From drones to pro bono legal work to disrupting pensions, the latest Techstars Chicago class is all about taking “big swings,” according to managing director Logan LaHive.

LaHive–the former Belly CEO and co-founder who joined Techstars this year, taking over for longtime managing director Troy Henikoff–traveled around the Midwest in search of this year’s Techstars class, meeting over 350 companies in person. LaHive and his Techstars team ultimately reviewed more than 1,000 applications before settling on this year’s class.

This year’s cohort looks a little different than some of the past Techstars groups, LaHive acknowledged, noting that revenue wasn’t the end-all-be-all metric. LaHive said this year Techstars selected “founders that turned us into fans,” and worked to find 10 companies that are operating in big spaces and tackling big problems.

The class also reflects the maturation that the Chicago tech community has seen as a whole, LaHive said. Techstars, then named Excelerate Labs, was started as a place for the tech community to come together. But now that Chicago’s tech community has added more resources and grown, Techstars has grown with it.

“I do think the landscape of Chicago tech has changed,” LaHive said. “The landscape of the venture community has changed, whether it’s accelerators or early stage funding. Me coming in is an opportunity to look at how the market has evolved and how we can better meet the needs of 10 early stage founders.”

Diversity is also a staple of this latest class. Of the 10 Techstars Chicago companies, there are five minority CEOs, three female CEOs, and one international startup.

LaHive called this year’s program “intensely founder focused,” featuring founders who are attacking massive markets with ambitious solutions.

Here are the 2017 Techstars Chicago startups:


Founded by former Pritzker Group Venture Capital VCs Ablorde Ashigbi and David Vandegrift, 4Degrees is a startup that helps people create connections and build stronger professional relationships. The platform, currently in alpha stage, identifies the right connections to focus on, and empowers users to strengthen those relationships over time.


Founded by Kyle Stoner, the co-founder of international money transfer company Pangea, and Carson Junginger, Abode wants to make the home buying experience easier with a machine learning algorithm that connects buyers with realtors, bankers, and attorneys. The startup also offers cloud-based management tools so you can complete virtually all of the home buying process online.


You can think of Allie as a chief diversity officer that lives in your Slack. Allie lets employees self-report microaggressions–like if a female employee is repeatedly interrupted by a man during a meeting–and get tips on how to manage the situation. Companies also receive customized insights and recommendations that drive their diversity and inclusion strategies.


AraJoy changes how sports teams record game and practice film. Using autonomous drones, the startup automatically films and interprets player action for performance analysis. No longer needing human camera operators, AraJoy shoots eye-in-the-sky video and uploads it automatically so teams can quickly and efficiently use video to prepare for games.


Elemetric is a marketing insights startup that helps companies better understand their customers. The company merges existing customer data sources with customer feedback data to build smarter user profiles over time.


Harbor makes it easy for people to build a retirement portfolio that incorporates guaranteed lifetime income. Through a Personal Pension of fixed annuities, the startup says it helps users get the most out of their savings by converting a portion into a monthly paycheck that’s guaranteed for life by insurance companies.


Founded by Israeli Army veterans, Jobeek helps engineers discover opportunities and skills that will maximize their market value. The startup lets engineers select a desired salary, distance to work and company type, and its algorithm connects them with the right opportunities and skills needed to advance in their career.


Omelas aids in asset protection for companies operating in volatile regions. The startup says it uses predictive analytics, machine learning, and other tools to learn what drives people to extremism, and what turns them away.


Paladin is a SaaS platform for pro bono legal work. The startup’s software helps law firms, Fortune 500 legal teams, and law schools manage and track their pro bono work so they can “focus on making an impact in your community.” allows businesses to customize and purchase things like shirts, notebooks, water bottles and other swag with their company logo. The startup–which paid $200,000 for its domain name, co-founder Jeremy Parker told me–counts companies like Facebook, WeWork, Google, Virgin and Jolly Ranchers as clients.

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