Category: Misc

“Get them to go to ChiTech”…

16 year old student Shaquiesha Davis from Chicago Tech Academy just presented to the President at the White House Science Fair moments ago! When “Science Guy” Bill Nye and “USS Enterprise Engineer” Lavar Burton asked her “How can we get more girls interested in coding?” she said “Get them to go to ChiTech!”

Really proud of students like Davis who are taking full advantage of the tech and entrepreneurial mentoring delivered by Chicago Tech Academy. And the fact is, well over half of the students studying there are girls, and they’re some of the most promising future innovators that walk those walls.

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Chicago Tech Academy and our fifth student lottery

Almost five years ago we hosted the first student lottery for Chicago Tech Academy in our conference rooms at TechNexus, with about 150 parents, grandparents and prospective students huddled into the room. It was such a remarkable experience for me. That night I saw first hand the unbridled enthusiasm, the hopes, dreams and high expectations for a bunch of kids that just needed a chance to break their way.

In a few months, we’ll celebrate as those first students walk across the graduation stage. Someday soon, I will have much more to write and share about these kids and their four year journey (each emerging as some of the most important “startups” that I have ever had the honor to serve).

But tonight, we host the fifth student lottery…. nearly 1,500 kids have applied for one of 150 positions in next year’s freshman class! It’s completely open enrollment, and luck of the draw. I’ve written before about how bitter sweet these student lotteries are… you see such excitement from kids and family members, and so many others just sitting, hoping to hear their name called. But after tonight, ChiTech will have its fifth freshman class, and another group of inner city kids will be on their way… with two hours a day, and four years worth of technology skills, matched up with mentors, and fostered to think like entrepreneurs.

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Someday soon, all families may once again associate Scouting with good character

There was a time when I expected my entire life would be spent in the service of Scouting, and give back to a movement that had done more to shape and mold the man I became than anything I learned in school, from my parents, or from any other influence.

The Scouting of my youth was a welcoming place for all kids to learn and grow. But twenty years ago, Scouting in America chose to become a culture warrior, and has increasingly marginalized itself and eroded its brand.

I left Scouting because I couldn’t change the institutional prejudice that I had witnessed, and in fact I didn’t believe anything but the passage of a lot of time would alter the destructive course the Boy Scouts of America had chosen.

That time seems to have finally come.

The Business Of Scouting And A Crisis Of Our Own Making

FORBES: – For twenty years following the Supreme Court case, the only obvious answer for Scouting has been to allow local chartering partners and parents to make these morality decisions. Now only time will tell if the business of Boy Scouting will rebound from a two decade old bad business decision.


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How to build the most connected city in the world

My thoughts on Chicago’s Broadband Challenge, shared with Forbes:

Chicago just put out the call for private companies to bring new ideas, to collaborate in building the most well connected city in the world. The goal is significant expansion of already robust fiber optic networks to more corners of the city, and additional services for some under served communities.

Done correctly, Chicago could leverage city assets and encourage private fiber networks to spread to all businesses and more neighborhoods. The city grants right away access to streets, sewer systems, alleys and light poles… city owned assets like bus stops, solar powered trash cans and train lines could all be in play. These assets could be leveraged by private companies to more cheaply build out wired and wireless networks, and by offering them up, Chicago gets an important voice in planning how the super high speed networks blanket the city.

Public policy played a critical role in planning the right roads, rail lines and ports that positioned Chicago as a global transportation and logistics hub 50 years ago. It’s no less important to assist in building capacity, speed and diversity in data networks today, and doing so will shape the Chicago economy for decades to come.

And last night on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight:

Chicago Tonight discusses the Emanuel's Broadband Challenge with city CTO John Tolva, Crains columnist John Pletz and Terry Howerton on September 27


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FastCompany: Questions to consider before joining an incubator

In Chicago, and many other pockets around the country, startup activity is booming. Incubators, accelerators, and all sorts of community-driven activities have cropped up to support young companies. It’s easy to feed from the energy, and entrepreneurs have more access to collaboration today than ever before: accessible partnerships, big companies willing to adopt earlier, and mentors looking for mentees.

Five questions to consider before joining an incubator, as shared with FastCompany.

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A robust Chicago tech community…

It’s about more than startups, and beyond any one company. The robust growth of Chicago’s tech community has been a decade in the making and is mostly made up of companies that will rarely be written about or recognized by consumers, but have transformative effects on entire industries. The story of Groupon is still being written, and they may emerge as a real pillar of the region’s economic future. But for now, Alexis Madrigal and The Atlantic tell the broader story of Chicago’s real tech community, and shed a little light on our efforts at TechNexus to bring more corporations into the fold.

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Life changing summers at Camp Barnabas

It was a real joy to help drop off my cousin for his 10th summer at Camp Barnabas today, and what an amazing place it is… full of hundreds of kids with special needs and chronic illnesses, just having completely normal summer camp experiences. It’s really impossible to not be moved by the excitement bursting from these kids as they arrive, and head out for a week of horseback riding, canoeing and zip lines adapted to meet their special needs.

Each of 300 weekly campers are matched with a young camp staffer who no doubt enjoys as much a life-changing experience as the camper.

Camp Barnabas exists to provide life-changing opportunities to people with special needs. They leave Camp Barnabas knowing they are uniquely created to live lives of ability.

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Appreciating the teachers of Chicago Tech Academy

Grab a copy of this week’s Forbes magazine for JJ Colao’s great story about Chicago Tech Academy. It’s fitting recognition for the school during a week the nation celebrates teachers:

“We’re essentially trying to create 21st-century learners by integrating technology and entrepreneurship into all of the classes,” explains Pat Riley, 26, who teaches audio and visual editing at the school.

Much of the credit, Hancock emphasizes, goes to the “amazing professionals” on staff. Chicago Tech prefers to recruit teachers with diverse backgrounds. Pat Riley spent three years doing p.r. and business development for a Chicago law firm. Dan Wheadon, who teaches information technology, left his job as a software engineer at Intel. Teacher bonuses, unheard of in Chicago public schools, encourage integrating field trips and guest speakers into students’ lessons.

In the third year, Chicago Tech Academy is in  the 96th percentile of ALL public schools in Chicago in meeting or exceeding the pace at which kids learn the basics of their education. That is directly a result of incredible teachers and their innovative approach to instruction.

At a school where students cross several gang territories in their daily commute, Chicago Tech teens sit down with the likes of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, pollster John Zogby and Hospira CIO Daphne Jones. “We meet some pretty important people all the time,” says Chris Hayes, 17, who spoke ahead of Ballmer at an event in 2010. “It’s not even a big deal anymore.”

Check out the full story on Forbes.

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I’m 40, so my wide-eyed optimism has crow’s feet at its edges

Debuting my new Forbes column today; from my first contribution:

Am I getting too old for this entrepreneur’s game, maybe too cynical? Has my risk tolerance receded with my hairline? Have I become a midlife cliché after 25 years of being the youngest, most impassioned guy in the room?

Screw all that. Everything is prelude. I’ve built some good organizations, but there’s still a really great company (or two or three) in me. I’ve known THAT with absolute certainty since I first put on that oversized suit and set out in search of customers 25 years ago.

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