Venture Funding Stem Futures
Monday, March 6, 2017
Posted by: Gary Hotze, Marketing Manager, ITA
As you know, in the tech world fundraising and dollars are essential in getting deals done. Indeed, so much of the conversations are about venture capital, angels, unicorns and redwoods. Such discussions sound fantastical and mythological because they are removed from the real-world. In many ways, the sheer size and value of many acquisitions and evaluations place our minds firmly in the clouds of infinite possibility. So, it’s no surprise that many of us live in this fanciful world day to day.
But Chicago, for better or worse, is a city of many different economic worlds. Between the gleaming glass towers of high-end corporate tenants and tech wizards of the West Loop, there is still a decidedly blue collar bungalow sensibility and trade of Chicago’s working class roots. While much of the city is lifted into the modern-day economy, the city’s manufacturing segment continues to suffer losses. Many of these jobs have been offshored, automated and eliminated through, ironically, tech-driven initiatives.
In our day to day lives in sky-high million dollar renovated office spaces, we may fail to see this “other” Chicago, the one that is being left behind. We only see the possibility, working in the Willis Tower overlooking the architectural wonders of Chicago’s booming loop. While a kid not two or three miles away may see the Willis Tower every day as well but instead see a world of impossibility, a fortress barricaded to them and a city beyond their reach.
I’ve recently had the opportunity to work with ChiTech Academy and reexamine this reality. Admittedly, I’ve led a privileged life as an affluent, young, white male with a digital background working in Chicago. But one evening with these kids can cause a paradigm shift. Fundamental realities and opportunities we’ve been afforded just do not exist in many communities blocks away from the bustling business of Wacker Drive. The way their eyes light up when you talk about your job or the opportunities afforded here, however, is truly something special.
ChiTech is a place that is making those conversations the new actuality, working to address this disparity of opportunity. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) based education and curricula are a force of real change. STEM is the key to unlocking untapped potential and knocking down barriers to opportunity. It is also filling a very critical need as there is a very real shortage of STEM talent within the region. Investing in ChiTech Academy helps foster engineers, developers, scientists and mathematicians for our impending workforce, driving the success of the entire sector. At ChiTech, not only are they developing the skills needed for these types of jobs but they are creating a more diverse candidate pool by introducing these skills to everyone from the first day of school. The project based learning style also creates a more real-world approach to learning, which better prepares these students for the upcoming job market.
Bottom line, fundraising for personal and professional gain is the lifeblood of this industry, so we are asking today to consider a more philanthropic angle to the typical tech formulae. Conversations around diversity are only half of the battle. Money is the oil that greases the wheels of innovation. Giving dollars in this sense is no different than any other venture. It’s a risk, but the reward will pay a more holistic dividend. Effectively, investing dollars in institutions such as ChiTech Academy creates a venture capital fund for the future generations of Chicago children and families. And the VC funding we give now can help drive diversity ahead for a teenager walking through the doors of ChiTech tomorrow.
We invite you to consider giving to Chicago Tech Academy. Your donation will be a crucial part of ensuring opportunities for the next-generation of Second City tech and entrepreneurial leaders. For more information about Chicago Tech Academy’s Annual Appeal click here. Otherwise, with a generous spirit, click below.