Flipping the Script: Scott Kitun of Technori on Chicago Tech, Startup Culture, and the Evolution of Crowdfunding

Thanks for talking with us, Scott. Most importantly, how have you, your family, and your business associates held up these past few months?

My family is good, thank you. My daughter turned one in June. I got to spend a lot of time with her that I wasn’t expecting to have. My wife is going back to school, although I’m not sure what the deal is with “back to school” as of now.

Most folks in Chicago tech are familiar with Technori, but for those that are not familiar, please tell us about what you do and why you do it.

Technori has evolved quite a bit. We had “Technori Pitch,” our event showcase, which was selling out auditoriums. But I felt, as a community, we evolved enough and there were so many options to learn about these companies, it felt like we were becoming obsolete even as we were selling out events.

How have you evolved as an interviewer since your work as host was not something you aspired to be coming out of college?

I went back and listened to my first interview for shits and giggles — it was terrible.

Speaking of which, glorification of early stage companies and their founders can lead to incorrect estimations of what is required to launch a successful technology company — do you ever think that we as communicators in this Chicago tech space go too far with our adulation?

I think we do almost all the time. There is a selfish desire to think that the city is full of unicorns. I get it. I’m talking with World Business Chicago about how to bring business to Chicago. For Technori, it’s in my best interests for you to think we had companies that raised $1M-plus — the more the better.

When should a startup stop using the term “startup” to describe itself?

A startup is an idea and an unproven hypothesis that there is a scalable and profitable business behind the idea. Once you have proven the pillars of a startup as true or untrue, then you graduate to a business that you try to scale.

How will the pandemic, and more specifically the majority of the tech workforce going remote, affect the cities that traditionally have represented tech excellence and entrepreneurship?

From a real estate perspective, I’m very scared. Companies were buying big expensive offices downtown, making them fancy, etc… But now people have started to realize, remote working is a different lifestyle, and maybe it’s better. Businesses used to say “there’s no way we can have a 2–3 day week in the office” — now it’s something everyone is considering. Locally, we’ve seen Snapsheet and others putting their places up for sublease.

What are a few cool pivots you’ve seen from Chicago tech companies that were made because of COVID-19?

  • PartySlate — they’re leaning into and embracing the future of digital events. Their pivot to connecting people online ensures that companies are staying engaged and are productive.
  • Rheaply — they are a circular economy company that set up a PPE Market with the City of Chicago. [NOTE: Rheaply is a 3Points client.]
  • Keeper Security — they have been booming already, but they will be booming even more. Remote workers need to take their laptops out of the office, which increases the chances of security breaches. During any time of crisis or chaos, that is the most likely time to get hacked — everyone is very vulnerable. Keeper didn’t have to pivot, but the market pivoted for them.

Very importantly, who are a few people of color in Chicago’s tech ecosystem that more people should know about?

I’ll give you a few: Garry Cooper from Rheaply, who you already know; Stella Ashaolu from WeSolv and Shaniqua Davis from Noirefy, both of whom are focused not only on bringing more diversity to the office-place, but improving workplace culture so that people of diverse backgrounds will better fit in and have a far greater chance to successfully advance their careers; and Jasmine Shells from Five to Nine is just a force to reckon with. It’s one thing to host events and team meet-ups, virtual and in-person, but it’s entirely another to track and analyze these actions so we know that we’re not just quota matching.

What’s next for Technori?

Command and conquer — we want to democratize entrepreneurship, allowing founders to pitch their business to anyone, no matter their background. How can an investor who is not rich participate? I want people of all backgrounds to pitch and people of all backgrounds to be able to invest. We want to make these opportunities available to everyone. That’s why we have moved our medium from stage to digital to social, and we will continue to move to wherever the people are.

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