“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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The ladies learning tech at Chi Tech Academy

A nice feature on the girls of Chicago Tech Academy learning to become programmers and tomorrows tech innovators:

Chicago Tech Academy co-founder and director Matt Hancock wants to make a dent in the stereotype that coding is just for nerdy white guys.

“A lot of young women come to us with a lot of what you’d think of as stereotypical, these are good jobs for women kind of aspirations,” Hancock said. “We spend a number of years trying to not just expose them to the different range of jobs that are out there in technology but get them really passionate about it.”

Check it out on WEBZ.

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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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Earliest of TechNexus collaborators, OK Labs has been acquired by General Dynamics

Steve Subar launched and grew Open Kernel Labs from within Chicago’s TechNexus incubator over the past five years, becoming only the second of what has now been more than 170 young companies to grow in the ecosystem. While growing at TechNexus, Steve led OK Labs to more than 50 employees, through millions of dollars in capital raises, and now to a successful exit to General Dynamics (NYSE: GD), a $32 billion aerospace and defense company.

At TechNexus we take pride in the success of the companies that collaborate in our incubator, but also companies that represent what the Chicago tech scene is all about – hard-nosed innovation and building scalable businesses.

OK Labs recognized the immense potential of mobile virtualization. Before the acquisition, OK Labs had deployed its software on more than 1.6 billion devices. Only a handful of other companies can say that, and OK Labs is the youngest to have reached that milestone.

This sort of innovation and alignment between new ventures and industry leading corporations is exactly the focus of TechNexus — and where much of our time has been directed. We are all proud of OK Labs evolution. Congratulations to Steve and the entire team at OK Labs! We look forward to supporting your transition as well as your future contributions to General Dynamics.

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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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