Students Explore Chicago's Thriving Innovation Ecosystem through ThinkChicago:Lollapalooza

8/26/2015 Christine Olivo

Students across the country explored Chicago’s thriving innovation ecosystem and attended the Lollapalooza music festival from July 31 to August 2 as a part of the annual ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza event. 


Charles Adler, Founder of Kickstarter, talks to students
Charles Adler, Founder of Kickstarter, talks to students
 The event, hosted by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Chicago Ideas, World Business Chicago, 1871 and the University of Illinois, invited students to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Chicago’s rapidly growing tech scene. 


In order to attend the event, students had to apply and be invited.

Stephanie Larson, the Assistant Director of Student Programs and Marketing at the Technology Entrepreneur Center, says ThinkChicago is a fun way for undergraduates to make connections in Chicago.


“This program is a great way for soon-to-be graduates to experience the tech scene that Chicago has to offer first hand,” says Larson. “This is a fun and interactive way to meet possible future employers and mingle with up-and-coming techies.”


A total of 124 students attended ThinkChicago this year, including 29 students from the University of Illinois. These students represented 27 different Universities across the country, including: Albion College, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, DePaul University, Harvard University, Illinois Institute of Technology, Indiana University, Loyola University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Northwestern University, Northern Illinois University, Princeton University, Purdue University, Syracuse University, Tulane University, University of Chicago, University of Cincinnati, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Springfield, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Notre Dame, University of North Carolina, University of Southern California and Washington University. 


The three day event began on Thursday, July 30, where attendees heard from speakers such as Andrew Sieja, CEO and founder of kCura, Charles Adler, Founder of Kickstarter, Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871 and more. Students also went on a Chicago River Boat Cruise to network with Chicago tech leaders and entrepreneurs and traveled  to 1871.


Sunny Williams, Founder of Tiny Docs, talks to students about his journey
Sunny Williams, Founder of Tiny Docs, talks to students about his journey
 On Friday, attendees heard from Motorola representatives, Kathleen Wright, founder and CEO of Piece & Co., Sunny Williams, founder of Tiny Docs and more. 


Students also competed in the Civitech Challenge. As part of their applications, students were asked to identify a problem and subsequent tech solution that Mayor Emanuel could implement to make life better for the people of Chicago.  Attendees were then separated into groups and asked to answer the question, “What is one way the City of Chicago can use technology to encourage civic engagement among its citizens?”


On Saturday, students and attendees were welcomed at Lollapalooza from the Lollapalooza Leadership.  The top five teams of the Civictech Challenge also got to present to a panel of Lollapalooza and Chicago tech leaders. The winning team won automatic admission into ThinkChicago: Chicago Ideas Week and three day passes to next year’s Lollapalooza music festival.


Students smile brightly for the camera before going to Lollapalooza.
Students smile brightly for the camera before going to Lollapalooza.
 Ashley Hipsher, Marketing Coordinator at the Technology Entrepreneur Center, said she thought this was the best ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza yet.


“It was awesome! I think the students had a blast and learned a lot,” says Hispher. “Most importantly, I think when students walked away from the event they were excited to peruse working in Chicago after graduating.”


University of Illinois attendees, Peter Fiflis and Kelly Samara, said they both had a great experience at this year’s ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza event.


“I had an excellent time at ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza,” says Fiflis. “I was very excited to meet and talk and ask questions of the great group of presenters. If the program had been anything less than amazing, I would have said Lollapalooza was my favorite part, but I would have to say the networking events were my favorite, particularly our networking event on the riverboat tour.”


Samara also said the event was an “awesome experience” due to the connections she made through the program.


“Meeting other like-minded students was the best part because undoubtedly many of them will eventually become entrepreneurs and literally change the world,” says Samara. “Also, attending Lollapalooza was a nice perk! I love music and discovering new talent, and the festival was so much fun.”


Fiflis said that he would recommend students take part in the opportunity of attending ThinkChicago.


“Chicago holds the most promise,” Fiflis said. “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. For this reason, students should definitely attend ThinkChicago for the networking opportunities and its exposure to a growing tech community.”