Category: Misc

Comptia shines some light on ChiTech Academy

A great summary of last week’s Chicago Tech Academy student lottery by the folks at Comptia, who as an organization has been the single greatest supporter of this new school startup. It simply would not have been possible to create this school and see the successful outcomes without Comptia’s vision, curriculum assistance, and financial support.

“I’m learning things I didn’t even know were possible,” he said. “I have good friends, I’m in a good place to be, and I’m surrounded by staff that actually cares,” says freshman Austin Lambert, who spoke with ChiTech supporters last week before the class of 2016 was chosen.

Creating confidence, passion and the ability to effectively communicate is a key part of the school’s mission.

Terry Howerton, chairman of the school’s board of directors, counseled those who didn’t make the list to hold onto their places on the waiting list, and those who did to make sure they were committed to the extra work ChiTech requires.

“This school is hard,” he said. “This school takes more hours of your day, and more of your commitment… But make a commitment to us, and we’ll make this commitment back to you: We will work our darndest for the next four years to make sure that you meet people you would never have had a chance to meet otherwise, learn skills that you would never otherwise been able to be exposed to, and have a successful future set out before you because of your participation in this program.”

If you’re interested in helping support this dynamic learning experience for Chicago students who much need your involvement, visit the school webpage or contact me and I will hook you up.

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Advice for entrepreneurs…

I admit, sometimes it’s a hell of a lot easier to give advice than to follow it myself, but, FWIW:

Respect risk but don’t fear it. Recruit exceptional people. Fail fast, and recognize new opportunities in the wake. Build lean and scalable. Listen to people who make you and your idea better; ignore the people who don’t. Create something of value people want to buy.

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We’re about to find the Class of 2016 at Chicago Tech Academy

Three years ago we created the Chicago Tech Academy as a charter high school for urban kids, to foster technology and entrepreneurial aptitude in kids that much needed the outreach.

It’s been incredibly rewarding to see the progress that this school has made… in part because of more than 100 local tech entrepreneurs and executives that have gotten involved as mentors and supporters, hosting field trips and sponsoring internships.

I hope you’ll join us next Thursday, February 23, at 5:30pm at the Westin to witness the student lottery for our next freshman class… more than 2,000 KIDS HAVE APPLIED!  The word has spread about the success of this school.

It’s a dramatic and bitter sweet night, as hundreds of families wait to hear their name called for one of only 150 spots in the Class of 2016. And while there’s some sadness for the kids we turn away, the night is fun and exciting, and I’m sure you’ll be inspired.

If you’ve heard about our efforts with this new school, next Thursday is a great way for you to learn more.  If you haven’t yet heard about our special project, take a few minutes and watch the video at … We made this video following last year’s student lottery.

Please RSVP for next Thursday, or drop me an email if you would like to discuss getting your or your company involved with Chicago Tech Academy.


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How I’m spending some of my time lately…

How I’m spending
some of my time lately…

I’m an entrepreneur at the intersection of technology, community development and social impact. I’ve spent my entire career building companies, communities and projects that help other people. I’ve enjoyed great success, spectacular failure and the real sense of progress and growth from both experiences.

I’m the founding chairman of a technology association in Chicago, a booster of inner-city education reform, and a partner at a venture collaborative incubating new ideas. I’m an advocate for the tech industry and some companies, occassionally in Washington DC and online.

I operate or advise several startups, businesses and growing organizations, including the following that are important to me at the moment:

Chicago Tech Academy

I helped create and now chair the board of a new, open-enrollment high school for Chicago students. This is an exciting experiment to build a new learning experience for kids based on apprenticeship and mentorship. The Chicago Tech Academy curriculum is based on tech skills and entrepreneurship, and we’re already outperforming most public schools on many important success metrics.

The student body (600 kids when full) come from across Chicago from mostly low-income, minority families. Hundreds of tech industry leaders volunteer as mentors, and partner with a carefully selected group of inspiring teachers.

FastRoot Agility

FastRoot Agility is a team of engineers and a Chicago colocation data center that design, implement and manage complex hosting environments.

managed hosting

Illinois Technology Association

I’m the founding chairman of the Illinois Technology Association. Created in 2006, the ITA champions the interests of nearly 700 tech companies based in Chicago and the region, building a more connected, collaborative economy for entrepreneurs, investors and executives.

Some other orgs and businesses that have my attention at the moment…

I’m on the board and provide the training facilities for Genesys Works Chicago, a non-profit that identifies hundreds of public school students after their junior year, spends the summer preparing them, and then places them in paid internships at companies like JPMorgan Chase and Accenture throughout their senior year of high school.



Builds patient education media platforms that educate and inform patients as they make decisions about their clinical treatment. A broadcast network in 600+ patient waiting rooms.


I cofounded TechNexus, a venture collaborative and clubhouse for the tech community in downtown Chicago. Today, more than 2,500 people a month flow through TechNexus for meetings, coworking, training sessions and to collaborate with a great network of entrepreneurs and execs that hang out here.

TechNexus has also been home to more than 100 new and growing companies that have incubated here; those companies have raised more than $50m in capital and created hundreds of new jobs in Chicago.

The concept for Phase III expansion of TechNexus into a 300,000 sq ft new construction facility in downtown Chicago:


Zealous Capital LLC

A partnership for investments and paid consulting focused on emerging growth software and technology companies.

FastRoot Software Labs

A private software lab with offices in Chicago and eastern Europe, our team of close to 30 software developers have worked together for more than a decade, building new products for entrepreneurs and corporate clients throughout the world. The team specializes in a rapid development .NET framework that’s been the basis for dozens of on-demand web applications and products.

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Our message to the teachers of ChiTech Academy…

They’re one week into the third year for Chicago Tech Academy, the new public high school we created to teach and inspire the next generation of Chicago’s techies and entrepreneurs. One of many unique facets of ChiTech is the extensive involvement of Chicago’s tech community… as mentors, donors, and boosters; as hosts for interns and field trips; and as role models and connections for young people reaching out for great careers and bright futures.

I spent time today in the classrooms, and to meet and work with many of the new teachers (a dozen were hired this year out of more than 1,200 applicants).  It’s fun to see so many new faces from the freshmen class, and to see how far the familiar students have come since I first met them.

When the idea for this school was first presented, I didn’t want much to do with it. The original plan was a sort of vo-tech school that aspired (at best!) to get kids certified with basic technology skills and ready to enter the workforce. I argued for higher expectations, and a program that developed aptitude and inspiration and connected the kids with a network of people that could shape their futures. Our objective should be at minimum students ready to get jobs after high school, but our aim should be to inspire many to reach higher.

There will soon be 600 students enrolled at Chicago Tech Academy. They are a diverse group drawn from across the city. Some kids commute more than three hours a day to and from school. Many of the students are ready now to go to college, and some are already working on business ideas. Others have entered the school far behind their classmates; nearly one in five require some sort of special education. Most of the students come from disadvantaged homes and neighborhoods. But there is an overwhelming sense of pride in the hallways – these kids sense they’re part of something different, and recognize their unique opportunities.

Chicago’s tech community should be proud of the progress of this school, and the hundreds of community leaders that have volunteered their support. We have a very long way to go, and enormously high expectations for what can be achieved. But it’s clear to me today that we’re on the right track.

This morning in the “Entrepreneurs in the Making” class, I watched sophomores brainstorm a list of common traits for founders and entrepreneurs.  They filled a white board with ideas, but the first three on the list were Creativity,Courage and Confidence.

Later, I spent the afternoon with the entire teaching team (now 43 members strong). I spoke about ChiTech as a start-up, what it will take for us to succeed and the collaborative spirit in which we’re building the school. My message to teachers drew from those three entrepreneurial traits the students had identified in class:

  • Creativity – we encourage the creative approach of this school and its teachers; as a charter school, they can experiment in ways most public schools cannot, and we reward teachers that bring new ideas to relevant curriculum, differentiated instruction and positive behavioral support. We’re asking teachers to involve industry projects into their classrooms, and nurture skills specific to techies and entrepreneurial thinkers.
  • Courage – we celebrate the bold teachers and the audacity of this school to set very high expectations for students, many of whom are experiencing high expectations for the first time in their lives; there are plenty of less courageous options: we could have only chosen gifted students, or kids that had been favored by good education; we could have embraced a routine curriculum, or placed less emphasis on the personal development of each student.
  • Confidence – we embrace the mission of this school, to extend opportunity to students, families and neighborhoods that aren’t well connected to our tech community; we want teachers who are confident because they’re part of a team of real pros, and backed by community of industry leaders that want to be involved and help.

It’s been my privilege to represent Chicago’s tech community and provide some leadership and support in launching this school. There’s plenty of need and room for more help… I encourage you to become a donor or signup as a mentor (email the mentor coordinator Amanda). Or, if you want to talk about the school and even bigger ways to get involved, feel free to contact me directly… I’d love to chat.


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Chicago tech companies and the game industry

On the set of Good Day Chicago this morning talking about the game industry, and showing some love for two of Chicago’s favorites Games and Tribeca Flashpoint Academy.

The universe of gamers has exploded in the past couple of years from a market of 60 million people largely playing console games, to more than 300 million people playing mobile and social games. A console game like Madden NFL, which has sold more than $3b and is one of the tentpole games that props up the entire industry is evolving to include more social and real-time interactivity to keep pace, but it’s clear that waiting on a console game release will soon be a thing of the past. is a start-up that helps advertisers and brands integrate within this new gaming world, and target broader demographics that previously possible. Tribeca Flashpoint Academy is one of the cutting edge schools where students are learning hands on how to design and deliver the future of the gaming industry.

Madden NFL Boosts Video Game Industry: Terry Howerton :

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Back to school for ChiTech

We created the Chicago Tech Academy three years ago as an urban charter school to inspire and connect kids with futures as techies and entreprenerus. It’s been an incredible experience helping to build this new school, and seeing real outcomes from efforts with the students.

As ChiTech prepares to welcome the third freshman class, I’m thrilled with the teachers and team that’s been assembled. More than 1,200 applied for only 12 new teaching positions; we recruited educators from across the country — former Intel engineers & people from Chicago’s tech community, and the most motivated teachers we could find.

This is a big year for the school, as we begin to see measurable outcomes from the strong industry involvement and mentorship, differentiated instruction and emphasis on hands-on, practical skills that keep the students attention. If you haven’t signed up to show support — either as a mentor or donor, please consider doing so now.


“Waiting no more” to inspire Chicago’s future tech leaders from Chicago Tech on Vimeo.

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