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Karis: Illinois universities have been CRANKING out startups the past several years. And thanks to the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTC), we now know exactly how many.

Jim: Illinois universities produced 285 startups in 2016, which is up 95% from the previous year. From 2012 to 2016, Illinois universities produced more than 800 startups, which is up nearly 100% compared to 2009–2013, according to the ISTC’s annual report.

Not only are universities launching startups, they’re creating ventures that stick around: Of the 804 Illinois university startups that were founded between 2012 and 2016, 78% remain active or have been acquired. And of those companies, 81%—roughly 500 companies—remain in Illinois. That number is the highest the ISTC has recorded since it began its annual survey in 2013.

Karis: Even though I’ve only been covering university startups for about two years in the Illinois area, I’m amazed at the startups that I’ve seen go from student project to university accelerator to venture competition to coworking space to viable startup (think Tovala, Cast21, NuCurrent, Hazel Technologies, Amber Agriculture and more).

Given we’ve seen some big moves by universities to support these on-campus ventures in recent years, from Northwestern opening the Garage, UIUC launching the iVenture Accelerator and UChicago creating a $25M fund for early stage startups, I wouldn’t be surprised if this continued. [More here]

Karis: Chicago biometric payment startup Keyo just launched a platform that allows you to pay for your morning coffee using the palm of your hand. Keyo’s platform maps the pattern of blood vessels in your hand to create a unique biometric identifier connected to your credit card or debit card. It’s more secure than external biometrics (such as a fingerprint), and they’re only charging merchants a 1% processing fee with the goal of giving back to small businesses.

While they’re starting with payments, eventually Keyo hopes their biometric tech can replace many of the physical items that we use (and lose) almost daily. Check out our exclusive look at their new tech and their vision for a biometric future here.

Thanks to the crowd who came out to Tech Madness last night! The bracket is now LIVE so get voting.

West Loop Ventures managing director Jeff Carter on “Chicago’s Growing Tech Community“:

“Midwestern entrepreneurs also don’t create companies like Snapchat. They create meat and potatoes companies. They build businesses that last. They create value, which in turn makes them attractive acquisition targets. Look at companies like OptionsMonster, OptionsExpress, ThinkorSwim and Liquid Markets. None of them raised a ton of VC money but had outsize exits.”

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Karis: Autonomic Materials, a Champaign-based maker of “self-healing” coating technology for ships and oil rigs, has raised $1.6M in equity funding, according to an SEC filing. Autonomic Materials’ tech allows ships and other vessels that are exposed to harsh ocean environments to not be coated as often.

Karis: We recently got a PR pitch from a “face-to-face sales” solution that included this gem:

“The main disrupter of the food industry are millennials who are notoriously known for the instant gratification, low-stakes lifestyle they lead.” 

Sounds like millennials have really figured it out. Relaxing and getting what we want when we want it. Is this the trade-off for the astronomical cost of education, exorbitant living costs and rising retirement costs? Cool, cool.

Jim: Please do not judge my low-stakes lifestyle. I am a millennial and I’m very sensitive about it.

Utsav: I was more than slightly happy to see that Starburst (incidentally, owned by Chicago-based Wrigley!) is launching a limited edition, all pink (strawberry) pack.

I always instinctively reach for this flavor of Starburst when presented with a choice anyway, and have often wondered why flavors like banana or green apple even exist (ew). While I cannot claim credit for tweeting @Starburst to influence this introduction, this is a good reminder to engage with brands on social media and ask for more of what you’d like to see. Needless to say, I now have an excuse to frequent the candy aisle at Target a little more in the next few weeks.

Karis: More limited edition cult favorite candy please. I’d like to see a Kit Kat “Light”–mostly wafer, less chocolate.

From Utsav’s story on OceanComm, the UIUC startup bringing wifi to the deep ocean:

“Seawater absorbs radio waves very effectively, rendering traditional inland broadband communication techniques ineffective. To address this, OceanComm developed WiFi “nodes” that use ultrasound (similar to how whales and dolphins communicate) to wirelessly transmit data at broadband speeds.”

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Will@chicagoinno.com, Karis@chicagoinno.com, Jim@chicagoinno.com 

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