Venture Engine®️’s Executive Founder Series

GET (Gender Equality in Tech) Cities and their Tech Equity Working Group (TEWG) awarded The Illinois Science & Technology Coalition a grant to launch their Executive Founder Series, which is focused on improving gender diversity in seed and series stage founders by facilitating corporate connections between startup founders with investors, clients, and corporate sponsors.

The 2023 Executive Founder Series kicked off mid-March 2023 and has been developing meaningful connections between startup founders in Chicago and corporate executives. The program, hosted by ISTC and initially incubated and seeded by GET Cities, hosts six startup founders participating in a series of networking opportunities that offer introductions to seasoned subject matter experts across Chicago’s innovation ecosystem, including civic/nonprofit, corporate, and venture capital leaders.

“One of the key ways we work to increase equity in tech is by finding the points of leverage in the system where a small change can make a big impact. ISTC’s Executive Founder Series is designed to help founders engage with investors who can move them from seed funding to Series A. Once they reach that point, the odds of success nearly double, making this a catalyzing inflection point if we want to increase the number of successful marginalized founders and the amount of capital they receive” 

Elle Ramel

Director, GET Cities Chicago

“Our start-up ecosystem drives the Illinois innovation economy. ISTC is dedicated to creating more opportunities for entrepreneurs that promote sustainable growth, including job creation, the attraction and retention of talent, driving more innovative startups state-wide, and improving equity for historically underrepresented groups. The Executive Founder Series focuses on developing systems of support for startup advancement and creating opportunities for founders to not only showcase their products but connect with innovation leaders and investors.”

Colleen D. Egan

President/CEO, ISTC

Executive Founder Cohort 2023

Tech Equity Working Group’s Scaling Pilots

Five of TEWG’s pilots are now being scaled with some of our partners to expand the impact and ethos of the Tech Equity Working Group. Topics range from diversifying deal flow, disrupting non-dilutive funding, tech-enabling small businesses, connecting startups to corporates, and supporting diverse entrepreneurs to raise in new geographic markets.

TEWG remains committed to rigorously evaluating the outcomes of these initiatives to create a more equitable tech industry where every entrepreneur has access to the support and resources they need to succeed.

About Venture Engine

Venture Engine connects Illinois’ most promising startups to the state’s most innovative corporations. Through its network of entrepreneurial support organizations (ESO’s), Venture Engine actively scouts and screens Illinois-based ventures that are corporate partnership-ready, and creates connections that lead to mutually beneficial collaboration. Venture Engine builds on nearly a decade of ISTC corporate-startup connectivity experience through its nationally award–winning Illinois Corporate-Startup Challenge.


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