Want a good way to evaluate the strength of a tech ecosystem? Take a look at a city’s youngest entrepreneurs.
Chicago has launched thriving tech companies like ContextMedia, Avant, and Raise, but for the city to continue its growth and momentum as a tech hub, a new crop of techies need to prove Chicago can continue to produce disruptive, scalable businesses. So to get a look at some of Chicago’s youngest entrepreneurs, we’ve compiled a list of 25 Chicago startup founders 25 years old or younger.
1. Dane Christianson (22)–Moving Parts: After solving a traditional Rubics Cube in seventh grade in just 27 seconds, Dane Christianson was looking for more of a challenge. Christianson founded Moving Parts in 2013 and invented the X-Cube, a new high-tech version of the Rubics Cube. It’s a shape-shifting 3D logic puzzle that can take on 125 decillion different permutations, and it raised over $50,000 on Kickstarter in 2013.
2. Arnav Dalmia (24): FitnessCubed: FitnessCubed wants to keep you moving, even if you’re sitting at a desk all day. The startup’s product Cubii is an under-desk elliptical trainer that comes with an adjustable resistance and an app that synchs to your smartphone to keep track of your exercise. It raised nearly $300,000 on Kickstarter last year.
3. Aaron Frazin (25)–Charlie App: Charlie App wants to help you effortlessly prepare for upcoming meetings. The startup, which launched in 2012 and raised $1.75 million from Lightbank, Hyde Park Venture Partners, and others, sends a one-pager of information about your next meeting directly to your phone. Charlie pulls from sources like LinkedIn, Facebook, and news articles to keep you up to speed on who you’re scheduled to meet with so you walk into your next meeting with talking points and shared interests.
4. Ryan Hesslau (19)–foreverU: What started as a Facebook page by Hesslau at 16 years old, foreverU has grown into a platform and a movement against bullying. ForeverU aims to actively reduce the occurrences of bullying by giving teens the confidence and tools to stand up against bullying, especially on social media.
5, 6, 7. Jeffrey Kahn (23), Jacob Kelter (24), Leon Sasson (22)–Rise Science: Rise Science aims to help elite athletes sleep better. Rise Science measures sleep performance and analyzes the data to help athletes improve their sleep and athletic performance. The startup has so far worked with Northwestern University and the Chicago Fire.
8. Jason Li (19)–UProspie: UProspie wants to improve college admission tours by giving prospective students a true view of campus life. For $30 the startup, born out of UChicago, connects prospective students with current students, allowing them to pick or be matched with a host based on their preferences.
9. Genevieve Liu (16)–SLAP’D: In 2012 Donald Liu, the head of pediatric surgery at the University Of Chicago Medicine’s Comer Children’s Hospital, died in Lake Michigan while trying to save two drowning boys. His daughter Genevieve, who was 13 when her father passed, now helps others who are grieving the loss of a loved one with SLAP’D (Surviving Life After a Parent Dies), a website for teens and other young people to meet others going through similar situations, ask questions, and reach experts who can help.
10. Samuel Lurye (17)–Kiss App & Junior Economic Club of Chicago: At just 17, Lurye is set to launch a dating app and has founded a business club for high school students. Kiss App, which Lurye says is launching soon, allows high-schoolers to anonymously gauge their chances for a romantic relationship with people in their social circles. Users digitally send a “Kiss” to a friend in the form of an anonymous message that includes a picture of the user and of two other peers. The receiver – not knowing who of the three the message came from – selects the individual that they’re interested in. And the Junior Economic Club of Chicago aims to connect high school students with internships and opportunities
11. Kaeya Majmundar (22)–ZipTank & BZBox: Majmundar’s first product BZBox, a foldable and durable moving box, landed her an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank where she was funded by Lori Greiner. Since then, she has created the ZipTank, a tank top that can be zipped into a bag, which caught some serious momentum after Chicago rapper Vic Mensa was spotted wearing one at Coachella.
12. Yuri Malina (25)–SwipeSense: Malina co-founded SwipeSense, a Northwestern-born startup that develops portable hand sanitizing devices for hospitals. The company, which raised $9.7 million in June, makes clip-on hand sanitizers for medical professionals that attach to the belt or garment of the doctor or nurse. The device tracks usage data and wirelessly transmits the information to SwipeSense’s app, creating more transparency and accountability among healthcare professionals.
13. Andy Marsh (23)–TagPrints Digital: TagPrints Digital uses photo activation marketing to help brands expand their social media reach during events. Using branded social media photo booths at trade shows and other events, TagPrints has worked with clients like CDW, Dr Pepper, Colgate and P-Diddy.
14, 15. Donovan Morrison (23) and Matt Wilcox (23)–Luna Lights: Luna Lights aims to prevent falls among senior citizens with its sensor, mountable lights, and data analysis that can keep track of when seniors get up at night and provide light that can guide seniors away from dangerous obstructions. When a senior gets up from bed in the middle of the night, the sensor turns on the mountable lights, creating a guided path. The system notes when a senior gets up and how long they are gone, which can be analyzed to see if patterns in activity could be indicative of a larger health problem.
16. James Mwakichako (22)–Pixrlarc Studio, PixrLarc Studio aims to develop business and education technology for developing countries, mainly in Africa, providing web application, design and consulting services. Originally from Narok, Kenya, Mwakichako said he wants to return to Kenya after graduating from IIT and start an insurance company to offer affordable health premiums to low income citizens.
17. Bianca Perry (21)–B Bands: Perry first created the B Band while playing high school soccer. She decided she needed a better hairband that could hold her hair back and not fall out while she played. After selling 3,000 bands out of her backpack during her senior year, she got into DePaul where she turned the bands into a serious business. Today, each band has an encouraging tagline and every order comes with a handwritten note of positivity for women.
18. Kevin Roemer (23)–Brandless.io & Partner at FUND Conference: Roemer launched Brandless.io in July, a creative agency that provides web design, development, hosting, and other services. It’s clients so far have included restaurants, law firms and the personal website of Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward. Roemer is also a founding team member of the FUND Conference, a conference centered on early stage investing for VCs and startups.
19. Nishanth Samala (23)–Strados: Strados is a car app that tells you what’s wrong with your vehicle. It takes your dashboard lights and car sounds and translates them into something you can understand, helping you narrow down what’s wrong. Using a translator that plugs in near the underside of the steering wheel and a smartphone app, Strados gives you more information when walking into the mechanic. Samala, an IIT grad, is also an engineer at HERE, the mapping unit that was bought by German car makers this year for $3 billion.
20. Rho Kook Song (23)–Freenters: Freenters, founded at the University of Chicago, launched in 2014 to help college students save money on printing. The startup initially worked by placing kiosks at campuses that allowed students to print for free by printing on papers that had banner ads on the bottom margin. The business is let to launch its 2.0 product that will allow students to print from any campus computer.
21. Jack Sutherland (22)–NuGrad: NuGrad wants to help college seniors land a job right out of school. The startup connects graduating seniors with recruiters by getting their profile in front of the recruiters they are interested in, and recruiters then ask for an introduction. Sutherland is also the Head of Partnerships at Charlie App and was formerly an intern at Packback.
22. Jessica Tenuta (24)–Packback Books: After appearing on Shark Tank and snagging an investment from Mark Cuban, Packback has become one of Chicago’s most recognizable startups. Packback offers short-term textbook rentals for $5 or less, attempting to disrupt the decades-old model of bookstores selling expensive books that are only opened a few times a year.
23, 24. Jackie Wu (24) and 19. Ed Kim (23)–89 Robotics: What if every home had a drone, and you could use the aerial camera to monitor your house while away and check up on the dog? That’s what 89 Robotics wants to do with its drone WonWon, which is being crowdfunded later this year. The end product expects to be an affordable, easy to use drone that you can operate from afar.
25. Daniel Yu (22)–Reliefwatch: Reliefwatch helps developing countries track their inventory of medical supplies in real time. Using a cloud-based system that relies on mobile phones, rather than needing expensive computers or internet access, Reliefwatch can help clinics restock supplies before they run out. Yu has quickly become one of Chicago’s most celebrated young entrepreneurs, as he’s won multiple startup competitions and even hung out with Prince Charles after winning the Prince of Wales Young Sustainability Entrepreneurs Prize in London.
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