Archive for May, 2011

Groupon Chicago

May 28th, 2011 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Business, Chicago

Why Groupon is a perfectly Chicago company

It’s hard not to read about Groupon, currently the most mediafied of Chicago companies. It’s got a What’s Hot tab on TechCrunch. It’s national burger weekend deals made Crain’s and other media, and it’s one of several pre-IPO companies cited as examples of a new tech bubble. Groupon brings a lot of tech start-up luster to Chicago.

All that attention–along with discussing innovation at last week’s MIT Enterprise Forum Chicago Whiteboard Challenge and reading Malcom Gladwell’s May 16 New Yorker piece on the story of creativity and innovation at Apple Computer and Xerox PARC–got me thinking about Groupon and its Chicago location.

Chicago is not technology like Silicon Valley or Boston. There is not the mass of high tech here out there. The mass of innovation in Chicago spans a much wider range of industries, as shown by winners of the Chicago Innovation Awards, now in their 10th year.

Chicago is manufacturing (food, healthcare, drugs), finance (economic thought and trading products), and media-entertainment (Oprah and improvisational comedy).

And retailing.

It’s retailing and advertising I think of when I think of Groupon.

Like Chicago retailer innovators Sears, Wards, and Spiegel, Groupon is a retail sales organization. Like old catalogs of those retailers, Groupon relies on a clever copywriting style for its pitches (not without its critics). It also relies on a savvy sales force (akin to buyers) to source and sell local deals. It’s a direct-response sales organization using email rather than postal mail.

Where else would Groupon be? Not the technology garages of Silicon Valley but the old Wards warehouse in Chicago. As Gladwell suggests with innovation, the new Chicago spirit of progress is a new incarnation of the old.

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Whiteboard Challenge

May 27th, 2011 by Collin Canright | No Comments | Filed in Business, Chicago

Ideas for Blood Vessels, Captchas, and Cars Win
2011 MIT Enterprise Forum Chicago Whiteboard Challenge

Winners of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Enterprise Forum Chicago provide additional evidence that innovation is alive and well in Chicago in a wide range of sectors. The three winners spanned medical, internet, and personal services.

The MIT Enterprise Forum Chicago Whiteboard Challenge, now in its sixth year, is an ideas contest, with the winners receiving a share in $5,000 in cash prizes. Ten finalists presented their ideas Thursday May 26. The three winners are:

Blood Vessel “BullsEye” Locator, presented by Colin O’Donovan, won the top prize of $3,000. The idea solves the problem medical professionals have in locating arteries when drawing blood and veins for injecting medicines. The BullsEye device provides a two-dimensional representation of a patient’s arteries and veins, allowing medical professionals to insert a needle tip accurately. Consisting of a disposable patch and a reusable optic sensor, the system uses a “razor/razor blade” revenue model. Income would be generated through sales of the patches. The BullsEye locator is being developed by Vaccess Medical, a group of business, medical, and legal students at Northwestern University.

Fun Captcha, presented by Bryan Arturo, captured the $1,500 second prize. Fun Captcha is designed to make the often frustrating process of entering “captchas” in websites easy and profitable. Websites require humans to enter captchas, distorted text, to prevent spam. The Fun Captcha concept uses questions about images that appear on the screen rather than distorted text. One image could be a product, providing a source of advertising revenue.

I-GO Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing, presented by John Brophy, won the third prize of $500. This idea extends the existing I-GO Car Sharing service, allowing people who own cars to share them with those who don’t. After installing I-GO equipment, the car is registered with the I-GO system and made available for reservations either at home or work, whenever the owner wants. The cost of insurance and gas is included, as they are with I-GO’s own fleet, and profits are split between the vehicle owner and I-GO.

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