Plenty of people are called industry leaders, tech titans, ground breakers and pioneers. But few have earned the moniker like Chicago tech visionary Howard Tullman. The serial entrepreneur has helmed a variety of successful companies, written numerous influential books, and helped spawn hundreds of other companies through his groundbreaking startup collective 1871, the epicenter of the Chicago tech scene.
In a very special edition of Series A – The Podcast, Tullman shared his rare insights and wisdom in an exclusive, in-depth conversation with technical evangelist Martin Schray from the Microsoft startups team in Chicago and Series A producer/correspondent Josh Kerns as he prepares to retire from his role as CEO.
Tullman offered unique perspectives on what makes Chicago such a vibrant economic center, despite often being overshadowed by other cities like NY and San Francisco. (1:00)
“It’s very rare to find an economy where no single part, sector or industry is more than 12 or 13 percent,” he says.
The result is a thriving economy with opportunities in all industries, from logistics to automotive, education to CPG. And its area universities turn out more computer science and engineering graduates than perhaps Boston, Tullman says.
He offers some provocative but realistic takes on the failings of big enterprises to nurture innovation, creating widespread opportunities for startups – especially in Chicago. (3:10)
“If you look back at the last decade or two, I would say that all of these big corporations starved R&D and now they’re desperate to make it up and they think M&A is going to make it up and that’s not going to happen by itself. It’s going to happen when you have match makers like 1871, when you have people that have developed whole pipelines of opportunities.”
Tullman shares his unique experience in the evolution of Chicago as a tech center, growing from just two percent of the economy when he founded 1871 six years ago (6:00) (named after the year of the great Chicago fire that leveled much of the city, but sparked its renaissance) to 14 percent today.
“In the last five years we’ve added 165,000 jobs that we would call tech-oriented jobs,” he says of Chicago’s growth.
(10:41) Tullman speaks passionately of 1871’s successful efforts to nurture women in tech and Chicago’s place as the leading city for female entrepreneurs, as well as the critical need and value of diversity.
(17:45) Among the other highlights are his perspectives on the challenges and opportunities of new trends, (21:00) his criteria for selecting companies for 1871 or his funds, Why he penned a recent article in Inc. and believes in slowing down some companies and founders moving at the usual breakneck speed of the startup world (30:00), and the use and value of metrics to evaluated performance. (41:00)
It’s a rare and extremely valuable opportunity to hear from such a titan of tech and business for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, leadership and the Chicago tech ecosystem on the latest edition of Series A – The Podcast.