When you live in the big city, often you find out that it’s actually quite a small place after all. In mid October, I had made a comment on one of Brad Flora’s posts on the Windy Citizen. During our discourse, I included the name of a person named Brad Spirrison in my response. If his name sounds familiar, it should. He’s been writing for the Chicago Sun Times, and more importantly for those of us who followed or were involved with the Chicago Tech scene back during the turn of the New Millennium, he was one of the up and coming writers reporting on the “movers and shakers” of our tech community here.
On October 19th I received an email from his cousin, who owns the domain MidwestBusiness.com, which was ePrairie.com. One of his questions was regarding my opinion of local tech coverage now. From a business and “historical” standpoint, I have to say that this was one of the best questions I’ve received here in a long time. And yes, Brad Spirrison’s cousin, Lou Calamaras, knows Brad Flora. Many years ago I had met Brad Spirrison and I’ve met Brad Flora. What can I say, Chicago can really be a small city, especially where certain communities are involved.
The tech sector here, especially involving news and start-ups and organizations that host and drive networking events has changed considerably. Back at the start of the new Millenium I was completing one of two graduate degrees, the first one being an MBA in Information Technology and Marketing, with a specialty in E-Commerce. Nine years ago doesn’t seem all that long, and yet in tech years, like Internet days, it is a very long time ago. Back then we had three independent tech news organizations that covered the news in this sector.
My favorite at the time was Darcy Evon’s iStreet Magazine, which began publication in 1999. Available both online and in hardcopy (which was why I liked it), Evon provided news about events and the industry in an easy to read format. I don’t recall the particulars but I think there was a funding issue going forward, which contributed to the end of the publication after several years of publication. The focus was on the Chicago Tech industry, and how this sector held promise for the future of Chicago.
Another big name back in the old days was Tom Alexander, of ePrairie.com, which was a daily e-newsletter covering the business and technology community in the Chicago area.
Like Evon, he viewed Chicago’s technology businesses and developments as part and parcel to Chicago’s economic development. ePrairie.com is now MidwestBusiness.com.
Last but not least is the inimitable The Ron May Report, otherwise known as TMR. Launched online only with free subscriptions, Ron May has and still is covering the Chicago Technology sector. Some years ago he moved to a split subscription offering, where much of the content is free, but paid subscribers receive more information. It is interesting that out of the three independent “news sources,” TMR is the one that survived with branding intact.
Rewinding back to the past, what I miss the most were the Beggs-Heidt sponsored events at the Union League Club. I first heard about them from David Heidt. I met David at a networking event sponsored by Loyola University’s CIMT (Center for Information Technology). During those years, there were a plethora of networking events that brought the business world, entrepreneurs, the tech industry, those that served one of more of these areas, and education, and even government, together.
Dr. Linda Salchenberger, now Dean at the School of Business at Marquette University, used to head of the CIMT (Center for Information Management Technology) which spons0red many technology events at Loyola University. The events had included Katherine Gehl, who at the time was Mayor Daley’s Technology Advisor and who headed up Mayor Daley’s Council of Chicago Technology Advisors. One of my friends was also on the committee, and at the time he was Dean at one of the School of Business at one of the major universities in the Magnificent Mile area. Having university involvement made sense, because of the relationship between students, business, academia and education here.
While Linda was at Loyola, the MITEF (MIT Enterprise Forum) frequently held their events at the university, which definitely put the university on the map insofar as technology and business events were concerned. I also attended Loyola sponsored networking events there as well, and it was a great way to meet and learn about other organizations, services and businesses in similar or related areas of technology. Sadly thanks to what seems like politics, Loyola University lost that edge it once had as one of the go to places, and fortunately DePaul and IIT have frequently hosted events that drive interested parties to their events. And of course, if you’re up for socializing, The Big Frontier is still up and running.
One of the events I enjoyed the most was held at the Union League Club on February 28, 2002. The topic was Chicago’s High Tech Economy in Review and In Focus, and Darcy Evon was the guest speaker and presenter. That day I learned a lot — I learned about how Getty Images first started out here in the Chicago area, and something about the relatively then new Pay Pal company and how it started. And there was always food.
Back in the old days, at the beginning of the new century, we heard names like the Internet Executives Club, which I understand still exists but under a different name. We also heard names such as Divine interVentures, Whitman Hart, the now late Bob Bernard and marchFIRST. Times have changed and so has the news coverage.
For one thing, the major media now covers more internet topics and more frequently. Internet use is no longer an anomaly, as more people have access either at home, at work, or on the go using handhelds. Chicago Public Libraries provide free wifi, which also increases availability of Internet access, for those on a budget.
What seems to be missing, and it could just be me and my time poverty, is the type of coverage in the major papers about emerging technologies, emerging technology start-ups, funding opportunities, workshops, etc. in these areas. I also like reading about new start-ups, what they are about, where they want to go and how their technologies will impact business and life here in Chicago. Most people who are looking for this type of information need to go to either MidwestBusiness.com or TRM Report. If there are any others, please add these to the comments section, since I am sure I’m missing a few. At least I hope that I am.
What I’d really like to see is coverage by the major media for these types of topics. I also think we could use more articles written about how technology is improving a business process, our lives, etc., ie, stories about the practical application of technology for future and current use. This would include ET’s (emerging technologies) and how they can improve business, the environment, our lives, and reduce costs and/or make people’s jobs safer.
Thanks Lou, for getting this post started!