Chicago Innovators Celebrate at the NASDAQ

A handful of Chicago’s up-and-coming companies celebrated their achievements by ringing the closing bell at the NASDAQ this week as recipients of the Chicago Innovation Awards.

Companies offering the most innovative products and service in the region get recognized each year, and Groupon, which can now be found on the NASDAQ, is a past recipient of the award. spoke to just three of the region’s biggest innovators to hear how they got their products and services off the ground and into the hands of consumers.


Vince Leung and Kris Chinosorn want to make online searching easier. The duo founded MentorMob which aims to streamline the best content available on the Web on different topics.

“We were both constantly learning how to do different things, but when you Google ‘How to play guitar’ for example, you get millions of results,” Leung says. “You don’t know how to start, so you typically have to go through all of these different articles and videos. We wanted to harness the power of the crowd like Wikipedia and add structure to the internet to guide learning.”

MentorMob does all the heavylifting to best explain topics and create learning playlists for internet users. Despite only being active for a year, Leung says the website has users in 30 countries.

Leung declined to disclose current funding information, but did say the company is currently growing 30% month-over-month.

“We figured, why try to reinvent the wheel? We are repurposing information and the real value we provide is saving that time and frustration.”

Champion Medical Technologies

CEO Pete Casady got his start in the medical device industry in 1987 and later co-founded Champion Medical Technologies in 2006. The company tracks and monitors implantable medical devices in hospitals with its patented software to help keep patients up to date and safe. When a medical device is recalled, the company can match this information against hospital inventories and quickly alert both them and their patients of any potential issues.

“It automates the inventory process, so patients who have received these recalled devices can be alerted more quickly,” he says. “Believe it or not, that process today is a manual process. So [this program] has been hugely successful.”

Champion currently has 11 employees and is hoping to double that number in 2013. The company is receiving some venture capital cash from a Chicago-based investor, he says.

Coyote Logistics

This company is greening the trucking industry by eliminating the “empty miles” truckers log traveling back to their point of origination after dropping their cargo off.

Coyote Logistic matches up truckers with new deliveries on their routes back home to not only get more money in users’ pockets but also eliminated unnecessary rides.

“We take those empty trucks and bring them home, and have them deliver which reduces carbon emissions, reduces empty miles and provides a nice additional revenue stream for shippers,” says Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Sisler. The company recently reached $850 million in sales.

Jodi Navta, vice president of marketing and communications at Coyote, describes the innovation as a “win-win” for all parties involved—especially the environment. “Everything you see in front of you has to get to the destination where its being sold, so we facilitate all management from product to warehouse. Our customers are shippers,” she says.