Lightfoot flew to San Francisco for her first post-pandemic trip on Tuesday afternoon and is scheduled to return tomorrow. Among her delegation are leaders from Ocient, Rheaply, Bonfire and M1 Finance, as well as Uber Freight head Lior Ron, former SAP Fieldglass CEO Jai Shekhawat, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Samir Mayekar and Chicago Chief Marketing Officer Michael Fassnacht, who’s also the president of World Business Chicago, the city’s non-profit public-private economic development arm.
Lightfoot’s first meeting was with Breed, followed by breakfast with Chicago tech leaders and Chicago alumni, then meetings with Uber Freight and Salesforce. She is hosting a reception for VC leaders this evening, which follows a roundtable earlier today.
Top on her talking points list: the recent momentum of Chicago’s startup and venture capital ecosystem.
Despite the pandemic, 2020 was a record year for the city’s VC funding scene, according to a joint brief from the city and World Business Chicago. Nine Chicago companies have reached a billion-dollar valuations this year, bringing the citywide total up to 16. VC funding in the first six months this year—$3.7 billion—has already overtaken 2020’s record total of $2.8 billion. That, after Chicago started off 2021 with its best quarter in 15 years
Among the city’s other big selling points are a diverse local economy and home-grown employees: Chicago metro area universities produce the fourth-biggest number of engineering graduates in the country, and Illinois is the third-largest producer of computer science degrees in the U.S.