On Wednesday, March 2nd, we’ll be debuting the official 2016 Tech Madness Bracket at our Reveal Party at Headquarters in River North.

As a reminder, Tech Madness is a friendly competition to see who the community thinks will be the most valuable tech company in five years. Basically, it’s March Madness for Chicago Tech – we seed 64 local businesses/startups and put them head-to-head; reader voting then determines who moves on to the next matchup. The 2015 bracket generated a whopping 32,000 votes, so we’re bringing it back and blowing it up.

And since we’re exactly two weeks out from the Reveal, we wanted to get ahead of the one question that came up the most during last year’s challenge – “how did you assemble the bracket?” So, today, we’re going to take you inside the bracket factory and show you how the sausage is made.

First, we take a look at the whole field. For the past month-and-a-half, we’ve asked you to fill out a short form telling us who you think NEEDS to be in the bracket and why, resulting in hundreds of terrific nominations from the community. We then added another couple hundred names to that list based on our own reporting and research, as well as from expert suggestions and input.

We then took that combined list of nearly 500 names and whittled it down to 200. (We posted that list at the bottom).

This list of 200 is a collection of Chicago startups and tech companies, from seed to Series E (as well as a handful of bootstrapped businesses and public pillars) that, once refined to 64, will make up the ideal 2016 bracket.

While putting together the bracket, we’re looking for a group that embodies the complete range of Chicago tech, in both industry and stage. So, no, the bracket will not just be a list of the 64 companies below that have raised the most money, hired the most people, or generated the most revenue. (Sure, a lot of them will be there). But the bracket will also have a handful of companies that we think could get there in five, ten, fifteen years. When assembling the bracket, we’re looking for a balance of promise and proven promise, as well as everything in between.

For the next two weeks, we’ll be seeding the 64. Seeding, like last year, is based almost entirely on funding, although variables such as headcount and growth will be factored in a bit, too. (This way, we’ll be able to seed bootstrapped companies that are killing it appropriately). Also, for public and acquired companies, we’ll be seeding them by market cap or acquisition price.

Once again, seeding is not an editorial statement on how we feel about a company. The bracket only works if companies are seeded 1 through 16 and venture capital is the most accessible, universal metric to use for categorization. It’s also important to note that, outside of the physical placement on the bracket, seeding doesn’t matter. Last year, the Final Four consisted of a #13, an #11, a #10, and a #2. And two #1s were bounced in the second round.

Basically, we’re looking for you to tell us, out of the 64 vetted, qualified contenders, who’s going to have the greatest impact in 5 years.

So, without giving away the whole recipe, that’s how the 2016 Tech Madness Bracket will be put together. And, without further ado, here’s the final pool that we’ll be pulling from, full with names you’ll probably know and names you won’t…

The Bracket:

4C Insights
4D Healthware
5thColumn LLC
AdYapper
Akouba Credit
Apervita
AptAmigo
Avant
BallotReady
Blitsy
Bolstr
Box Score Games
BRACEUNDER
Braintree
BrideSide
bswift
BucketFeet
Career Podium
Centro
Channel IQ
Chefmade
Civis
Classkick
cleverbridge
Cleversafe
CloudSpotter
Codal
ConceptDrop
ConnectSense
ContextMedia
Coyote Logistics
Crowdfind
Curiosity
Dabble
DialogTech
Dose
Dough
Drivin
edo
Edovo
Eighty Nine Robotics
Elevance
Enova
Eved
ExteNet
Factor 75
Fieldglass
Figo Pet Insurance
Fitness Cubed
Fizz
Fletch
Fooda
FoodTrace
Foxtrot
G2 Crowd
Geofeedia
Gesture
Giftfluence
Glidera
Gogo
GoHealth
GPS Campus
Groupon
GrubHub
Guaranteed Rate
Guard Llama
Hearken
HighGround
Hireology
HomeChef
InContext Solutions
Indigo Interactive
Infiniscene
Infiniteach
Insureon
Inventables
Iron Galaxy Studios
Jammber
Jellyvision
Kaizen Health
Kapow
kCura
Keeper Security
Keepsayk
Kitchfix
KnowledgeHound
Label Insight
LaunchPoint
LearnCore
Learnmetrics
LuminAID
Luxury Garage Sale
LyteShot
Maestro Health
Matchup.io
MBX Systems
Mira Fitness
mLevel
Mobile X Labs
Mohop
Moneythink
Motion.AI
mRelief
Mu Sigma
Narrative Science
NextCapital
NowSecure
NuCurrent
NuGrad
Nusiki
Occasion
OfficeLuv
OjaExpress
OpinionLab
Opternative
OptionsAway
OptionsCity
OptionsHouse
Orunje
Outernet
Packback
Page Vault
Parche
ParkWhiz
ParqEx
Paylocity
Persio
PhysIQ
Popular Pays
PowerReviews
Proxfinity
Public Good Software
Radish
Raise
Reliefwatch
Rent Like a Champion
Reverb
ReviewTrackers
Rippleshot
Rise Interactive
Rithmio
RocketMiles
Savo
Scout Alarm
Sentic Technologies
Shiftgig
ShipBob
Signal
Simple Relevance
SingleHop
SitterCity
SMS Assist
Snapsheet
Solstic Mobile
Solstice Mobile
Sorc’d
Specless
SpiderSense
SportsLock
SpotHero
Spring Rewards
Sprout Social
SurePayroll
SwiftIQ
SwingByte
SwipeSense
Synap Software Labs
Syndio.io
TADA technologies
TagPrints Digital
Tanvas
Tastytrade
TempIQ
Textura
ThinkCERCA
Tock
Tovala
TracknProtect
Trading Technologies
Tribe
TrunkClub
Trunq
Trustwave
TurboAppeal
UProspie
Uptake
Urban Leash
UrbanBound
Valence Health
Valence Health
Vamonde
Vault Technologies LLC
VelocityEHS
Village MD
VisaNow
Vivid Seats
Vokal
Wanderful
Whittl
WindyCitySDR
WyzAnt
YCharts
Yello
Zebra
Zero Percent

Finally, and we said this last year, if at ANY time during Tech Madness you find yourself getting worked up over seedings, omissions, inclusions, wins, or losses, shoot me an email immediately at [email protected] and we’ll go grab a beer, take a few breaths, and laugh about how silly it was to get bent out of shape over something designed purely to generate excitement and awareness for the ecosystem.

We look forward to seeing you at the Tech Madness Bracket Reveal…

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