Daley panel to address needs of tech firms

By Wailin Wong
Posted Aug. 31, 2010 at 2:20 p.m.

Mayor Richard M. Daley said Tuesday that he has created a committee to study infrastructure needs for local technology companies and entrepreneurs.

The committee comprises 20 members, including top executives at local tech firms and representatives from area universities. The group also includes local venture capitalist Matt McCall of New World Ventures, Navteq Chief Executive Larry Kaplan, Kevin Willer of Google’s Chicago office, and Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, co-founders of Lightbank, a Chicago-based investment fund focusing on early-stage tech companies.
Keywell and Lefkofsky were early backers of Groupon, which has recently become the poster child for Chicago’s growing high-tech scene. Both funders, as well as Groupon founder and CEO Andrew Mason, stood alongside the mayor and provided brief remarks at the Tuesday press conference at the old Montgomery Ward catalog warehouse at 600 W. Chicago Ave.

The building, which benefited from $28 million in tax-increment financing from the city in 2003, is the headquarters for Groupon and several other companies backed by Keywell and Kefkofsky, including InnerWorkings and Echo Global Logistics.

The high-tech activity at 600 W. Chicago “(shines) a national spotlight on Chicago as a technology leader,” Daley said, adding that he wants the committee to craft strategy on how and where to house up-and-coming tech companies in the city.

McCall noted the diversity of local tech firms, pointing out that Chicago is home to companies that provide technology for other local industries such as financial services and health care.

“After years and years of effort, the serial entrepreneurs and teams are here,” McCall said.


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