For its 14th live pitch event, Technori invited unknown Chicago success story Orlando Saez to the stage. Saez is an entrepreneur probably best known for developing Boingo Wireless, a global Wi-Fi provider that is regarded as a thought leader in the airport industry. After selling Boingo, Saez shifted his focus to promoting economic development for high-tech, high-growth businesses across the state of Illinois.
How did Saez transfer his technical skill set to a government job? How did he rise up to become the general partner of the first ever state-run venture fund? Saez says it is his strong commitment to diversity that helped him foster relationships that promote innovation initiatives within the government. To demonstrate his point he asked the audience of the sold-out pitch even an important question: “When will you be satisfied?”
For Saez the answer to this question was simple: he is a lifelong learner. For him, diversity of thought and creative thinking lead to satisfaction and success.
Saez began to appreciate the power of creative thinking when he took a break from engineering school to attend a clown college. At clown college Saez learned more than simply how to juggle: he became comfortable performing in front of people, a skill that proved essential during his later involvement with sales and marketing.
When Saez entered corporate America he learned he had a big appetite for risk, a trait we constantly associate with entrepreneurship. As he continued to build relationships with the successful people around him his appetite for risk only increased. “The more relationships you build, the more experiences you have, and it increases your appetite for risk because you have a safety net,” said Saez. He says it is this safety net that gives entrepreneurs the resources they need to tackle the competitive startup market.
After sharing how diversity helped him succeed Saez began to describe the niche market he had fallen into: “If you find industries that have gross inefficiencies you can capitalize on this by leveraging technology as a way to optimize,” said Saez. This was how he got involved in government. After he sold Boingo he was invited by Governor Quinn to help support economic activity. He spent two years helping the government relate to the business community. During this time he created an the Illinois Innovation Council to discuss how government can be more relevant and served as the general partner of a venture firm that backed local businesses.
Saez credits his safety net for helping him learn on the fly and succeed in a diverse variety of positions throughout his career. It is because of these experiences that he subscribes to the saying, “You’re not working unless you are networking.” His advice for aspiring entrepreneurs? Try to build your relationships around work; it helps you make a stronger connection.
Now onto the night’s pitches:
Did you know that 73 percent of users who like a brand’s Facebook page never go back? BirdFeud is a fun and effective social discussion tool that helps brands increase engagement on their page. With BirdFeud brands can control the conversation of a debate that happen live on Twitter, helping to increase virality. A premium version of the application includes a white-labeled design interface that aims to bring the conversation closer to the point of sale.
Thanks to Matchist, finding a high-quality freelance developer is no longer an overwhelming, frustrating process. Matchist is a new easy way to find top web developers. A win-win for developers and entrepreneurs, Matchist vets candidates, provides curated matches and secure payments. It also helps entrepreneurs understand the specific technical needs their project requires to succeed. Matchist even has their revenue model figured out: they plan on taking 10 percent off both sides of the market, a similar fee to what their competitors who lack curated matches charge.
Many freelancers work in an unstable, isolating environment. Parsecco aims to solve the problems of being an independent contractor so more people can do what they love with people they trust. Parsecco gives freelancers a place where they can create a “collaboration resume” that highlights the relationships that make freelance projects succeed. Parsecco focuses on linking to your collaborators and highlighting your skills in a specific context. This searchable, visual Rolodex helps freelancers put together successful teams where they can work with the people they trust.
Stock Mfg. Co.:
Stock Mfg. Co. is bringing back old school manufacturing and combining it with an innovative e-commerce system with the hope of making it easier and cheaper to buy goods created in the U.S. The process is simple: after a designer submits a style, the community votes on it. Then, If enough people commit to buying it, Stock will produce the designs in their factory. After professionally photographing the collaboratively crowd-sourced designs, Stock then puts the product on sale for two weeks.
Mirrorgram is a fun and addictive photo-editing app that lets you create and share memories in a new way. The app, which started as a collaboration with electronic music group Glitch Mob, uses symmetry to create visually stimulating images with your iPhone. In the two weeks since their launch Mirrorgram has been downloaded 200,000 times. To see some of the photos local Chicagoans are taking check out http://chicago.mirrorgram.com/