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ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza 2015

ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza 2015

125 of the nation’s top technology and engineering students learn about Chicago’s growing technology industry and vibrant urban culture

The City of Chicago recently hosted ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza 2015, a three-day event that introduced the city’s fast-growing technology industry and one of the country’s most popular musical festivals to the nation’s top technology and computer science students. This year, ThinkChicago received approximately 900 applications spanning 11 states and 28 universities. This was the seventh installment of the successful ThinkChicago program established by Mayor Emanuel in 2011, and the third annual program held during Lollapalooza.

A complete gallery from the weekend can be viewed here:


“Ensuring that the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders decide to live and work in Chicago is critical to the continued growth of our technology industry and our economy,” said Mayor Emanuel. “ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza places Chicago top of mind for these students who will be driving technology innovation into the future.”

The students selected this year came from a variety of backgrounds. Applicants were selected based on academic excellence and demonstrated commitment to technology and innovation. Of the 125 students accepted into the program, 34 percent are computer science, 21 percent engineering, 17 percent business/information technology, 11 percent design, 7 percent social sciences, 5 percent mathematics, and 5 percent economics and natural sciences majors.

Here is what some of the students had to say about ThinkChicago:


“The kind of attention and time that the founders and other resident entrepreneurs gave us was impressive and noteworthy… It was refreshing to have representatives from both the private and public sector, engaged in one common panel discussion about tech.” – Kaneeka Sood; Undergraduate degree, Purdue University (Biological Engineering), Graduate degree, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (Agricultural Engineering)


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“What really amazed me is the feeling of community the tech scene in Chicago incorporates. It was reassuring to see the level of support they receive from other companies as well as the Chicago community. I also love how much the companies give back to the city. I heard from multiple leaders that they refused big offers to move their companies out to the west or east coast because they love belonging to Chicago’s tech community.” – Rachel Barry; Undergraduate student, Albion College

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“ThinkChicago does a great job of connecting students to the technology sector in the real world. ThinkChicago opened up a whole new set of career possibilities or options, including many I had not considered before.”

“I was very impressed with both the spirit of collaboration and creativity that permeates Chicago’s tech industry. Not only are incubation spaces like Matter and 1871 creating fertile climates for collaboration, but even companies like Motorola are building spaces where employees can explore and create.” – Kelsey Day; Graduate student, Loyola University Chicago, School of Communications- Digital Media and Storytelling


“…of all of the burgeoning tech hubs, Chicago holds the most promise. Not only is the city incredibly diverse, and not only does Chicago offer so much culturally from its museums to its restaurants and beyond, but Chicago has been a center of industry for many years. Chicago is a city of many different industries, and the ability of startups to grow and affect such a city is nearly limitless.” – Peter Fiflis; Bachelor’s and master’s degree, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Pursuing Ph.D. in Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering with a concentration in Plasma/Fusion.

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“ThinkChicago… caused me to re-evaluate my career path and made me realize that I ultimately want to be a part of this exciting movement of innovation.”

“I was taken aback by the humility and genuine kindness that many of the speakers and tech leaders exhibited towards us. There was no sense of entitlement, but rather there was every sense of desire to help young entrepreneurs get on their feet.” – Kelly Samara; Bachelor’s of science in civil engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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“The biggest surprise in the tech community was the comradery that I encountered between its innovators. Everyone was working towards improving their own company and ideas without allowing others to drag behind.” – Patrick Davet; Undergraduate student in digital media, Loyola University Chicago


“From early stage startups to Fortune 500 companies, Chicago’s technology ecosystem is thriving. It’s essential we continue this momentum by attracting talent from across the country,” said World Business Chicago President & CEO Jeff Malehorn. “By inviting students of engineering, innovation, and entrepreneurship to explore the city and its tech community through ThinkChicago, we are building our talent base to accommodate a robust tech economy for the future.”

Approximately 60 percent  of ThinkChicago alumni are living and working in Chicago, according to LinkedIn data. World Business Chicago and ThinkChicago are partnering with LinkedIn to identify ways students can best develop the skills needed for the most in-demand jobs, and to help the City of Chicago maximize attraction and retention of a talented workforce. Results of this data-driven project will be announced during ThinkChicago: Chicago Ideas Week 2015.

University students attended a variety of evenIMG_4203ts, including:

  • Keynote talks by Deputy Mayor Steve Koch, Harper Reed and Sunny Williams
  • Panel discussion with Terry Howerton, Esther Joy King, Jimmy Odom, Tom Schenk, Jr., and Craig Vodnik
  • Break-out sessions with Sharon Bautista, Mike McGee, Charles Adler, Adam McElhinney, and Andrew Sieja
  • Company showcase featuring leadership and engineers from more than 20 Chicago tech companies
  • An architectural boat tour with Chicago tech leaders
  • Three-day VIP pass to the Lollapalooza 2015 music festival, including a tour of the artist compound and production areas and a Q&A session with Lollapalooza producers

In 2014, Lollapalooza was responsible for generating more than $143 million in economic activity locally and $61 million in labor income. Lollapalooza operations and attendee expenditure inside and outside the festival were responsible for more than 1,451 full-time equivalent jobs locally. For more information, visit For more information on ThinkChicago, visit

ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza is organized by the Mayor’s Office, World Business Chicago, University of Illinois, Chicago Ideas Week, 1871, and Lollapalooza.


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