Is Tech For Normal People?

Built In Chicago is a website that highlights the tech sector in Chicago.  The sector is growing quickly here.  But, I sort of dislike the designation, “tech sector”.  For the average individual, it implies that only computer nerds are hacking away at things.  Startup sector is probably a better word.

One of the things someone asked me back in April of 2007 when we started Hyde Park Angels was a question about that.   “Are you going to invest in tech companies?”  I responded, “There isn’t a company alive today that doesn’t have some tech in it.”   Even law firms could use tech today, and so do assembly lines.

That means the startup sector needs more than just computer geeks.  It needs everyone.  Coders and engineers write the code that make the websites and mobile apps work, but there are plenty of other facets to running a .  Someone has to sell it.  Someone has to strategize around it.  Someone has to account for it, and someone has to figure out what to do with the profits.

Built in Chicago wrote this blogpost about how to find a job in the Chicago startup sector.  I love that they did that.  Friends of mine used to call me wondering how they could get their children a job on the trading floor.  Now they call me wondering how they can get their children a job in a startup.

More and more, I see older people trying to figure out how to integrate themselves in Chicago’s startup community.  They know they have skills that were helpful in medium and large businesses.  How do those skills work in the startup world?

The answer is you don’t exactly know for certain.  It’s not really about Startup vs Corporate as much as it’s about the individual.  Some people are really great at starting companies.  They are awesome when the company goes from 0 to 20 people. Then they hate it.  Others like that 20-100 person company.  There are others that love the scaling up from 100 to more.

At each stage of the startup cycle, companies need different kinds of people with different kinds of skills.

This will open some eyes.

A photo posted by Jeff Carter (@pointsnfigures) on

This brings up two points. One, it’s hard evidence that the startup sector in Chicago is growing. Two, if you are a wealthy Midwestern family, you might be better off putting some money in a seed stage fund than donating to a non-profit institution in the short run.

Chicago and the state of Illinois are behind the 8 ball financially. There is no possible way in the world to raise taxes high enough to cover the debt. There is no way to cut budgets to cover it either. Politicians aren’t going to find a solution anytime soon, and it will be decided in the courts anyway.

That leaves one way to try and get out. Grow economically. Only the startup sector has potential to grow quick enough to make a difference. But, in order to do it, it needs money. Money attracts the talent.