Disrupt the Midwest.

November 10 - 11, TechNexus Space - Chicago

Forge is a startup weekend focused on connecting the Midwest’s most innovative students and inspire the country’s next industry leaders. The event is student-run and student-focused, with a startup competition and a focus on disruptive dialogue between Chicago’s entrepreneurs and established firms on how we move forward with breakthroughs in every field.

General

What is Forge?

Forge is a startup conference and competition. On Saturday we'll have a day full of mentoring, workshops, networking, and pitch preparation. On Sunday, we'll be bringing in investors from VCs around the city to evaluate your pitch and allocate prizes!

What's in it for you?

Forge builds strong friendships and sustainable businesses that last even after the event is over. We want to build a community of hustlers and connect the Midwest.

Cash Prizes: Prizes to be announced soon!
Connections: At Forge, you'll meet startups from across the Midwest - you're bound to find someone you connect with.
Mentoring: Saturday is focused on connecting you with people who can help you scale. Mentors and judges come on their own time to the event because they care about startups and aiding entrepreneurs - these can become lifelong friends, advisers, and investors.

Will there be food?

Absolutely! We will have a constant supply of snacks, caffeine, and food – you take care of your startup, we'll take care of you.

Is it overnight?

This isn't a hackathon, and we believe the best ideas come when you're fully awake. The event won't be staffed overnight, but you're welcome to work as much as you'd like out of the venue.

404: Question not found?

Feel free to email us at team@founders.illinois.edu

Logistics

How should I prepare?

All you need is your team and a slide deck ready for pitches on Sunday!

Where can I stay?

We've booked hotel rooms at the La Quinta Inn about a block away from the venue for remote students, and will inform you of room assignments with your RSVP.

How do I get there?

We will be providing transportation for UIUC startups, though if you're a remote attendee and in need of travel reimbursement we may be able to accomodate your request.

When does the event start and end?

Check-in starts at 11:00 AM on Saturday, November 10th. The event ends around 6:30 PM on Sunday, November 11th.

What should I bring?

A laptop, charger, slide deck, and passion should be enough!

Application

Who should apply?

Forge is open to students of all majors and ages. We strongly believe that entrepreneurship isn’t tied to a major – anyone with a passion to solve a problem can build a startup.

When will I hear back?

Applications will be evaluated on a rolling basis. If you haven't heard back before November 1st, send us an email at team@founders.illinois.edu

Do I have to be a student?

The event is focused on student entrepreneurs, but recent grads are welcome to apply and we'll be taking a few!

Day 1: Connect

Introduction
Keynote
Workshops / Talks

Day 2: Pitch

Presentations
Judging
Prizes

View Full Schedule

Speakers




Keynote: Neal Sáles-Griffin

Neal is a Chicago entrepreneur and educator. He co-founded Code Academy, the first coding bootcamp program in the world, and is the CEO of CodeNow, a nonprofit that teaches coding to low-income high school students. He has also worked in venture capital and served on various technology boards to advise the government and academic organizations on effectively implementing technology programs for underserved populations. He is also running for mayor of Chicago in 2019 on a people-first platform.

VC 101: Jackson Jhin

Jackson is a venture capitalist with Chicago Ventures, where he works directly with the firm's portfolio companies and new investments. He is also a board observer at Cameo, a startup creating a marketplace to connect influencers and fans with personalized shoutouts. He was a co-founder at Float Tickets, a ticketing marketplace where users can trade their flexibility for money, and has held several summer positions in the securities and investment banking industries.

Blockchain Panel: Saurabh Sharma

Saurabh is currently a partner at Jump Capital, where he invests in the next wave of blockchain infrastructure and applications. In the past, he was the Head of Personalization and Head of Global Marketing & Special operations at Ideel, a Groupon company. He also served as Vice President at Lightbank, where he advised entrepreneurs to build disruptive companies.

Blockchain Panel: Jimmy Odom

Jimmy is the co-founder and CEO of the Bit Capital Group, a blockchain security company providing end-to-end cryptocurrency mining management services, as well as the Director of Inclusive Entrepreneurship at World Business Chicago. Previously, he served as the Acting Assistant Director for the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, an agency that provides a broad range of programs and services to state agencies and the public. Jimmy founded WeDeliver, a crowd-sourced delivery platform that enables local merchants to fulfill same-day delivers.

Blockchain Panel: Disruption Joe

Joe Hernandez, aka “Disruption Joe,” is the Founder of Chicago Blockchain Project. His vision is a world where individuals create their own value instead of being told what they are worth.

Blockchain Panel: Steve Rubinow

Steve is an accomplished technology expert across multiple industries. He currently serves on the advisory board of many ventures, including Canvas Ventures and Sutter Hill Ventures, and as the Director of the DePaul University Institute for Professional Development. He was previously the CIO of Thomson Reuters and CIO/CTO of the NYSE Group for over a decade. In all roles, he has ignited innovation and transformed the companies he has worked with.

University Entrepreneurship Q&A: Manu Edakara

Manu is the Associate Director of Entrepreneurial Communities at UIUC. He also directs the iVenture Accelerator at the university, where he advises the top startups on campus on how to scale. Previously, Manu has worked at Facebook and built several companies of his own. One of these companies is AdCat, a platform that lets users generate perfectly sized, up-to-date ad images for various social media platforms.

University Entrepreneurship Q&A: E.J. Reedy

E.J. is the senior director of the Polsky Exchange, the Polsky Center’s 34,000 square foot co-working space on 54rd street in Hyde Park. In addition to his role at the Polsky Exchange, E.J. leads the Polsky Center’s fintech initiatives and the Polsky Accelerator program. He is a global thought leader in entrepreneurship, having spent the last decade working for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the largest philanthropy devoted to promoting entrepreneurship. E.J.’s research and commentary has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and a host of other global outlets.

Student Entrepreneurship Q&A: Matt Rastovac

Matt is a senior at UIUC studying Computer Science. He's the Co-President of Founders, the entrepreneurship club - in his time with Founders, he has directed 4 startup competitions and built a community of entrepreneurs on campus. He's deeply passionate about enabling student innovators, and he founded Forge to further pursue the vision of a strong Midwest entrepreneurship scene. He has experience in multiple fields, from machine learning to blockchain to complex systems, and is an obsessive builder and advocate for tools that improve lives.

Student Entrepreneurship Q&A: Anant Akash

Anant is a senior at the University of Michigan, studying Computer Science and Entrepreneurship (as much as anyone can study how to be an entrepreneur). He is part of the Entrepreneurs Leadership Program at Michigan as well as the founder of intern.community, the largest community of interns in the country. He is passionate about helping students and startups out of the Midwest.

Student Entrepreneurship Q&A: Archita Mishra

Archita is a sophomore at the University of Chicago studying Economics, Data Science, Statistics and Creative Writing. She is the Vice President of Business Development at Midway Ventures, UChicago's premier Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital organization, and has spearheaded a multitude of different projects with the young entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Midwest and Silicon Valley, the most recent being the Chicago Venture Capital Competition. She is a strong advocate for Women and Diversity in Entrepreneurship and Venture, and her passion is to use technological innovation to overcome any number of social, cultural and ease-of-living related issues. She has an array of experience working as a Venture Capital Analyst, a Portfolio Liason, and has industry experience in Consumer Healthcare, AgTech, ECommerce and SaaS platforms.

Student Entrepreneurship Q&A: Phil Hedayatnia

Phil currently leads product and design at TrustedFor, a professional social network that aggregates anonymous recommendations of skills and abilities to generate reputation-based credentials. Previously, he co-founded and led SolverIQ, a company building software using psychometrics, critical skill assessment, and culture fit analysis to match people with jobs. Phil serves on the board of ProjectileX, a nonprofit whose entrepreneurship education programs have reached 120,000 students across 220 programs in 15 countries; he worked at Wildfire Education helping high school and college educators improve pedagogy; he led Gary Johnson's digital campaign team in 2016; and, he founded two other companies in the cloud computing and digital publishing spaces. Phil is currently on leave from Rice University in Houston, TX, where he was a Cognitive Science degree candidate, Trustee Harvey Scholar, and Liu Idea Lab Fellow.

Mentors




Jasmine Xu

Jasmine is currently a Product Manager on the Facebook Marketplace team. She's been at Facebook for 2 years, joining through the Rotational Product Manager program. Prior to Marketplace, she worked on Instagram and a project with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

Eric Mills

Eric graduated from UIUC in 2014 with a BS in Computer Science. Eric has been actively involved with entrepreneurship on campus since 2010. He founded the student organization Founders in 2013, worked at TEC for 3 years, and became a student fellow for Chicago Ventures. He worked at multiple high profile startups like Civis Analytics and Rithmio as a software engineer, specializing in infrastructure for data science. In 2017, he was accepted into the YCombinator (W17) startup accelerator for his hardware company LitHit, which built reactive smart targets for shooting ranges. Eric is currently in Chicago consulting for data science and software engineering.

Manu Edakara

Manu is the Associate Director of Entrepreneurial Communities at UIUC. He also directs the iVenture Accelerator at the university, where he advises the top startups on campus on how to scale. Previously, Manu has worked at Facebook and built several companies of his own. One of these companies is AdCat, a platform that lets users generate perfectly sized, up-to-date ad images for various social media platforms.

Tom Zhang

Tom is the co-founder and CEO of Zenblen, a startup developing a convenient smoothie machine that serves healthy and delicious smoothies. He has an extensive history in strategy consultancy for both private equity firms and corporate clients. Tom graduated from UChicago with a Bachelor's in Economics.

Stephanie Mellinger

Stephanie is the co-founder and head of marketing and sales for Zenblen, a startup developing a convenient smoothie machine that serves healthy and delicious smoothies. She's worked in marketing and sales for several Fortune 500 companies. Stephanie received her Bachelor's in Marketing from Ferris State University with a concentration in Spanish and a minor in International Business.

Jackson Jhin

Jackson is a venture capitalist with Chicago Ventures, where he works directly with the firm's portfolio companies and new investments. He is also a board observer at Cameo, a startup creating a marketplace to connect influencers and fans with personalized shoutouts. He was a co-founder at Float Tickets, a ticketing marketplace where users can trade their flexibility for money, and has held several summer positions in the securities and investment banking industries.

Peter Fiflis

Peter is the Director of R&D of Tovala, a startup developing a steam-oven that prepares delicious, ready-to-cook meals. Peter graduated from UIUC in 2016 with a graduate degree in the Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering department. He's conducted research in his field at the university as well as Argonne National Laboratory.

Nihal Shah

Nihal is a Software Engineer in the Facebook Messenger App. He specifically works on an initiative in Messenger Business called Sponsored Messages, and is a Full-Stack engineer.

Hongwei Chen

Hongwei is a software engineer at Facebook. He is currently on the Billing Experience team, which develops tools to support advertisers with their payment systems. He was previously on the Ad Break team, which aims to shape the video ecosystem at Facebook by helping video creators monetize their qualified content with ads. Before Facebook, Hongwei was a sales engineer at Texas Instruments. He graduated with an MS in Computer Engineering at Northwestern University and his undergraduate degree from Shanghai Jiatong University.

Maxime Ollivier

Maxime is a software engineer at Instagram and focuses on iOS performance. Before that, he worked on a dozen products, ranging from a concert ticket app to a smart smoke detector. He majored in Industrial Engineering from Northwestern in 2012.

Natalie Muenster

Natalie just graduated from Stanford University, having studied Computer Science with a focus in AI. She's from Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Packers fan!), and is now living in San Francisco. Natalie joined Facebook two months ago and was just placed with her team, so now she's working on the server for Messenger Surface Ads.

Oscar Mendoza

Oscar spent his childhood in a suburb of Boston, MA until he left for Purdue University where he studied computer science. Currently he is working at tastyworks, an online brokerage located in the west loop. There he serves as the lead Devops engineer, working hand and hand with our CTO Jordan von Kluck focusing on automation, configuration management, monitoring, and IAC (Infrastructure as code). He's working as a middle man between the developers and the infrastructure team to make sure tastyworks's micro-services architecture is operating properly with effortless deployments. Outside of work he is a die hard Cubs fan and travels as much as he can.

Lukas Pranciliauskas

Lukas is a Junior Developer working for Tastyworks. He recently graduated from UIUC with his BS in Computer Engineering. While working at Tastyworks he has made leaps as a developer - he's have worked on the mobile side of things as well as learned about setting up infrastructure. Working at Tastyworks has also helped him establish a solid understanding of options trading and has led him to invest in his free time. Outside of work, he likes watching sports and learning more about new technologies.

Judges




Steven Galanis

Steven is the Founder and CEO of Cameo, a marketplace where fans can book personalized video shoutouts from their favorite people. He also serves on the Board of Directors for Habitat for Humanity Chicago. He was previously a sales solutions account executive at LinkedIn while he managed and produced at his own production studio, and he's held positions in various industries from entertainment to options trading to real estate.

Abhinaya Konduru

Abhinaya is a venture capitalist at M25, an early-stage VC focused on Midwest startups. She started Hustlepreneur, a Youtube series where she showcases up-and-coming entrepreneurs by documenting their day. Abhinaya graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she led the finance student organization and co-founded the Portfolio Management Team. She was also a part of numerous programs to help increase digital literacy in the community by partnering with Google and Blue1647.

Zak Rudzki

Zak leads a US Department of Homeland Security smart city innovation lab on behalf of TechNexus and is a mentor for startups in ApartmentOne. As a mentor for ApartmentOne companies, Zak is focused on helping student founders grow their business off-campus. Previously, he has worked as a strategy associate at NexLP, a Chicago based AI startup and as a cyber wargaming consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton. Outside of tech, Zak is an active investor in Chicago's real estate market.

Prizes

Sponsors










Universities