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Student Perspective: 10X Momentum Awards

On November 2nd, the Hyatt Regency Chicago was alive with the energy of the Windy City’s entrepreneurial community. Hosted by Chicago’s premier tech incubator, 1871, the 10th annual Momentum Awards celebrated the progress the city has made in establishing itself as a center of technology and startup culture.

1871 opened its doors in 2012 as one of the cornerstone projects of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, a nonprofit organization that supports the community’s growing startup businesses. A decade ago, Chicago used to be a flyover city in terms tech and talent. While Silicon Valley and New York commanded the attention of the tech world with their constant flood of innovations and new inventions, Chicago struggled to keep pace. 1871, its name an homage to the years of extraordinary rebuilding and progress that followed the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, was created with the vision of transforming Chicago’s tech landscape with the same fervor that had allowed Chicago to emerge from the ashes as a world leader in architecture. It aims to be the home base for Chicago entrepreneurs, a place where they could find potential investors and develop their ideas in a community of like-minded individuals. The 10X Awards are a celebration of how far Chicago and its community of entrepreneurs have come in the last decade.

I was fortunate to be sponsored by the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to attend this dinner. The energy in the reception area when I arrived was contagious. Although I could not find a single familiar face in the room, it was a great opportunity for me to meet and converse with important figures in the entrepreneurial community. There were founders, venture capitalists, tech leaders, professors, lawyers, each of them a direct contributor to the growing tech scene in Chicago. Despite being complete strangers, we found common ground in our passion for Chicago’s startup culture. This shared passion immediately broke down our walls, allowing me to feel comfortable talking to anyone.

After taking our seats at the Northwestern table, accompanied by members of The Garage, Kellogg, and the Farley Center, we enjoyed a 3-course meal while enjoying each others’ company. During the dinner, we enjoyed talks about the progress Chicago has made by prominent figures including Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Governor Bruce Rauner, gubernatorial candidate and venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, McDonald CEO, Steve Easterbrook, and 1871 CEO, Howard Tullman. This is Tullman’s last year as CEO of 1871. This year’s dinner was in part to honor his dedication and role in enabling Chicago to compete with top tech cities.

The following awards were presented at the event:

After the dinner, there was an after-party stocked with full dessert and drink bars, a DJ, and a dance floor. I was able to meet more Chicago entrepreneurs and speak with people that shared similar passions. This night raised my hopes that Chicago will soon become as big a tech city as New York City and San Francisco. As a student in computer science looking to work at growing startups after graduation, it makes me happy to see Chicago mature into a center for startup businesses. My favorite part of the event, however, was seeing just how close-knit the entrepreneurial community in Chicago really is. The people here constantly support one another and are genuinely excited about each others’ success.

The 10X Awards was a wonderful night filled with networking, stories of success and failure, as well as plenty of laughter. I am confident that Chicago will be on a trajectory to become a capital of technological innovation as long as there are people with the drive to continue fueling Chicago’s vibrant ecosystem of entrepreneurship.

Editor's Note: Click here to view the complete list of 10X awards for 2017 and to read more information about the 10X Momentum Awards and 1871.

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