This year, Chicago Inno published more than 1,300 stories, wrote over 260 newsletters (The Beat!), hosted 12+ events, attended many more, and carried countless conversations. All focused on one thing – Chicago innovation.

And through all of that, we’ve learned one main thing – this city is absolutely loaded with talented, inspiring innovators, in every industry, in every neighborhood, at every level. In fact, just this past week, we profiled Rise Science – a startup that’s helping the Chicago Bulls sleep better – and Kenna – a cybersecurity firm that recently raised $15M. And they weren’t finalists for 50 on Fire, our annual awards show. Why? Because there are so many people and businesses in the Chicago ecosystem that are on fire and it was really, really hard assembling a list of just 150 finalists. Also, as it goes without saying, it was EVEN harder assembling the final 50.

Ok, so, how did we select the 50? To do so, we had 20 judges, influencers and experts within the community and their respective industries, pick their top five in the one to two categories that they’re most familiar with. We sent every judge a packet complete with finalist submissions, as well as some internal research and reporting. (You can see category deep-dives on our site here). And we asked the judges one question – Who do you think is on fire? (For more information on our judges and how we selected the final 50, go here.)

Finally, why do we do it this way – Why do we have multiple categories and ask our judges to go through 20-30 page PDFs per category, rather than just rank this list by revenue or head-count or funding? Because that’s not the list we’re after and that’s not what 50 on Fire is. 50 on Fire is about honoring the people and organizations, operating at every level and corner of the city’s ecosystem, that are heating up the Chicago innovation economy. That’s professors, that’s non-profits, that’s executives, that’s entrepreneurs, that’s co-working spaces, that’s Fortune 100 businesses, that’s 1-person design consultancies, and many, many more.

A healthy, thriving ecosystem is a sum of ALL of these partsand 50 on Fire is about celebrating the best of the best, equally. So, without further ado, here are the 2016 50 on Fire (and be sure to watch the video above!)









And, as always, thank you so much to our sponsors!
(Image via 50 on Fire)