Chicago may be a burgeoning hotspot for technology companies, but it's not trying to follow in the footsteps of other startup scenes. "We don't want to be the next Silicon Valley," said J.B. Pritzker, founder of the investment firm Pritzker Group, at the inaugural Inc. and CNBC iCONIC conference in the Windy City on Tuesday. "We aspire to be a great tech hub with great entrepreneurs."

Pritzker, along with 1871 CEO Howard Tullman and World Business Chicago CEO Jeff Malehorn, took the stage at the Chicago Theater to discuss the positives and negatives of the city's startup climate, ChicagoInno reports. 

There are plenty of things that Chicago gets right. Pritzker highlighted the changing attitudes of Chicago business owners, for one thing: Although traditionally risk-averse, they are learning to accept failure, he said. He added that the same is true of venture capitalists, who are now more willing to pour money into early-stage ventures.

In other key ways, though, Chicago startups have remained conservative, Pritzker said. They're focused on becoming profitable and bringing in revenue, which he said sets Chicago apart from Silicon Valley.

That mindset isn't the only thing that sets Chicago business owners apart from those in other tech communities. Tullman emphasized that Chicagoans want to effect change. "Entrepreneurs want to not just make a living, but make a life," he said. What's more, they're notably civic-minded, according to Malehorn. 

All three panelists recognized, however, that Chicago still has room to improve as a tech center. For starters, it needs to do better at keeping its human capital. Malehorn noted that engineering graduates from the University of Illinois often leave to work for companies on the East and West coasts, despite the fact that the school churns out more engineers each year than many other top programs combined. 

You can read more about the panel conversation over at ChicagoInno. 

Published on: May 20, 2015