Techstars’ DEMO DAY in Chicago.


“More than half of the companies are Chicago-based, which doubles the amount of local representation we had last year and is a testament to the power Techstars has to further establish a city like Chicago as a destination for tech startups. Of the 10 companies, six hail from Chicago, with international startups representing Israel and India. Two other U.S. startups, based in Miami and Nashville, round out the list […] we hit the ground running on May 27th and it will be a three month sprint to Demo Day from there!”

10 New Companies for Techstars Summer 2014 Chicago Session” by Troy Henikoff.


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Yesterday I made it to Techstars’ DEMO DAY, which featured presentations by 10 startups and was held at the iconic House of Blues in downtown Chicago. Today’s Crain’s John Pletz blog starts by discussing NexLP’s “wow effect” since CEO Jay Leib announced closing $2M in funding at the end of his presentation and in an event geared toward the angel and venture capital community.

I met Jay last month at 1871 during a mentoring session and was impressed by: his vision linking “big text” to “big data,” his consulting background, the team’s experience skill set, a robust foundation and tangible progress already made. NexLP is about “next generation analytics and visualization technology that dramatically reduce enterprise costs related to eDiscovery, froud investigations and compliance.”  That vertical presents an immediate and quite substantial business opportunity definitely worth first addressing. NexLP’s technology could eventually power solutions in other areas such as customer experience and relationship management in communication technology markets.

All 10 startups did an excellent job and got high marks. This was an impressive event and there is a need for congratulating everyone involved. Given my work’s focus on communication networks, I was mostly interested in learning about Telnyx and Gamewisp, in addition to NexLP.

David Casem, Telnyx CEO, defines his company’s business as “enabling universal voice communications via the web, regardless of application and device type,” which he positioned as a disruptive CSP (Communications Service Provider) competing head to head with conventional telcos (network operators) and well known VoIP (Voice over IP) enterprises. I also met David and his team last month before my going to Software Telco Congress. Kelly Littlepage, Telnyx CTO, discussed cost efficiencies delivered by “switches that are virtualized, cloud based, distributed and not dependent on legacy architectures,” coupled with highly efficient routing algorithms, which his proven experience on high frequency trading technologies equips him to lead with. Telnyx is already generating revenues and my recollection is that David highlighted opportunities in the call center sector.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about Gamewisp before Demo Day. CEO Michael Anderson discussed quite eloquently on stage how his company “gives gaming celebrities the tools to interact with their devoted fans and monetize their content.” Content focuses on game pros with large followings. Gamewisp’s experiences involve gaming video broadcasts, live events and communications. This is a marketplace for video content based on end user subscriptions rather than ad-revenue.

IIT’s Real Time Communications is now a month away, the event’s agenda is pretty much all set, but I think that it would be great to feature NexLP, Telnyx and Gamewisp if they were available to present.


Chicago’s Demo Day showcased two keynote speakers, Tom Ricketts, Founder of Incapital and Owner of the Chicago Cubs, delivered the opening keynote; then Desire Vargas Wrigley, CEO of Giveforward, spoke after the intermission. Both talked about lessons learned by doing. Tom outlined the following:

  • the need for a compelling vision driven by customer emphasis and empathy
  • courage and conviction as well as honest communication
  • working with the right team, exercising leadership by actively contributing to the community

Desire conveyed complementary insights and personal experiences around:

  • leadership as constantly evolving and as a continuous improvement process
  • learning how to best listen and calibrate the needs of the team and the business
  • maintaining the emotional health of the team and how to be vulnerable and open to feedback in that context
  • building strong working and productive relationships with investors and board members

Once again, congrats to everyone involved in yesterday’s Demo Day.

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