Last Monday, I was asked to welcome the current batch of Startup Institute Chicago students. I enjoyed reflecting on how much has changed for startups in Chicago over the past 4 years. Here is a slightly edited version of what I said to the SI class
I was here last fall welcoming the inaugural Chicago class and feel lucky to have have spent so much time with your soon to be peers. It truly is gratifying to see so many people come from so far to to commit and contribute to the Chicago ecosystem by investing in themselves. So much has changed in the past four years and it is certainly refreshing to see. So thank you.
I’m here to tell you why you are so important to Chicago. So I’ll start by stating the obvious. Startups are made up of code, design and nowadays, facebook likes. And of course the people who develop, design and acquire the likes. And more times than not, it’s the founders who earn the credit for being entrepreneurial. But it isn’t said enough that early stage employees are also entrepreneurs. They are joining companies where there is no long term certainty or guarantee. Every day is a hustle and you are required to multi task and often work independently. And just like great founders, early stage employees do not chase risk, rather, they seek to mitigate it. And they do that by kicking ass at their jobs. You all by being here today are making that commitment. In 8 weeks, you will join a startup and accelerate your impact to them.
4 years ago, there was no 1871, Groupon was pre-IPO, and there was no Startup Institute. It was next to impossible to recruit startup talent. But Chicago has blossomed over the past few years on the backs of its founders. And you will continue that growth. You are the founders of your own careers. And by investing in yourself, you are enabling more startups to be successful. So like a founder, take this seriously. Be intentional. Come in early, stay late. Network, blog. Ask questions and demand excellence of your peers and teachers.