Chicago minted no fewer than 8 unicorn startups already in 2021, and the year is only half over, easily doubling last year’s count. Why is the Windy City suddenly a center of Midwest tech funding? The reasons are numerous why the Midwest, and Chicago in particular, is experiencing long overdue growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, but the basics boil down to this:
We’ve seen it repeatedly in recent months: companies are racing to adopt or update e-commerce platforms to keep up with the COVID-19 pandemic pushing buying online. Everything from groceries to steel buying to marketing and networking is now online, and that means demand for online user interfaces, conferencing, e-commerce platforms, and online marketing are at an all-time high. One startup we recently spoke with, Eoxs E-Commerce, was busy disrupting the steel buying industry with online buying platforms, but has since pivoted and expanded their offerings in response to this trend.
Behind The Scenes Look at Massive Consolidation in the Auto Industry’s Suppliers with 123Go’s Dominic Rea
123Go enterprise software development startup co-founder Dominic Rea has years of experience working to design software for the auto industry, which gives him an edge to understand software design in a logistically complex industry. Rea works with Detroit’s Automation Alley, various Tier 1 automotive suppliers, and companies in the HVAC industry on applications such as time tracking, trying to bring a collaborative “low-code” process to custom software development, and more. According to Rea, the auto industry is currently undergoing a massive consolidation in terms of suppliers, which affects how automotive software designers, mobility startups, and Tier 1 suppliers plug in to a diverse industry of many technologies. We were curious to learn more both about how 123Go designs its efficient software development process for business professionals who aren’t in IT, and if Rea could tell us more about what’s going on behind the scenes for the sake of Cronicle readers who are working to hook into the mobility tech scene.
Ann Arbor-based startup Nahsai creates extreme environment materials and sensors for aerospace, defense, and industrial applications. As such they are at the forefront of seeing the defense industry, among others, adopt lean startup strategies for invention, project management, and manufacturing. In the case of aerospace, the market for private companies going to space (e.g. SpaceX) is so new that companies have to invent and produce parts in-house for their rockets in many cases. But whether it’s a private or public contract, when companies like Nahsai are brought on board to contract out parts, the industry is recognizing that the product development cycle is shortening dramatically and large contracts can’t deliver on time and still be relevant. Enter lean startup strategies.
Torrance Learning is an online training software company based in Chelsea, Michigan, just west of emerging tech hub Ann Arbor. Torrance has won awards from the eLearning Guild Demofest and the Brandon Hall Awards for its methods of developing new forms of instructional design, primarily for corporate training. The small consultancy has thrived thanks to the innovative thinking of founder Megan Torrance, who has adapted agile programming methods for application in instructional design and corporate training.
There was one moment that convinced us Ann Arbor was going to make it through the birth canal as a growing tech hub, and that was when Ford decided to locate a new agile software consultancy, FordLabs, in Ann Arbor, to recruit University of Michigan software development talent to help make the 100-year-old automaker more agile and lean. Where Ann Arbor’s arts and tech culture meet the automotive giants of Detroit, FordLabs sits at the crossroads, not just of shifting best practices but of time. John Handy, Office Director of FordLabs who welcomed us in with several other key players in the organization for a tour, told us this is really nothing new. People forget, ourselves included, that lean startup culture was in part born here in Detroit, in lean manufacturing.
Tom Meloche, a long-time agile programming advocate recalls: “We taught the first class with ‘agile’ in the title in the tri-state area, maybe in the country,” he says. “We tested the word agile in advertising instead of extreme programming, and it worked better. Now the word is overused, but that’s what people are searching on.”