News & Content: ITA Take Aways

Exec Spin: Collective Collaboration

Friday, July 27, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gary Hotze
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Julia Kanouse, ITA, CEO


Recently, the Chicago tech community has been heads-down, focused, appropriately, on building strong, sustainable businesses.  While a return to “normal” from the tech high Chicago experienced several years ago as new incubators, new events and new tech-focused media launched in the city is expected, we must be careful to not let the pendulum swing too far. A laser focus on the internal workings of our businesses, can occlude our vision towards the broader goals and benefits that collaboration can bring.

For over a year as CEO of the Illinois Technology Association, I’ve seen this with my own eyes. Over the course of that time, I’ve had the privilege of meeting with and getting to know my fellow civic leaders at organizations like 1871, Illinois Science & Technology Coalition, mHub, Blue 1847 and the Chicago Chamberland, among many others. Some of these organizations could be viewed as ITA market competitors, many in the tech sector would even consider us so. Time and time again, however, in these conversations I have discovered how many shared goals and opportunities we hold, not differences. 

I'm encouraged by the number of companies and organizations I’ve seen come together on shared projects, collaborations and joint ventures.. Corporations, non-profits and community-based organizations are finding common ground and ambitions. We all may be different, but we all share the same goal: The increasing success of the tech sector and Chicago as a whole. This tenet has been at the center of ITA’s identity from the very beginning. Our purpose has always been to connect and interweave visions across our burgeoning network of upstart businesses. We embrace the mantra that a rising tide lifts all boats. The tide is rising, but each day we must purposefully seek out ways that we can aid and benefit each other’s businesses and contribute to our accomplishments

Nowhere is this more apparent to me than with our CityLIGHTS program.  As our talented group of judges is wrapping up their work, I am reminded that it is the collective collaboration of our community that makes CityLIGHTS such an accurate predictor of success. CityLIGHTS is an opportunity to step away from what divides us and celebrate the achievements that are reshaping our economy and driving Chicago’s future forward.

With almost 60 judges (you can see the full list here) reviewing nearly 200 applications, it is their combined perspectives that will yield our final 40 finalists. Without their diversity of thought and background, I don’t think that our program will have picked as many winners as it has over the years. ITA CityLIGHTS winners have seen exits total over $53 billion, IPO’d for over $1 billion and raised over $3.5 billion in capital.

The power of community coursing through the work of the judges to select finalists combined with your vote to finalize the winners is what makes CityLIGHTS so accurate and impressive.  It is our collective wisdom that helps elevate and celebrate our wins. Ultimately, it’s a bona fide testament to collaboration. Let’s not forget where that can take us next time we have the chance to reach across the sector and work together.

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