As a Bay Area native, people always ask me why I stay in Chicago, or what makes Chicago special as a tech community… A main reason is the genuine intent and interest in helping and supporting others in the tech community without the expectation of anything in return. Maybe it’s the friendliness of the Midwest. Or an emerging community seeking to raise the tide for all our boats… Either way, it continues to inspire me and remains a key component of the value derived from the mentorship model of Techstars Chicago.

We witness this eagerness to pay it forward every year when hundreds of founders, investors, and community leaders volunteer their time to mentor the Techstars teams (2018 Cohort Company Announcement) .

I always seek the opportunity to remind people: Starting a company is very very hard, and success often requires unfair advantages — like the power of network and introductions. The best thing you can do to help a startup is to introduce them to, 1) a customer, 2) an investor, or 3) a hire.

This is why we’ve introduced “The Power of the Network” — a post where our companies share openly about the ways the community could help.

How it works:

Below each company lists their most pertinent needs — if you can make a connection, reach out to the founders (emails below), Logan ( or Rachael ( The company will send you more information in a forwardable format to minimize work for you.

To thank you, top connectors will receive super mentor status and a special gift at Demo Day on top of the lifetime of gratitude from the founders you’re supporting.

Demo Day is October 4th at 1871…don’t forget to register…the event is filling up fast. Email Rachael for an invite.

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2ndKitchen enables businesses without a kitchen to serve food seamlessly using restaurants around them.

Ask #1: Channels: Introduction to companies that provide services to bars, e.g., distributors of beer/liquor , ATM machines, Jukeboxes, etc.

  • Jim Doney, President of Chicago Beverage Systems
  • Mike Roth — Sr. Sales Director at Anheuser Busch Chicago
  • Heritage Corridor Ale Trail

Ask #2: Partners: Introduction to bar and hotel groups and owners including partners in delivery

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Clyde is a technology company transforming insurance at the point of sale, starting with the underserved and highly profitable extended warranty industry.

Ask #1 Consumer Product Customers: Introductions to businesses that could use Clyde.


  • Scaling consumer companies selling high value items who would benefit from offering extended warranties by both increasing sales and adding a new source of revenue.
  • Consumer electronics companies. Executives, CEOs, Finance Departments.
  • High-value consumer goods companies: Instruments, furniture

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Hurry Home provides a new homeownership model for good renters looking to purchase a quarter of houses in the US that are not serviced by banks.

Ask #1 Fund Investors: Introductions to potential investors for our real estate fund: High net worth individuals, impact investors, family offices, real estate investors, foundations.

  • Comer Family Foundation — Invested $86 million in Southside housing
  • Ling Wong Head of Program related investments, or other investment managers, at Gates Foundation
  • Xavier Briggs at Ford Foundation — Mission to support affordable housing and has done PRI
  • Dan Gilbert — Individual that is socially charged and investing in midwest
  • Kellogg Foundation — Invested in impact investing marketplace that failed

Ask #2 Channel Partners: How can we get decline traffic from banks or other lending institutions or buyers from channel partners with our demographic in their constituency


  • Rocket Mortgage
  • Kimberly Latimer Nelligan

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Kai is a fitness coach that communicates 100% via text message.

Ask #1 Exposure: An introduction to influencers, contributors, and editors of major publications. We are seeking to get a feature article written by us or by their editorial team in a publication read by our target audience.

  • Danielle Blundell, Senior Home Editor at Meredith Corporation — Kai’s core audience reads — and is influenced by — publications like The Magnolia Journal
  • Leslie Yazel, Editor in Chief at Real Simple Magazine — Kai’s lifestyle-changing mission is aligned with the desires of Real Simple’s core audience desire
  • Andy Appelbaum, Managing Partner at RiverPark Ventures & Co-founder of Domino Media Group — Domino Magazine is squarely in the center of our audience preferences
  • Andy Puddicombe, founder of Headspace — Andy made a business out of mindfulness, and the focus on whole-body awareness is right up our alley
  • Molly Simms, Senior Editor at O Magazine (Hearst Group) — Kai’s coaching should be one of Oprah’s favorite things
  • Joanna Cichocki, VP of Global Partnerships at IMG — Would love to connect with body positivity activists — namely Ashley Graham.
  • Ben Smith, Editor-in-chief at Buzzfeed

Ask #2: Exposure: Amplify the reach of recent content.

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Neopenda is innovating medical devices for high-growth emerging markets, starting with a wearable vital signs monitor for critically ill newborns.

Ask #1 Crowdfunding support: We would like help spreading the word about our crowdfunding equity campaign. Live link here. The campaign will raise awareness, and lead into a larger Seed Round after Techstars Demo Day. Please pass along to your networks & people you know who may be interested.

Ask #2 Strategic Partners: Introductions to executives at medical device manufacturers and at health-related NGOs. It would be great to identify mentors (and potential future advisory board members) in these areas.

Ask #3 Celebrity Endorsements: Introductions to potential celebrity endorsers who would be interested in Neopenda’s mission and help raise our profile.

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Optivolt Labs has developed an optimized solar integration platform to significantly increase the flight time of commercial drones.

Ask #1 Customer introductions to drone operations and flight management companies.

  • Lou Faust — CEO at Agribotix — Agricultural drone services and data processing, using drones we are interested in learning more about.
  • Ashwin Madgavkar — Founder of Ceres Imaging — Agricultural data services *without* drones
  • Bechtel — David Wilson, Joe Diaz, Brenden Bechtel, or Steve or Riley Bechtel — Huge private construction company w/ fixed wing drone applications
  • Measure — Brandon Torres Declet, Chris Courtney, Dan Rothfeld — *large* drone services company in energy, infrastructure, media, public safety
  • Barrick Gold — Rob Krcmarov, John Thornton, or Kevin Dushnisky — Company that uses drones for gold mining

Ask #2 Investors: Introductions to hardware VC firms and Angels that fit our investment stage.

  • Ben Einstein — General Partner at Bolt Capital. Bolt invests in pre-seed hardware companies which is a good fit for our stage and business
  • David Weekly — Angel investor in drone technology.
  • Dylan Reid — Angel investor in pre-seed hardware companies
  • Peter Diamandis — Angel investor in frontier technologies. Peter also sits on the board of SpaceX

Ask #3 Mentors: Introductions to similar B2B Hardware companies to speak about business model, pricing, monetization etc.

  • Louay Eldada — CEO at Quanergy — Hugely successful Lidar-hardware startup doing b2b sales and contracts
  • Amir Tsalia — CTO at Parazero — Enterprise-focused drone add-on hardware for safety
  • Jon Broome — Cofounder at IQ Motion Control — B2B hardware w/ a pilot in the drone space
  • Jakob Bitner — CEO at VoltStorage — Energy/power transfer hardware
  • Bob Nunn — CEO at Psikick — B2B hardware (energy harvesting for IoT)

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Rheaply is a marketplace platform where businesses and professionals can share surplus assets and expertise.

Ask #1 R&D Clients: Rheaply currently services organizations doing significant R&D (from universities to biotech/biopharma). Given this, Rheaply is looking for more opportunities in biopharma/biotech and is looking for intros to leaders in research development, operations, procurement, or sustainability.


  • Teva — Discovery Research (i.e. Susan Browne)
  • Sanofi — Director of R&D (i.e. Sudha Chivukula)


  • Gilead Sciences — Director, Research Operations (i.e. Tyler White)
  • Regeneron — Therapeutic Head (i.e. Bola Akinlade)


  • Boston Dynamics — Research Scientists (i.e. Scott Kuindersma)

Contract Research Organizations

  • Charles River Laboratories — Director of R&D (i.e. Christine Farrance)
  • Syneos Health — Clinical Research (i.e. Christine Korbmacher)

Ask #2 Enterprise Clients : Rheaply is looking for opportunities at like peer Fortune 500 organizations who similar need help managing their surplus assets as well as have strong sustainability/corporate responsibility initiatives. Typical stakeholders are CFOs, Directors of Sustainability/Corporate Responsibility, or leaders in R&D/Innovation.

Healthcare/GPOs — Rheaply could help drive cost savings and sharing across their health systems

  • Vizient — Director, Business Development (i.e Jennifer Davies)
  • Preimer — Supply Chain Technology (i.e. Bethany Raab)

Tech — Better asset management and asset exit

Industrial — Better asset management and asset exit

  • Boeing — Purchasing/Materials Management (i.e. Steve Hayes)

Ask #3 Marketplace Mentors: Rheaply operates a two-sided marketplace and includes on-app payment and shipping solutions for users and clients. Rheaply is looking for any stakeholder at a two-sided marketplace company who can advise on best practices concerning dispute resolution between users in a transaction of physical items.

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Speeko is an artificial intelligence-powered platform that brings interactive verbal communication training to your workforce.

Ask #1 Clients: Introductions to sales team leaders (VPs, Directors, Managers) at growing tech companies with teams of 1–100 located in the United States.

  • Nextdoor, Brian Hagen, Head of Sales (Bay Area)
  • Yelp, Carolyn Patterson, Senior Vice President, Revenue Operations (Bay Area)
  • Groupon Sales University (Chicago)
  • Gusto, Lexi Reese, COO (SF)
  • Hubspot, Hunter Madeley, Chief Sales Officer (Toronto)

Ask #2 Strategic Partners: Seeking to explore channel partnerships or collaborations

  • Daniel Rex, CEO of Toastmasters — Daniel oversaw the development and rollout of Pathways, a recent redesign of Toastmasters’ education program, and has a strong vision for the future of Toastmasters. We are interested in a strategic partnership or endorsement.
  • Joe Hart, CEO of Dale Carnegie Training — Joe was involved in the recent rebranding of Dale Carnegie Training, with a new focus on the needs of millennials.
  • Laura Lindenfeld from The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science.

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Trala is a Juilliard-approved app that teaches users how to play the violin.

Ask #1 Violin Retailers: Introduction to national violin sellers + retailers. We want to put Trala postcards in the case of every violin sold by these companies.

  • Kristy Wu, CEO of Cecilio Violins
  • Eric Hook, President of Shar Products Company (Shar Music)
  • Joel Kennedy, President of Kennedy Violins

Ask #2 Violinists: Introduction to Lindsey Stirling or other popular violinists. A partnership with Lindsey Stirling would be the highest-leverage partnership possible for Trala.

  • Lindsey Stirling — Most influential violinist in the world. Lindsey has doubled the number of beginner violinists in the last 5 years and this would be her opportunity to have a hand not only in inspiring them, but also teaching them.
  • Ray Chen — Star violinist & IG influencer. Most of his following is violinists, so there’s no better fit for being an affiliate and monetizing his following.
  • Chloe Trevor — Chloe leads an incredible violin-learning community. She has done a few tutorials and runs a music camp, so education is clearly important to her. Working with Trala would be a way to expand her reach to the global violin community, and she is the sort of community leader that Trala is in need of.

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Vacation Fund is an employer-matched travel savings program that incentivizes employees to put money aside and take meaningful vacations every year.

Ask #1 Customers: Introductions to Executives, Chief Human Resources Officers, or People & Culture professionals at private North American companies with between 100 and 3,000 employees. Industries to target include technology, professional services (banking, accounting, insurance, agencies, etc.), marketing & media, and telecommunications. Industries primarily dominated by contractors are not our target.

  • Jeanne O’ Connor, Senior Vice President, Human Resources at Billtrust(New York City)
  • Lindsay (Harrison) Dagiantis, Vice President, Human Resources at Envoy (Chicago)
  • David Brunick, Chief Human Resources Officer at WOW! Internet, Cable & Phone (Colorado)
  • Heather Reisman, Founder, Chair and CEO of Indigo (Toronto)
  • Nancy Tostanoski, Executive Vice President, CHRO, OUTFRONT Media (New York City)
  • Julie Burwell, SHRM Board, Strategic Human Resource Professional

Ask #2 Introductions to US angels VCs that have previously made investments in Canadian companies. Investors in B2B Saas, HR tech, fintech and travel tech preferred.

  • Peterson Ventures, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Female Founders Fund, New York City
  • Link Ventures, Cambridge, Mass.
  • Been There, Los Angeles

Ask #3 Strategic Partnerships:Introductions to senior executives or partnership and business development professionals at any of the payroll provider companies, to coordinate the payroll contribution process for Vacation Fund as easily as possible (Gusto, Ceridian, BambooHR, Deluxe, Ultimate, Paycor, Quickbooks, Zenefits and Justworks)

  • Any executives at Intuit (Quickbooks)
  • Igor Khayet, Business Development and Strategic Partnerships, Gusto
  • Dave Barnes, Strategic Partnerships and Business Development, BambooHR
  • John Filby, Senior Vice President of Financial Services at Deluxe Payroll
  • Stacey Browning, President, Paycor/Newton Software at Paycor
  • Krister Setness, Senior Business Development, Strategic Accounts at Justworks



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