Startup people having a meeting in a glass room

It may be bitterly cold in Chicago, but the city’s tech scene is heating up. According to Built in Chicago’s 2014 Annual Report, local tech companies raised a cool $1.6 billion in investment and exits climbed to a record high of $7 billion. Although not traditionally considered a hotbed for technology startups, Chicago is quickly evolving into one of the nation’s newest tech hubs. The resources for first-time and veteran entrepreneurs alike are growing, and the power of collaboration is fuelling like-minded people to succeed more than ever before.

Built in Chicago keeps watch over the burgeoning Chicago tech scene and it just released its list of the top 50 Chicago startups to watch this year. The diversity of the list represents the diversity of the city itself – from wearable devices to an on-demand dry cleaning service to a social media intelligence platform, the companies were created to fill a gap in the market or improve current solutions. They incorporate B2B and B2C solutions in just about any industry you can imagine.

As both a tech PR professional and a consumer, I am interested and see the value in so many of these companies. Take GeoFeedia, for example, which is a location-based social media monitoring platform. One application of this tool is public safety; if someone is mugged, police can use GeoFeedia to track all social media posts and use that information to help identify and track down the criminal. Not only can it help authorities after a crime has been committed, its real-time information can be turned into actionable intelligence that could help prevent some of these events from occurring.

Wearable devices have been all the rage for some time now, and despite recent collaborations with designers, manufacturers may be missing the fashion mark. Enter Mira Fitness, whose aim is to offer the same health and wellness benefits as traditional wearables, but in a fashion-forward way. The woman-centric fitness band looks like a piece of jewelry, enables you to track activity and provides positive reinforcement for healthy decisions.

Finally, Bolstr is changing the way small businesses meet investors. Investors can peruse Bolstr’s marketplace of vetted, revenue-generating small businesses and select the company they wish to fund. The business shares a percentage of gross revenue each month until the predetermined “Investment Multiple” is met. Bolstr means that companies don’t have to give up equity to grow, and many small businesses have already met success thanks to this platform.

It’s an exciting time to be a tech entrepreneur in Chicago and the numbers don’t lie – these companies have what it takes to be the real deal!

This post was first published by Erica Frank on March Communications’ blog PR Nonsense.