Chicago Inno Approved: May’s Top Tech & Startup Events in Chicago

Hey readers, this month we’re ditching the usual weekly event roundup for something a little different. Introducing Chicago Inno’s master list of the best networking events, fireside chats and pitch sessions for the month of May. We’ll continuously update this list throughout the month in case new ones are announced/fall on our radar, so keep checking in and stay up to date.

Week 1: May 1 – May 5

Tuesday, May 2

Scaling your business to a Billion dollar exit: Chicago Enterprise Tech meetup hosts a fireside chat with Sean Chou, former CTO of Fieldglass and now CEO/co-founder of one of Chicago’s hottest young startups, Catalytic Labs. Chou, who led Fieldglass as CTO from its inception through acquisition by SAP for over $1 billion, will share lessons on his startup journey. Food and drinks will be provided, hosted at TechNexus. Free to attend, RSVP here.

Alderman Ameya Pawar at Chi Hack Night: Pawar will share his experience as a local Chicago politician, and will focus his talk on “education reform, community development, and the role of technology in government,” according to the Chi Hack Night website. As a candidate for Governor of Illinois, he will share his perspective on the current challenges faced by the state. The event is free, RSVP suggested here. Organized by Chi Hack Night, Chicago’s weekly gathering of civic technologists, held at Briantree’s headquarters in the Merchandise Mart.

Critical Translation: From Science to Solutions: Join University of Chicago leaders and scientists for a discussion on the vital role of translating research and for two-minute “lightning” talks highlighting research coming out of the university, as well as its promising impact on society. Free to attend and part of the UChicago Innovation Fest.

Wednesday, May 3

Smart Cities – the role of French technology in inventing the cities of tomorrow: Join three leading global innovation companies based in (or operating in) France, for a discussion on unique solutions to urban planning in the modern context. The event is hosted by Business France and the French Consulate. The event is free to attend and will be held at 1871.

Data Visualization at the New York Times with Amanda Cox: Amanda Cox is currently the editor of The Upshot and was integral to New York Times’s early adoption of data analysis and visualization techniques. According to her bio, she is well-known for visualizations such as “How Different Groups Spend Their Day” and “Jobless Rate for People Like You” that inspired many (including many journalists) in the data visualization field. Northwestern University’s Cognitive Science program will sponsor the visit and host it on their campus in Evanston. It is free to attend.

Thursday, May 4

Small Business on the Road: The City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection invites small business owners and entrepreneurs to its free Small Business Center on the Road business expo, with more than 40 exhibitors offering resources on various aspects of launching and building a business in Chicago and Illinois. The event is free to attend and will be held at 1871.

The Current: May with ISEIF, iSMART, and USGBC: The Current is Smart Grid Cluster’s collaborative monthly happy hour and networking series. Every month, the happy hour welcomes ‘entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, nonprofits, technologists, and investors to Coalition: Energy’s downtown co-working space to network, discuss, and celebrate the buzzing energy innovation community in Chicago’, according the event website. This month’s event is hosted in partnership with and featuring speakers from the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The event is free.

Week 2: May 8 – May 12

Tuesday, May 9

Women in FinTech Panel: Women in FinTech Chicago will host a panel discussion to discuss the impact of technology on financial services, areas where they see increased use of technology and their experiences as women in FinTech. Hosted at FinTank, Chicago’s newest coworking space for fintech startups. Free to attend, RSVP here for building security

#WorkationCHI: If you have dreamed about working full time remotely from around the world, and/or are you looking for ways to make remote work better, check this out. Hosted by WeWork and AirBnB, the event will have guest speakers from companies enabling smarter remote work — Automattic, Basecamp, Buffer, and Zapier, along with opportunities to network over pizza and drinks. Free to attend, RSVP here.

How to start your business: Venture Viability: Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UIC hosts ‘Venture Viability’, where the topic of discussion will be for aspiring entrepreneurs to test the ‘staying power’ of their idea as a solid business opportunity. Discuss customers, product, competition, and profit; gain insight into tools for determining the viability of a new venture. RSVP here, free to attend.

2017 Clean Energy Trust Challenge: The Clean Energy Trust (CET) “invests in entrepreneurs leading the clean technology revolution from the Midwest, with the vision to develop a thriving, frictionless innovation ecosystem in the Midwest for energy and resource technology startups.” The CET Challenge is their flagship program and Chicago’s premier cleantech startup event, featuring a great lineup of early stage technologies and keynotes. CET will invest up to $1 million in promising early-stage cleantech funding. The final event combines live pitches with presentations by leading clean energy thinkers and doers, along with student startups (like BluSolar) participating the Department of Energy’s Cleantech University Prize. Tickets are $160.

Wednesday, May 10

The Chicago Tech Summit: Designed to spur technology innovation forward here in Chicago, this full-day summit features some big name keynotes like Chris Gladwin, and will tackle trends impacting the local ecosystem. Visit the website to request an invite. Tickets start at $125 for ITA members.

What You Need to Do Before Raising Capital (Hyde Park Angels Entrepreneurial Education Series): Learn all about all the important prerequisites you should be aware of before raising capital as a startup — understanding the market, core customer, growth trajectory, and awareness of funding options. Hyde Park Angels brings back their popular education and networking series with a stellar panel of startups and VCs, hosted at 1871. You can register for your free ticket here.

Thursday, May 11

Purpose Pitch: Here’s a unique startup pitch night — startups talking about their “why” rather than “what.” DePaul University’s Coleman Center for Entrepreneurship presents Purpose Pitch, where startups pitch their greater “purpose,” and how they plan to fulfill that purpose through their business objectives (instead of pitching investors on the product itself). Tickets are $25 and event will be held at 1871.

Future of Intelligence: Human, Machine and Extraterrestrial: Join Dartmouth physicist Marcelo Gleiser, world-renowned philosopher Patricia Churchland, and astronomer and pioneer of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), Jill Tarter, for a conversation about artificial intelligence and our future in the digital age. Tarter is the real-life model for Jodie Foster’s character in the movie Contact. Register here.

(P.S. Contact is highly recommended by the writer of this article as an underrated science fiction film — if you haven’t seen it, Chicago Ideas will host a screening of the movie the night before the talk mentioned above!)

Friday, May 12

Lesbians Who Tech (+ Allies) Happy Hour: Lesbians Who Tech is a community of queer women in tech (and allies) that started in San Francisco in December 2012. Since then, they’ve built “a community of over 30,000 queer women in 35 cities, including 5 international cities,” according to their web description. Tickets are a suggested $15 happy hour donation. Happy hour and networking hosted at the LGBT Center on Halsted.

Week 3: May 15 – May 19

Monday, May 15

Fintech Security in a World where Russia is Hacking Everything: Financial enterprises and providers have a lot to worry about about data security and privacy breaches. Join West Loop Ventures, a VC fund focused on the financial technology industry, the University of Illinois Entrepreneurial Academy, FinTex Chicago and incubator FinTank as they host two experienced professionals experts who can guide you on this topic — Joe Rickard, CTO of Incapital, and Stelios Valavanis of onShore Security. $10 to attend, hosted at UI’s downtown Chicago campus. What you can expect: “a short 14-16 minute presentation, followed by a free-wheeling question and answer session. Crowd participation will be encouraged,” according to the event website.

Tuesday, May 16

New findings: What We’ve Learned About Civic Tech in Cities: Join mySociety, a “not-for-profit social enterprise that exists to popularize civic technology,” and Microsoft Chicago, for a breakfast panel and discussion about civic technology at the municipal level. Specifically, mySociety has researched five case studies of civic tech projects deployed by U.S. cities in recent years and will be sharing insights from the same. Free to attend, hosted at Microsoft Chicago.

Chicago IT, Engineering, & Cyber Security Diversity Career Fair: Looking to make new connections, or seeking new opportunities for your career? Check out the Chicago IT, Engineering & Cyber Security Tech Fair. Companies in attendance will be actively looking to hire diverse motivated candidates. The event is free but register here and is organized by the Professional Diversity Network.

Starup Grind: Genevieve Thiers, (SitterCity, RISE): Genevieve Thiers is a Chicago-based entrepreneur, speaker, and investor. Her first company,, is “America’s first company to take caregiving services online.” Her newest venture, RISE Movement, is a rallying call to bring together the tech community in a changing political climate. Startup Grind is a conversation about the entrepreneurial journey of startup founders. Tickets starts at $10.

Wednesday, May 17

Celebrating Women in Innovation: Join the Chicago Innovation Awards, a local organization that has raised the spotlight of several innovative individuals and companies over the years, as they celebrate Chicago women (“government innovators” like Toni Preckwinkle and Brenna Berman; “startup women in tech” like Andrea Srestha and Katy Lynch) who are at the peak of their careers — and who got there by focusing on innovation to change the status quo. Tickets start at $30.

Fighting Cancer: Meet the Cancer Research Foundation’s Past Young Investigators: Join the Cancer Research Foundation at Outcome Health’s offices in the Loop as they host a fireside chat with three cancer research scientists who were funded by the Cancer Research Foundation’s Young Investigator Award. They’ll explore what motivates and inspires these researchers and how their work has led to groundbreaking discoveries in cancer science. Event is free to attend, RSVP here.

Thursday, May 18

3rd Annual Chicago Muster: Bunker Labs’ annual conference on veteran entrepreneurs gathers “active duty military, veterans, innovative corporate leaders, and local business experts bringing the latest ideas and technological developments.” Last year’s event in Chicago drew over 350 participants. Now in its third year, the 2017 Chicago Muster aims to expose transitioning active duty military and recent veterans to the “cutting edge of business innovation and technological advancement,” according to the event website. Learn more and register for this full day event. Hosted at 1871.

Science in the City Annual Gala 2017: Help the Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST), a local non-profit that aims to raise the profile of science in the public eye, “foster connections across various industries” as they celebrate their 10 year anniversary. This fundraiser will provide C2ST with much-needed financial resources to help support its mission. Tickets start at $125 and a discount code is available for young professionals upon request to C2ST. More information here.

Week 4 & 5: May 22 – May 31

Tuesday, May 23

Women Tech Founders & Funders Networking Night: Experience small group, leader-led circles designed to make networking fun and rewarding. Talk one-on-one with female VCs, founders, and leaders in the industry and gain insights into startup experiences. Tickets are $10.

Travel Inno, presented by Gogo: (description provided by Event Coordinator Robyn Garmon!) Introducing Chicago Inno’s very own next Meetup in our State of Innovation series, Travel Inno. Throughout the night, we’ll hear from several local experts and startups that are operating in and around the travel and hospitality industries, and we’ll wrap with a keynote discussion on how some of the city’s largest companies are innovating the passenger experience. If you’re curious about the businesses and trends that are changing how we get from A to B, you won’t want to miss this meetup. Food and drink will be provided, space is limited — be sure to secure your $12 ticket here. 

Thursday, May 25

Twitter Advertising Course: Whether you’re a local boutique artist or a Fortune 500 startup, everyone’s advertising on Twitter these days. Learn how to best reach your target audience for less cash than you think in this hands-on, in-person course. Tickets start at $20, event hosted at Blue1647.

Tuesday, May 30

Panel of CEOs from some of Chicago’s fastest growing tech startups: Chicago Enterprise Tech Meetup hosts 5 CEOs of some of the fastest growing enterprise technology startups in the city (G2 Crowd, Project 44, KnowledgeHound, Synap and Megalytics) to talk about their experiences building B2B companies in Chicago. Free to attend.

Edit: An earlier version of this article incorrectly labeled the organization Chicago Ideas as Chicago Ideas Week, which is a week long event they put on in October.

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