Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Startups’

Genlighten named one of five finalists at midVentures25

Friday, March 12th, 2010

midventures25_11Some highlights from our participation in midVentures25 tonight:

  • Several of the people I’ve met at local tech events like the Chicago Tech Meetup, the Lean Startup Circle Meetup, and the Hacker News Meetup stopped by our booth to say hi and wish us success with the judges.
  • A large assortment of hip-seeming 20-somethings asked us what our startup was about and seemed surprisingly interested in finding out more about their family history.
  • Several people said they’d seen or heard about either Faces of America or Who Do You Think You Are. Even more commented on the recent Oprah episode spotlighting WDYTYA.
  • A representative of a local church expressed interest in having their records digitized. My wife got their contact info so we could connect them with officials from FamilySearch.
  • The judges seemed to take us seriously and asked insightful questions that showed they “got” what Genlighten was about.
  • We were selected as one of the five finalists from the 25 exhibiting startups, and were asked to give a 3-minute pitch to the panel of judges, which included local VCs and entrepreneurs. Andrew Mason of Groupon and Chuck Templeton of OpenTable were among them.
  • Despite my nervousness, I managed to give our presentation without feeling hurried or stressed and I was able to answer the judges’ questions calmly and confidently.
  • We didn’t win, but we nonetheless came away feeling like we’d had a successful and rewarding evening.

Thanks to the organizers (Brian Mayer and Jonathan Pasky) for selecting us to participate and for putting on a great event.

Genlighten to participate in MidVentures25

Friday, March 5th, 2010

midventures25_1Like many cities that aren’t within an hour or so’s drive from Sand Hill Road, Chicago often finds its fledgling startup community compared unfavorably to Silicon Valley’s vaunted entrepreneurial ecosystem. One discouraged Chicago entrepreneur¬† lamented about six months back in a comment on a Hacker News article I’d posted:

I should have started my company in the Bay Area. It’s too late for me. Save yourself.

That Was Then…

Based on the startup events I’ve attended over the last few months in the Chicago area, and the smart founders I keep running across, we’re starting to make some solid progress in the Midwest. Here are a few anecdotal bullet points to support that assessment:

  • The Chicago Tech Meetup held back in January had 170 people attend. Jason Fried of local success story 37Signals was the keynote speaker.
  • Recently-launched Chicago startup Groupon is doing spectacularly enough to attract frivolous opportunistic lawsuits.
  • Scale Well, a modest source of $1k-sized seed grants to help startups gained traction, just made its first investment.
  • ExcelerateLabs, a Chicago-based startup accelerator program akin to TechStars, will have its first run this coming summer. We’re currently working on our application.
  • And now we even have our own version of the TechCrunch50: MidVentures25.

[For those who don't share my fascination with the tech startup scene, TechCrunch50 is a startup demo day event held every year in Silicon Valley. Online personal finance website Mint.com launched there in 2007. Genealogy startup Footnote.com launched its "Pages" feature there in 2008.]

This is Now

And guess who will be participating in the inaugural version of MidVentures25? You guessed it, our modest little genealogy startup.

If you’re in the Chicago area, feel free to stop by our booth. The event will be held downtown at 200 S. Wacker Drive, 12th floor, on Thursday March 11th. Registration begins at 5 pm, and things wrap up around 10 pm, but you can show up pretty much anytime in between. The full schedule is here. We’d love to visit with you, answer any questions you might have, practice giving you our elevator pitch, and get your usability feedback and suggestions. Thanks!