STAC-ing Up Chicago’s Startups

  • One question that still sticks with me: how do you define a startup and when should you stop calling yourself a startup? It feels like many companies these days take liberty with that term in an attempt to make their brands more exciting. Our panel mentioned variables like company age, employee numbers, and revenue maturity, but we came no closer to a universal definition.
  • When we discussed boards of directors vs. boards of advisors, I really liked Kyle’s short-and-sweet definition: “Directors are usually equity holders and in it for the long haul. Advisors [have] more of a short-term vision and many times don’t have equity or investments in the business.”
  • I asked the panelists what makes a good funding pitch, and I enjoyed Julia’s answer to the opposite question: “My least favorite is anything that is pitched as ‘the Uber of [something].’” It’s a good reminder to market how your company is unique, rather than how it is like another (completely unrelated) brand.
  • Pete had a similar response when asked about the Chicago startup scene as a whole: “Our mistake is comparing ourselves to the Valley.” We (and every other city/region) operate in a completely different startup environment than that of Silicon Valley, which makes comparison impossible. But when examined against cities with more similar startup landscapes (New York, Boston, Austin), Chicago consistently outperforms them.
  • Brian’s advice for companies on how to avoid common startup missteps: “Focus. Get away from feature creep. You have to learn to say no to customers when it doesn’t fit your product vision.”



PR & Communications for Fintech & Chicago Tech.

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