Mayor Lightfoot joins World Business Chicago to announce ThinkChicago Week 2021

ThinkChicago’s annual summer flagship event returns as a hybrid event for students to explore career opportunities in Chicago’s thriving tech and innovation ecosystem


Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined World Business Chicago to announce the launch of ThinkChicago Week 2021, the annual summer flagship event for more than 200 selected students (community college, undergraduate, and graduate students) who are interested in launching their careers with innovative Chicago companies/startups. Selected participants, who are majority students of color and representing 40 universities/colleges across 23 states, will hear from various keynote speakers, panels, and attend networking sessions to explore the city’s innovation scene. 

“Chicago has long been known as a place where tech talent, startups and investments are not only growing, but thriving,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “For example, in 2021 alone, we’ve seen over 10 companies become unicorns, or startups valued above $1 billion, and are looking forward to welcoming even more in the near future. We are beyond excited for this year’s cohort of ThinkChicago students to learn more about accomplishments like these, as well as explore our city’s thriving tech and innovation ecosystem through the immersive programming we have in store.” 

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 is seeing robust interest from companies relocating and expanding here because of our strong business infrastructure and access to a diverse, skilled and talented workforce,” said Michael Fassnacht, President & CEO of World Business Chicago, and Chief Marketing Officer for the City of Chicago. “We are very excited to host ThinkChicago as a way to further connect today’s students to Chicago where their dreams and ideas can best incubate, grow and accelerate.


“As we approach an all-time high when it comes to Chicago VC funding, this represents new career opportunities with many of our city’s fast-growing startups,” said Mark Tebbe, Chair of WBC’s Innovation & Venture Council and WBC Executive Committee Member. “ThinkChicago amplifies the recruitment efforts led by our local companies with the goal of keeping top-tier, local talent here after graduation.”

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

“Illinois is one of the nation’s leading producers of STEM talent and ThinkChicago is vital to our efforts to keep these top-tier graduates of our universities and colleges right here at home,” said Tim Killeen, president of the University of Illinois System. “We’re a proud partner in ThinkChicago and believe deeply in its role in broader efforts to develop a technology ecosystem that will foster greater prosperity in the decades ahead.”

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. 

“We couldn’t be more thrilled to collaborate with ThinkChicago as a permanent program partner,” said Juan Salgado, Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago. “We remain ready to work with our city’s most promising companies, connecting them with talented Chicagoans from every neighborhood.”

ThinkChicago is made possible through the generous support of sponsors, like tastytrade – ThinkChicago’s 2021 presenting sponsor. 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 programs like ThinkChicago are critical for our fast-growing companies where there is high-demand for top-tier talent in order to match the exceptional market growth we’re seeing,” said Kristi Ross, Co-CEO & President of tastytrade. “We’re proud partners of World Business Chicago and their many efforts to help companies like ours scale right here in Chicago.”

Additional sponsors include Farmer’s Fridge and Uber Freight. ThinkChicago is grateful for the active support of these leading Chicago companies for their commitment to hire locally.

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:
    • Mayor Lori Lightfoot
    • Lior Ron – Head of Uber Freight, Uber
    • Marcus Cobb – CEO, Jammber
    • Perteet Spencer – CoFounder, AYO Foods
    • Victor Jones – Chief Global Strategist, tastytrade
    • Shayna Harris – Managing Partner & CoFounder, Supply Change Capital
    • Brian Cho – CEO & CoFounders, Resonado Labs
    • Brian Coe – CEO & Founder, Talis Biomedical
  • 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, and Workbox.
  • And career exploration opportunities with innovative companies like ActiveCampaign, Azul 3D, BriteCo, Cast21, ChangED, Evozyne, Formic Technologies, Here Here Market, Innovre, M1 Finance, Mycocycle, Nature’s Fynd, Oja Express, Rhaeos Rheaply, SplitPass, Sporivity, Tackle Ai, VividSeats, 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, and Startup Chicago. 


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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