Forty-five minutes before Technori’s fifth (fourth official) pitch meeting on January 31, the Chase Auditorium was already starting to fill up. Just outside, in the atrium, a crowd began to swell with newcomers greeting each other, exchanging business cards, and discussing their latest ventures.

By 7 p.m., the auditorium was packed. Five hundred people—mostly twenty- and thirtysomethings in jeans and khakis—came to the sold-out meeting to hear pitches from five different companies. Technori co-founder and master of ceremonies Seth Kravitz kicked off the evening by welcoming everyone to the event and introducing the keynote speaker.

The Keynote

Keynote speaker Kevin Willer, who left the corporate world nine months ago to become president and CEO of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, unveiled the floor plan for 1871, a new incubator he’s helping to launch.

Occupying 50,000 square feet on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart, 1871 will offer month-to-month leases on shared co-working space or reserved seating for founders of digital start-ups.

“It’s not geared towards start-ups or growth companies that are 10 people, that have raised a bunch of capital, that are really on their way to get their own space. This is for the people who really don’t have means to sign long-term agreements with a prospective broker and who are in that early stage where they need the most help.”

Members will have access to the conference rooms and can take classes on such topics as sales and marketing, financing, design and coding.

Running through the space will be the River Wall—a translucent divider with white board capabilities on both sides. There will also be a coffee shop and areas for meetings and hanging out.

“A lot of people have said, ‘You’re building a big incubator.’ I’m like, ‘No, we’re actually building a massive coffee shop.”

1871 is opening this spring, and as of January 30, they’ve already received 138 applications. To apply, visit

How much can you expect to pay an attorney to set up your LLC, write your will, or get you out of trouble with the IRS?

Lawyer Richard Komaiko and his co-founders created a web-crawler that trawls the web for up-to-date information about what attorneys are charging for their services and then compiles the prices into an easy-to-use free online database.

“We believe that the biggest problem in the legal industry is that nobody knows exactly how much everything is supposed to cost—not even the consumers nor the attorneys.”


Sending faxes may seem like something out of an eighties time warp, but many hospitals, government agencies, insurance companies, restaurants, and other organizations still rely on faxes for communications—whether it’s because they need to for legal reasons or because that’s what’s worked for them for years. And if you want to do business with them, you need to find a way to communicate by fax too.

Brothers-in-law Josh Nankin and Howard Avner founded Phaxio to give developers a way to send and receive faxes using a few lines of code instead of a fax machine.

I caught up with Josh to talk about the Phaxio’s founding. The idea grew out of their first venture,, a mobile marketing platform they created.

“It was always supposed to be Kishkee, but this turned into something. People started using it. We actually got flown out to Twilio in San Francisco because they were interested in hearing about what we were doing. A lot of bigger businesses—big companies that that we never thought would be using us—came to us out of the blue without doing any advertising whatsoever.”


Moosejaw’s creative director Gary Wohlfeill got wolf whistles and applause when he demoed the app for outdoor retailer’s latest catalog. Using the free X-Ray app, customers can point their smart phones or iPads at the catalog to see what models are wearing under their clothes.

Gary’s goal was to not only increase sales but to create something that Moosejaw customers would want to tell 10 friends about. “If they’re not going to tell 10 friends, then we probably shouldn’t do it.”

So far, there are no plans for a completely naked issue.

Leap Year Project

Last May, Victor resigned his full-time job working with high school and middle school students with only a title for his new idea: the Leap Year Project. While working out exactly what he wanted to do, Victor spoke to 400 people asking what he should do and what they would do to change the world. From these conversations, the idea for the Leap Year Project began to take shape.

“It’s an invitation to choose a project that could change the world forever, to tell the story online, inspire others, and then to publish those stories in 2013, to create a book and an art exhibition about what the world accomplished in one year when we focused on doing good together.”

Leapers are doing everything from starting nonprofits or changing careers to running a marathon or going overseas to do relief work or starting a bicycle shop in an areas with high obesity rates. Victor is going to participate in a different educational experience each month and will, among other things, take classes, work with nonprofits, open an art center in Costa Rica, and make a documentary in the Sudan.


Georama’s tagline is “Plan, Book Share.” Nihal Advani wants to streamline vacation planning by giving travelers one place to do all three of those things.

“With leisure travel, it takes a lot of time to plan and book a trip because you have so many options, you have searches, family and friends, all these different websites with different types of content, and so it takes several hours to actually plan this travel.”

Nihal debuted Georama’s social platform, which allows users to sign in through Facebook, update the places they’ve been using Foursquare, and add photos and video to an interactive map. The full site—including the booking and planning platforms—is expected to launch in March.

Following the final pitch, Seth invited everyone to Rosebud across the street, which was soon thronged with people thirsty for a drink and a chance to connect with each other.