Key Takeaways: Chicago Innovation Summit

July 25, 2023

The 2023 Chicago Innovation Summit was filled with an exciting mix of speakers from a wide variety of businesses and backgrounds. There were three different panels throughout the event, “From Startup to Scaleup,” “AI Vs. IQ,” and “Combating Climate Change.” Each panel provided vastly different perspectives on different topics, but at the end of the day they could all be traced back to modern business themes and ideas. 

To start, the speakers in the first panel are all very successful business people from different jobs and companies. Most of the key takeaways from the panel revolved around the mindset of a successful entrepreneur, with a lot of the insights being to remain honest with oneself, either about motivation, sacrifice, or the business climate. Furthermore, the speakers had interesting perspectives on the current business climate.

Although they didn’t use the “r word” (recession), there was clear consensus on the unfortunate nature of the current business climate. However, their perspectives were professional and deliberate. The reality of business is that an entrepreneur must prepare for the worst, and the worst is almost always worse than one might imagine. On the other hand, there’s no such thing as the perfect time to start a business. Some huge companies came out of the 2009 recession, such as Uber and AirBNB. The speakers also agreed that now is a great time to invest. Another main focus of the panel was culture, and each speaker had terrific insight into the importance of company culture. One notable comment was that even when you get culture right, it might not be right for everyone, which reflects the reality that employees are individuals and rarely will a group of people in a mesh together perfectly. 

The next panel focused on artificial intelligence in business, with some thoughts contributed by an AI chatbot itself. With how quickly AI technology is evolving, it’s impossible to tell what the future looks like, but the speakers had very valuable points to make. With many people experiencing AI in some way, the panel felt AI will increase in understanding and acceptance, leading to higher productivity as AI is integrated more into the world.

One focus on the panel was on the medical industry, thanks to the presence of the CTO from Tempus. One of the main ideas was the idea of AI as a “copilot” and assistant, rather than playing a larger role. The panel agreed that regarding jobs, AI would change tasks more than occupations, and in medicine specifically, the physical doctor would still be in charge of the patient with AI augmenting the process rather than automating it. The future of AI remains slightly unpredictable but it will be very exciting to watch how it evolves. 

Finally, the last panel was about innovation in climate change. The panelists felt it was clear that the world waited far too long to start the fight against climate change, making it difficult to access capital for the cause. However, there is still so much that can be done. One speaker cited legislation from the Biden administration as incentive for companies to work together in the fight against climate change, and another stressed the importance of the individual efforts of the next generation.

One of the main points was that capitalism and environmentalism can and should coexist, which is supported by the innovative figures that spoke on the panel. Carbon neutral commitments also came up as an important topic. Although many major companies have made carbon neutral commitments and promises, many of them actually have no idea how to get there, which creates demand for climate innovators externally. 

The main takeaways at the end of the panel were about individual efforts: ignoring the sometimes distracting opinions of others, educating people in your circle of influence, and driving change. As a student, it was very motivating to see the level of innovation taking place in Chicago. When I reflect upon this event in the context of my internship with Elevation Talent Group, it’s exciting to think about how important talent is for successful and innovative companies. I enjoyed learning about the group Chicago Innovation and I look forward to watching the panelists’ companies as they grow. 

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