Chicago Startup Week Recap

OP_Maria S_ChiStartUp Week 2019 blog

All I can say is WOW. 

Monday, November 4th, 2019 was the kickoff of Chicago Startup Week!

I left #ChiStartupWeek feeling grateful to be part of a community that supports new ideas and entrepreneurs. I also feel fortunate to be working for a company that partners with startups and plays a key role in diversifying their teams. Thanks, Objective Paradigm for supporting my interest in attending this event!

I attended Monday and Thursday of the 4-day event, here are some highlights from Day 1’s speaker lineup: 

  • The first speaker was Pete Wilkins from Hyde Park Angels. He talked about how to own and maximize your performance both at work and in life.

Pete certainly has his own set of hardships. His mother passed when he was 10 and his father soon after. Then, fast forward to his time in college, he suffered a severe injury that left him unable to speak full sentences or even walk in a straight line. Despite these challenges, he recovered and today stood on stage confidently, giving powerful advice. 

My biggest takeaway from his discussion: think about your decisions daily. What is your desired outcome? Is your attention appropriate? Are your decisions purposeful? Adjust as needed.

  • Next up was the CEO of PowerReviews, Matt Moog. While he was presenting, I felt like I couldn’t write fast enough! I have a few friends that work for PowerReviews and now better understand why they are so happy; they have an inspiring leader.

Matt gave many words of wisdom, but I particularly enjoyed this analogy: things that you say and do are like food coloring in water–it expands to the group you are in, whether that be the company you founded or the company you work for. Think about that the next time you interact with someone!

Joseph essentially told his “CEO story” and it was certainly an interesting one! Holberg Financial is a financial wellness organization that strives to improve the financial stress of employees.

Joseph overcame a lot of challenges and identified a real issue in today’s society: people don’t know enough about personal finance! He had to build a team that also understood this issue and noted that it is so important to have core values. 

If you are starting a company or are thinking about moving to a new company, make sure that those values are formalized and the team is able to rally around them. Are you aware of your company’s core values? Do you stand behind those?

  • Up next was Josh Inglis, Founder of Propllr, and Drew Mauck, founder of 3Points Communications. This session was focused around building awareness for your startup. While I do not plan on starting a company any time soon, I thought their advice was applicable to anyone. 

Josh and Drew talked about the importance of “start with “hi” not the buy.”

Build a relationship FIRST, then tell what you do, your industry, how you can help, etc. They also touched on how helpful Google Alerts are. I recently set up Google Alerts for companies I am trying to keep up with. It’s been extremely helpful! 

  • The fifth presenter of the day was Candice Savino, CTO of Farmer’s Fridge. She was interviewed by Rob Lotzer, a Regional Sales Manager at Salesforce. Rob asked some very compelling questions that were primarily focused on how startups can achieve sustainable growth. Being in technical recruiting, it was very interesting to hear how Candice’s team is growing and diversifying. 

There was one piece that really resonated: if you are leading a meeting or brainstorm session, try asking everyone to put ideas on post-it notes rather than saying them out loud right away. This will take the “voice” out of the room and allow for better collaboration from the more introverted employees.

She also mentioned the importance of being a “student” in a new environment. Always ask questions and try to absorb as much as you can!

  • The next presenter was Arnav Dalmia, CEO of Cubbii. This was my first time hearing about the product and I need to order one! It’s essentially an elliptical for your “cubicle” (can sit under your desk). Initially, he was trying to market to employees that sit at desks all the time, but an orthopedic surgeon that he met expanded his view, and made Arnav realize that there is major potential to market the product in the healthcare/ physical therapy space. 

I LOVED this: “Listen to your customers and keep your ego in check. Always be willing to take feedback and make changes.” One other small fact: To this day, Arnav still has his PERSONAL cell phone number and email in each Cubbii box. Talk about customer service!

  • Last (but certainly not least) was CEO of LearnCore, Vishal Shah and Co-Founder/CRO of LearnCore, Ryan Leavitt. We learned about their story and roadmap to success. 

When starting your own company, there are ups and downs. When things are going really well, people are always happy. It’s when things are going poorly you are truly tested. Visal and Ryan talked about the importance of building morale and having a team that has the same goals in mind. 

Another part of any company is, of course, competition. They advised that you should understand your competition, but don’t make that a focus. Do your best to learn from your competition and potentially help them along the way (sounds strange, but there can be ways to do that too!)

Chicago Startup Week is something I’m looking forward to next year. This blog post was only focused on the first day of the event – there is so much more to learn! 

Closing out the week I feel energized to BE BETTER. 

Be better to myself — get the sleep I need, eat healthy, and educate myself on subjects that I am passionate about. 

Be better for my organization — the leaders that spoke gave awesome advice that I can bring back to Objective Paradigm and quickly implement in my day-to-day. 

Lastly—- be better for my community. Volunteering is something I want to focus more on and am particularly excited about T4Youth

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you around!

Maria Schmitt, Salesforce Specialist Talution Group

Maria Schmitt, Salesforce Talent Solution Specialist and Account Executive at Objective Paradigm’s Talution Group, is a Marquette Alum and experienced marketing professional. She shares her perspective on talent acquisition from a personal place, her journalistic approach and love of public speaking makes her a blogger to keep an eye on. When she isn’t networking, she’s soaking up what Chicago has to offer, whether it be through volunteering or spending time with family and friends. You can connect with Maria on LinkedIn here

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