An Open Letter to Chicago Tech Companies,

Once upon a time, I worked at a local technology start-up in Chicago and we struggled to find good programmers. Many of the people we met with in late 2009, early 2010, have taken jobs with the Obama campaign.

Obama for America has brought many talented developers to Chicago and gathered those who already lived in Chicago. Who would turn down the opportunity to work with Harper and Scott?

I was so excited when Harper was hired to lead technology for Obama’s campaign. A Chicago tech guy leading the office, hiring Chicago tech people and bringing more tech people to Chicago. “Imagine,” I said to more than one person, “the boost to the Chicago tech scene at the end of the campaign. We finally have the talent we need, this is going to be amazing.”

But it isn’t. At least not for Chicago.

My friends on the staff are being pursued by start-ups, but not by local start-ups. They are being invited to move to San Francisco and New York, but not to stay.

Dear Chicago Tech Scene,

Stop being polite  and start courting. Mid-western values make us say things like, “I’ll let them get the election out of the way first and then I’ll ask this developer to stay.”

The CEOs and CTOs on the coasts aren’t being polite and when the Obama for America office closes, Chicago is going to say goodbye to all that talent.

I’m not in the tech scene anymore, but I’d love to see more friends stay. I’ve said goodbye to Pek Pongpeat as he moved west. Brad Flora keeps taking his team out west for months at a time.

I think we have an opportunity to keep these developers in Chicago and I hope we see some of them stay. I hope I’m wrong. I hope you have been courting the Obama staff to stay in Chicago and I hope we capitalize on this moment.


Leah “sticking my nose in your business” Jones

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One Response to An Open Letter to Chicago Tech Companies,

  1. Are there practical things you might suggest to make the Chicago developer corps more sticky? I think that some other elements are equally to blame – but the least of them is Bay Area magnetism. Illinois VC could step up, as could the incubators.

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