Doing business while doing good never felt so plausible as it did in my recent trip to Chicago. Through our at Transform VC partner Walter Hughes, I met the West Loop community of black and brown founders, venture capitalists and nonprofits uplifting local communities and driving revenue through conscious capitalism.
- Driven – Young black men and women are leading the charge to seed tech businesses with impact and gaining momentum with every startup they fund. Landon Campbell is the General Manager at Drive Capital Chicago, his mission is to build the local startup ecosystem and bring back companies who left when it didn’t exists.
- Rooted in cause – AJ is bringing affordable solar energy to rooftops in low income community. His venture, 548 energy solutions, is named after the public housing he was raised in. He sees the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid and knows very well how to good and do business.
- Resource rich – This community of founders are well connected within the entertainment, finance, tech and other industries. For those of us looking to get in, this is not a charity contribution, it is an investment with high returns, and high collective impact. Ken Clay is disrupting Yelp, by bringing a more sustainable and community driven model to finding restaurants and recommendations enabled by deep tech that would yield investors healthy financial returns.
- Scalable – Claude Cimeus works at P33, hosting events that draw in the tech ecosystem from around the nation. They understand the potential Chicago has at building to scale, and attracting capital, startups and advisors who see the opportunity to make the city that was the backbone or US retail a Mecca for underserved and overlooked founders on a mission to impact a billion and make a billion.
- Collaborative – A young Muslim of a Palestinian immigrant family, Rami Nashashibi, built IMAN, a nonprofit taking on the difficult challenges of South Chicago and getting collaboration from the community. IMAN runs clinics, a rehabilitation program for incarcerated youth and building community grocers in food desert areas. Their young men and women train to join companies like 548 energy solutions.
I am sold on the potential of Chicago becoming a technology hub; the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. But where Silicon Valley West failed on creating impact, Chicago will succeed.