Editor’s Top Picks: Five Attention-Grabbing Startups From Techweek Chicago 2013


Last week was my first official Techweek as a guest; the past two I’ve experienced have been as the barrista behind the bar at the Starbucks in the Mart (yeah—I was that green apron handing you your 10 shot Americano, six pumps sweetener with easy milk; two no-foam skinny vanilla lattes; and five medium dark roasts with room. Now I’m on the other side of the bar).

While I had to miss Thursday (earning a paycheck is so overrated…), I was able to make it to Startup City on Friday to watch the competition go down. With so many booths so close together, it was a little awkward trying to maneuver around, but the booths and people I was able to connect with were well worth the struggle through the crowd.

With quite a few innovative startups bustling around the expo, it’s hard not to notice some of these people. At the risk of making you all teary-eyed, I’m inspired by not only the massive turn out for the event, but the huge amount of creativity and dedication being represented here this week.

Now that we’ve all had a week to wind down, let’s take a look at some startups that caught my eye in the SMB and Tech category at TechWeek 2013:

5- WeDeliver

(Editor’s note: These guys are worth mentioning and mentioning again: a startup dedicated to the SMB and consumer while creating jobs? Awesome. Congrats again on your LAUNCH win, guys!)

This year’s winner of the LAUNCH competition, WeDeliver is out with a mission to reconnect the consumer with their community by offering local deliver service options to SMBs.

Founded by Jimmy Odom, this startup is sure to open a lot of doors for local businesses and a lot of eyes in a consumer-base who might not be SMB-shopping-savvy.

With the potential to stimulate the economy for SMBs, WeDeliver will also be creating jobs by hiring couriers on a commission-based model and paying their runners more than the top courier service.

While their app is still in beta, with the $100k in cash and prizes, this startup will surely be available to the public in no time. >> Keep an eye on their blog for more details. <<

4- Express Pigeon

I ran in to these guys while wandering the expo floor—what drew me in initially was the horrifying pigeon mask, but their display demo totally made up for that.

Express Pigeon has set out to make the art of creating a newsletter much simpler. By removing all the hassles of dealing with a traditional word editor, add in the ability to create from a website, and BAM: email marketing made a bit simpler by a team of eight.

Founded by Igor Polevoy, Express Pigeon allows you to send email campaigns directly from their editor while managing both your results and your audience.

Users can choose from five free templates or upload their own code directly in to the editor. Express Pigeon allows unlimited image hosting, spam reports, and integration with Google Analytics among a host of other things listed on their website.

3- BizHive

Dave Walker, co-founder and CEO, and Derick Thompson, co-founder and CTO, presented BizHive’s unique marketing model Friday morning.

BizHive functions off of a “pull marketing” strategy rather than a “push marketing” and Walker spoke heavily on the importance of creating a relationship with your client based on trust.

By asking for accurate market data in return for live help, BizHive is making an example for the rest of the industry: genuine relationships prevail over the typical sleazy salesperson.

Per their manifesto on their site:

“It’s dumb to accept gobbledygook as intelligence – or worse, to figure you’re too dumb to understand it. We believe Small Biz should accept nothing less than the simple, the straight, and the authentic.”

Truly a small business resource, BizHive is a great tool for SMBs to learn how to grow their sales, steady their profits, and set up a good marketing strategy.

2- NextStep.IO

NextStep.IO was part of the top-five finalists at the LAUNCH competition. Not only was their founder’s talk engaging, but the service they’re striving to provide is incredibly multi-faceted.

NextStep.IO takes your existing routine and challenges users to step it up. The service syncs with your calendar and or fitness device (they have access to the APIs for Fitbit and Fuelband, among others) so NextStep can make sense of the data of you.

Quantifying the data of the person allows for extremely-tailored lifestyle challenges. Instead of walking to that coffee joint that’s five minutes away, how about the one that’s ten? Instead of having your one-on-one at your desk, try going on the move by walking around the block together.

Not only is NextStep.IO giving you challenges, they’re also showing users the positive effect these changes have and will have on their life. By quantifying the data of the person, they can help input variances on that data and inspire positive and healthy updates for the person.

1- Matchist

Ever needed a developer but just couldn’t find one to suite your needs? Matchisthas your back.

Founded by Stella Fayman and Tim Jahn, Matchist pairs employers with quality developers for short- or long-term projects.

Based on old-school match-making ideals, Matchist allows the client to submit their project for free while the service matches you with the top three compatible developers who expressed interest. It’s like a dating service without the awkward “let’s meet in person, finally” conversation (but you’ll probably need to talk on the phone eventually).

The best part? All of that dark and convoluted legal stuff is taken care of by Matchist for you and the developer, like managing escrow.

Even better, you won’t have to worry about getting a weirdo developer—unlike a lot of freelancer to client matching sites, Matchist enforces a stringent screening process, ensuring that they only pair you with quality experienced developers.

About The Author

Laura Whitener is the managing editor of Firmology, technology focused news and insight for small business owners and online entrepreneurs. Laura graduated from DePaul’s notable Master of Writing and Publishing program in Chicago. She survives on coffee, apples, and Pandora.

When she isn’t editing or writing, Laura enjoys knitting, adding to her massive book collection, and culinary adventures.

You can find Laura on Twitter and LinkedIn.