Best Startups in Chicago to Follow
Every year, new startups pull to the forefront of their industry through exciting innovation, tech, and industry-disrupting business models. We’ve rounded up the top Chicago startups of 2023 that startup-lovers, investors, and aspiring entrepreneurs should follow.
Disclaimer: With so many exciting startups launching and growing, we aren’t able to cover them all. Furthermore, the startups that are listed below are not officially ranked and are listed in no particular order.
- Industry: Haircare
- Founders: Juan Francisco Lago, Kimberly Lewis, Tim Lewis
- Founded In: 2015
- Funding: $3.2 Million
- Investors Include: Next Play Ventures, Backstage Capital
There aren't enough brands that focus on women who don't have the straight hair often shown in magazines or TV ads. CurlMix was created to focus specifically on this market and provides hair care products that are specifically designed to help with curly hair.
CurlMix believes that through simple ingredients and simple routines, women can master their curls within 21 days. They even offer a money-back guarantee if women still aren't satisfied with their products.
- Industry: Business Data
- Founders: Michael Elnick, Thomas Elnick
- Founded In: 2016
- Funding: $111.5 Million
- Investors Include: Oberndorf Enterprises, Willoughby Capital
The more information investors have about a business, the better, but often this data is either spread out or difficult to access. Tegus has created a platform that brings together all of this information in one place so that investors can more easily make decisions about where to put their money.
Investors will have access to data from industry experts, customers, and executives in order to make better and faster decisions. These insights are proprietary, and the platform combines research, tech, and innovative tools to gather all the data.
- Industry: Minigolf Tech
- Founders: Adam Breeden
- Founded In: 2017
- Funding: $255.9 Million
- Investors Include: Promethean Investments
Because Chicago is located in the north region of the US, temperatures remain relatively cooler throughout most of the year. This creates an opportunity for otherwise outdoor sports to be available indoors. This is how indoor putt-putt was created, and there are many businesses that provide this game for residents.
Puttshack is transforming the way Chicagoans play mini-golf by providing a high-tech, interactive experience. Their putt-putt courses are complete with digital scoreboards, music, and lighting that change as you play. It creates a more engaging experience for everyone and turns otherwise straightforward venues into an entire atmosphere.
- Industry: Internet of Things
- Founders: Benjamin Forgan, Patrick Wilbur
- Founded In: 2014
- Funding: $82.4 Million
- Investors Include: Capital Midwest Fund, NextView Ventures
Hologram is attempting to become the global Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity platform by allowing users to connect all their devices through their mobile devices alone. With one global SIM card, users can connect to over 470 networks in 200 different countries.
The platform can auto-switch to different carriers depending on service quality, and there are no contracts, quotas, or negotiations involved. You can activate, pause, or change your plan at any time with the Hologram dashboard and APIs.
- Industry: HR Tech
- Founders: Richard Perrott, Ryan Sachtjen, Shaheeb Roshan
- Founded In: 2015
- Funding: $54.3 Million
- Investors Include: Richard Perrott, Ryan Sachtjen, Shaheeb Roshan
The benefits industry for employers is ripe for innovation, and ThreeFlow is leading the charge. They've created a shared benefit placement system for brokers and carriers to improve efficiency and effectiveness for both. Writing policies and plans can become incredibly quick and easy when all communication and documentation are located in one place.
ThreeFlow has built its benefit placement system specifically for the benefits industry, and it supports the entire placement process from renewals to underwriting reviews. All users have real-time, shared visibility to ensure trust and transparency throughout the process.
Feeling inspired? Learn how to launch your company with our guide on how to start a startup.
6. Visual Feeder
- Industry: Brand Advertising
- Founders: Eddie Yang, Yaxi Yang
- Founded In: 2019
- Funding: $1.8 Million
- Investors Include: Sandalphon Capital, Blue Field Capital, Techstars Chicago
Commercial advertising in public places will never be the same thanks to Visual Feeder which is attempting to replace traditional means with a future vision. Instead of displaying creative still shots at bus stations and on street walls, they are implementing completely digital, interactive, and location-based experiences.
This will not only be more engaging for viewers but also provide real-time data to brands about who is viewing their ads, for how long, and what they did afterward. The technology can also cater the message to specific demographics like age, gender, or interests which further increases its effectiveness.
7. Network Perception
- Industry: Cybersecurity
- Founders: David Nicol, Edmond Rogers, Mouna Bamba, Robin Berthier, William Sanders
- Founded In: 2014
- Funding: $16.6 Million
- Investors Include: The Westly Group, Serra Ventures
Businesses are always vulnerable to online cyberattacks, especially large corporations that use complex network infrastructure. Network Perception aims to protect a company's most critical assets by ensuring cyber resiliency with its NP-View software.
The software focuses on network architecture and provides valuable insights into the exposure and risk of those networks. Most cyber security platforms focus on live traffic, but Network Protection looks closely at the network topology to identify any potential vulnerabilities.
See also our list of the hottest cybersecurity startups to follow.
- Industry: Biotechnology
- Founders: Andrew Ferguson, Jeff Aronin, Rama Ranganathan
- Founded In: 2020
- Funding: $63.4 Million
- Investors Include: N/A
The deep world of biotechnology is changing how we look at the body and what's possible. Evozyne is taking the novel proteins that occur naturally in our bodies and performing extensive studies on the potential to solve some of the more complex issues related to human health.
The company is combing the principles of evolution with deep learning technology to produce advanced-functioning proteins. Usually, this process would take nature millions of years to create, but Evozyne is speeding up the process to realize human potential on the most fundamental levels.
- Industry: Digital Trading
- Founders: Nicholas Hammer
- Founded In: 2017
- Funding: $44 Million
- Investors Include: Simplex Ventures, CME Ventures
Trading in the modern world has included many new forms of currency like crypto. BlockFills is a digital trading platform that solves fragmented liquidity problems through aggregation and matching algorithms. They have a complete end-to-end software suite that gives digital traders everything they need to simplify their trade lifecycles.
Users can expect no hidden feed when trading, liquidity provision, prime services and lending, mining solutions, and even asset management. Clients range from miners to corporations as their platform makes it easy for anyone to trade crypto digitally.
- Industry: Meditation
- Founders: Alessandro DiSanto, Alex Jones, Erich Kerekes
- Founded In: 2018
- Funding: $55 Million
- Investors Include: Narya Capital, Peter Thiel
There are many mediation apps on the market but what makes Hallow special is the focus on Catholicism. It's the No. 1 Catholic app in the world and has a number of features that people in the religion can find helpful.
Users will enjoy daily Gospel reading set to specific time limitations, sleep modes that play Bible stories, and meditations set to daily scriptures. There are over 500 sessions in time increments of 5-30 minutes, three guides, and nine different background music options.
Is Chicago good for startups?
Chicago saw a historic venture capital investment raise in 2021 as well as a record number of new unicorn startups in the city. The city has a rich diversity coupled with top universities that help provide a consistent highly-skilled workforce.
How many startups are in Chicago?
Chicago is home to over 3,000 startups in the city. The average seed round is about $1 million, and the average Series A round is about $5 million.
What are popular startup industries in Chicago?
Industries for startups vary in Chicago, but financial tech, ecommerce tech, and tech services are all popular industries right now. Chicago is growing as a startup city so many new companies in the food sector, as well as the analytics sector, are growing.
What are some successful Chicago startups?
Some of the most successful startups in Chicago are Braintree, Grubhub, and Simple Mills. All three companies have achieved unicorn status, meaning they are each worth over $1 billion.
How do I start a startup in Chicago?
To begin a startup in Chicago you will need to analyze the industry landscape and develop your idea, research and refine that idea, create a startup roadmap, build a team and network, and formally establish the startup with the right Chicago institutions.
Recommended: Check out our full list of the top startups to watch!