Chicago is currently in a mini freak out over the city’s tech ecosystem. The Chicago Tribune wrote a deep dive into why startups have fled the Midwest (which in turn managed to irk the Engineering Department at the University of Illinois). Crain’s asked why we haven’t created more pillar tech companies in its piece titled What’s Wrong With Chicago Tech Startups. And Forbes gave its 2 cents on how to fix Chicago’s tech industry.
Meanwhile, amid the collective huffing and puffing about a perceived lack of success from Chicago tech companies, a Chicago tech company just got valued at $1 billion.
Uptake, a predictive analytics startup founded by Groupon Co-Founder Brad Keywell, announced Tuesday that it has raised $45 million, valuing the company at $1.1 billion, according to the New York Times. The round was led by GreatPoint Ventures, with participation from existing investors including New Enterprise Associates, Caterpillar, and Lightbank.
According to the Times, Uptake is now the third tech unicorn in the Midwest, with Northbrook, Ill-based Mu Sigma valued at $1.5 billion and Chicago-based Avant worth around $2 billion.
Uptake has seen a meteoric rise in Chicago after just launching in 2014. The company employs 300 people in Chicago and is the city’s 35th largest digital company in terms of headcount, according to Built In Chicago.
Uptake works with large, old school companies like Caterpillar to help them collect and analyze massive amounts of data. And according to the Times, Uptake is already turning a profit.
Douglas Oberhelman, the CEO of Caterpillar, credited its partnership with Uptake for not moving the company West in search of data analytics technology.
“Had Brad [Ketwell] not come along, we’d probably be in Silicon Valley,” Oberhelman told the newspaper. “We’ve got some design engineers in Illinois and Chicago, so I felt it would be easier to get the two cultures together, and that’s one of the driving forces; other than that, he’s had a good success rate.”
It’s easy to get caught up in comparisons between Chicago and Silicon Valley. It’s also easy to wag your finger at a company for getting acquired, rather than staying the course and eventually going public. And it’s even easier to blame universities for not creating a better pipeline of engineering talent for the city.
But while everyone is diagnosing what’s wrong with Chicago tech, Chicago tech companies are getting back to work.