World Business Chicago to Announce ThinkChicago Homecoming 2021

Mayor Lightfoot joins World Business Chicago to announce ThinkChicago Homecoming 2021

ThinkChicago’s annual fall flagship event for students to explore career opportunities in Chicago’s thriving tech and innovation economy 

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined World Business Chicago to announce the launch of ThinkChicago Homecoming, the annual fall flagship event for more than 130 selected students (community college, undergraduate, and graduate students) who are interested in launching their careers with innovative Chicago companies and startups. Selected participants, who are majority students of color and representing 22 universities/colleges across the country, will hear from various keynote speakers, panels, and attend networking sessions to explore the city’s innovation scene. 

“Chicago is a premier global destination for founders, startups and innovation hubs,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, “That is why I am so excited to announce the launch of ThinkChicago, which invites students from our City Colleges to those across the nation to experience Chicago’s thriving industries and explore career opportunities with innovative, homegrown companies and startups.”

As World Business Chicago’s national STEM talent attraction and retention program, ThinkChicago is supported by anchor partners: the City of Chicago, the University of Illinois System, and City Colleges of Chicago.

Chicago’s rise as a global tier-one tech city continues to accelerate,” said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO, World Business Chicago, Chief Marketing Officer, City of Chicago. “The rapid growth of Chicago as a producer of unicorns, or tech startups valued at over $1 billion, has increased, with 12 made this year alone. Local founders have raised more than $7.9 billion in capital in 2021, over one billion more than in all of 2020. Chicago, today, is a much sought-after destination for founders, investors and innovators.”

“With partners like University of Illinois System and the City Colleges of Chicago, ThinkChicago has truly evolved to match the needs of our local companies,” said Mark Tebbe, Chair of World Business Chicago’s Innovation & Venture Council and World Business Chicago Executive Committee Member. “Our annual fall flagship is the perfect opportunity for our local students to explore our city’s thriving tech, innovation, and entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

ThinkChicago was first launched by the University of Illinois System, which has remained as a long-time, active partner ThinkChicago’s annual program year. 

“Our partnership with World Business Chicago is essential to our efforts to open doors and provide opportunities for our incredible students and graduates,” said Tim Killeen, president of the University of Illinois System. “We’re deeply invested in growing Chicago’s diverse tech and innovation ecosystem, and firmly believe it is a key ingredient in our efforts to help build a better tomorrow for the people of the city and the state as a whole.”

This past June, World Business Chicago was proud to announce City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) as the newest anchor partner. The partnership will ensure stronger connectivity between CCC talent and the city’s tech companies. 

“In our inaugural year as an anchor partner, many of our amazing students have directly benefited from ThinkChicago,” said Juan Salgado, Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago. “Today, we’re working with local founders to scale their startups with our top-tier and diverse student body from every neighborhood. We are grateful for their partnership.”

ThinkChicago is made possible through the generous support of sponsors, like tastytrade, ThinkChicago’s 2021 sponsor, and GET Cities. Based out of Chicago and 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. 

“Innovative companies like tastytrade thrive in Chicago because of our access to world-class talent,” said Kristi Ross, Co-CEO and President of tastytrade. “ThinkChicago is an incredible platform for our local ecosystem to connect with local talent to match our rapid growth.”

Gender Equality in Tech (GET) Cities is an initiative designed to accelerate the representation and leadership of women in tech through the development of inclusive tech hubs across the United States. With a national focus, GET Cities is working to develop inclusive tech hubs with its inaugural launch in Chicago this past January 2020, DC in 2021 and a third city to be announced later in the coming months. 

“We’re proud of our robust and growing partnership with World Business Chicago, especially with ThinkChicago,” said Leslie Smith, National Director of GET Cities. “A thriving tech economy will only exist when all of the talent in our workforce is engaged and has the opportunity to advance.”

ThinkChicago has an alumni base of more than 3,000 talented students and professionals, many of whom now work in Chicago’s tech economy. Due to COVID-19 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 immersion event includes:

  • Keynote remarks by:
    • Colleen Egan – President & CEO, Illinois Science and Technology Coalition & Institute
    • Thru Shivakumar – CEO & Cofounder, cohesion
    • Kristen Sonday – COO & CoFounder, Paladin
  • A company showcase where local company/startups representatives connect with ThinkChicago participants on current job/internship opportunities. 
  • A civic tech challenge where student teams propose innovative solutions in response to the City of Chicago’s Recovery Task Force (RTF) report. 
  • A series of panel discussions and networking sessions with various leaders of Chicago’s tech and innovation ecosystem. 
  • Career exploration opportunities with startups from 1871, 2112, Duality, MATTER, mHUB, Techstars, Workbox, and others.
  • And career exploration opportunities with innovative companies like Additive Monitoring Systems, Ahh Towel, Bring Me That, Cameo, CampfireSocial, CareBand, Cast21, Cohesion, Duality, Enzyme by Design, Improovy, Kavnia Coffee, Lava,  and many other official ThinkChicago company partners.

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. Supported by a council of 250+ local leaders, WBC’s Innovation & Venture portfolio of programs drive inclusive growth and opportunity for the city’s tech economy and innovation ecosystem. Flagship programs include ThinkChicago, the Chicago Venture Summit, Startup Chicago, and Venture Engine with the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTC). 

About University of Illinois System:

The University of Illinois System is the state’s flagship public university system. The three distinct universities in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield serve the people of Illinois through a shared commitment to our missions of excellence in teaching, research, public service and economic development. The University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System provides healthcare to the citizens of Chicago and is the largest educator of healthcare professionals in the state. Our universities attract the nation’s most talented students with hundreds of undergraduate, graduate and professional programs, many of them ranked among the best in the United States. We are also the state’s largest educator. More than 90,000 students are enrolled at our campuses and thousands more take classes online. 

About City Colleges of Chicago 

City Colleges of Chicago prepares nearly 70,000 students annually for further college and careers. City Colleges encompasses seven colleges and five satellite sites city-wide. The seven colleges are: Richard J. Daley College, Kennedy-King College, Malcolm X College, Olive-Harvey College, Harry S Truman College, Wilbur Wright College and Harold Washington College. REgistration for fall 16-week classes ends August 26, 2021.  To learn more, go to: or call 773/C-O-L-L-E-G-E.

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