Arts & Culture

Most trendy 2018 technologies unveiled in Chicago and beyond

By Xieyang Jessica Qiao
Medill Reports

Today may be the slowest day you’re ever going to have during the rest of your life. The pace of change tomorrow will be faster than the pace today.

Chicago’s burgeoning VC opportunities and tech scene

An entrepreneurial spirit, fueled by investors who bet big on the city, is driving Chicago’s tech startup scene. According to the 2018 Chicago VC Ecosystem report, the city continues to outperform other U.S. venture ecosystems – including Silicon Valley – in terms of median multiple on invested capital (MOIC).

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Riding with SLAM Magazine at NBA All-Star weekend

By Andrew Donlan and John Alfes
Medill Reports

South Tryon Street buzzed on a summery, mid-February afternoon in Charlotte, as basketball fans from around the country swarmed a Sprinter van enveloped in vibrant magazine covers at the epicenter of the basketball universe — NBA All-Star weekend.

The van was placed strategically near Charlotte’s Mint Museum, which was paying homage to Nike’s Jordan brand in an atrium  exhibit of larger-than-life graphics. The basketball staple has prevailed sans uncertainty for more than three decades. Outside, another basketball brand — the iconic SLAM Magazine — put new methods of doing business to the test, led by ambitious workers determined to propel the publication forward in its third decade, too. Continue reading

True/False Film Festival welcomes spring with annual March march

By Ankur Singh
Medill Reports

True/False is one of the largest documentary film festivals in the United States.

Every year documentary filmmakers and audiences from all over the world arrive in Columbia, Missouri, for four days of documentary screenings and events.

Several notable films screened at the festival include Knock Down the House, which follows several women as they run for Congress in the 2018 election, including New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who won her race.

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Puerto Rico Association of University Professors rallies against proposed budget cuts

By Ankur Singh
Medill Reports

Puerto Rico remains in the midst of a massive fiscal crisis with over $72 billion in debt. To address this crisis, in 2016 the United States Congress created a Fiscal Oversight Board that was not elected through the passage of the PROMESA ACT in order to manage and reduce Puerto Rico’s debt.

The seven-member board was appointed by former President Barack Obama and includes many people from the finance and banking industries.

The board has proposed a series of austerity measures to cut funding for many of the island’s institutions. In particular, the University of Puerto Rico, with its eleven campuses across the island, has been hit particularly hard. Continue reading Puerto Rico Association of University Professors rallies against proposed budget cuts

R. Kelly indictment sparks sexual violence conversations among Chicagoans

By Nora Mabie
Medill Reports

Students, educators and community members came together this month to discuss sexual violence against black women and girls at the Pop-Up JUST Art Gallery, a program of the Social Justice Initiative at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Recent charges of sexual abuse against R&B singer R. Kelly ignited the meeting and discussion, part of UIC’s Reimagining Masculinities Initiative and hosted by other UIC cultural engagement centers.
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ABA TECHSHOW introduces cutting-edge technology for law practices

By Yixuan Xie
Medill Reports

Technology startups plan to stir up legal practices with their latest advances. Fifteen of these companies participated in the Startup Alley at the annual American Bar Association (ABA) TECHSHOW in Chicago through this past weekend.  The innovators demonstrated the integration in law office operations of their new tools for artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and data privacy.

Fifteen startups are featured in the EXPO Hall during ABA TECHSHOW in the Start-Up Alley. (Yixuan Xie/Medill)

Artificial Intelligence

Launched in June 2017, dealWIP, based in New York, helps cut the time spent on processes involved in mergers and acquisitions where buyers and sellers field many questions to make sure that they know and understand the risks associated with the transaction.

Currently managed with buyers or sellers putting their rows of questions in Excel spreadsheets and sending those out, both sides  go back and forth for many rounds,  “a very chaotic process,” said Tunji Williams, co-founder and CEO of dealWIP.

DealWIP’s fundamental innovation created a centralized and secure cloud-based space where the parties can engage in the same process real time and structured the exchange so that the parties can internally collaborate on and keep track of all questions and answers.

Machine learning is used to figure out who is the right person to receive the questions.

“If I’m selling my company and I receive a question from the potential buyer, I’m going to have somebody in my company who is best positioned to answer that question,” Williams said. “So we’re using machine learning technology that helps you figure out whom that question should go to. In the past, this question was sent to an accountant. You should probably send this question to the accountant again without having to think about it yourself.”

dealWIP co-founders, Tunji Williams and James Clarkin-Breslin, attend the startup competition of ABA TECHSHOW. (Yixuan Xie/Medill)

Teruel Carrasco, an attendee at ABA TECHSHOW, said dealWIP is one of the standouts in the Startup Alley and AI is going to be disruptive to the legal industry as a whole.

“It’s lawyers and firms who understand AI and how AI can help them that achieve better results for their clients,” Carrasco said. “However, a smart attorney will look at this as an opportunity to really be strategic about how they develop their relationships with clients. While AI accelerates the decision-making process, it will also take a lot of those administrative tasks away from lawyers.”


With increased risks of data tampering and mistrust in the digital world, Kinnami Software Corp., of Boston, offers a service for authenticating electronic files. It creates a digital fingerprint of a document and uses the Ethereum blockchain to store that information and make it irrefutable.

Here is the process illustrated on the website:

“So it’s really useful when you want to do two things. One, if you want to establish that something is authentic, which has not been tampered with or changed once it has been created,” said Sujeesh Krishnan, Kinnami CEO. “The second thing it does is that from an intellectual property copyrights perspective, it establishes that you are the owner of that asset.”

Kinnami CEO Sujeesh Krishnan demonstrates the company’s first product which is launched at ABA TECHSHOW to attendees. (Yixuan Xie/Medill)

Data Privacy

With more demands for instant responses from clients, JurisBytes, a text messaging platform startup based in Atlanta, allows attorneys to contact their clients without disclosing their personal phone number to better define and manage client relationships.

“We don’t want to have that much access. Lawyers need the peace of mind,” said Ryan Mullis, founder and CEO of JurisBytes, who is also an attorney.

Lawyers can see all their clients on an app and when they enter clients’ phone numbers, clients can receive or reply messages just like normal text messaging without downloading anything.

Besides protecting attorneys’ privacy, the platform also sends a daily usage report of the number of messages sent and received every day so that attorneys can better calculate billable hours. Losing track of how much time an attorney actually spent on a case is one of the biggest problems about using cell phones for work, Mullis said.

Launching the platform last week, JurisBytes won the 2019 Startup Alley competition on the opening night of ABA TECHSHOW.

Photo at top: JurisBytes founder and CEO Ryan Mullis (2nd from left), together with three co-founders, presents the startup’s tools/ The company was selected as the most innovative one by TECHSHOW attendees. (Yixuan Xie/Medill)

Ford announces new hybrid police SUV – CPD buying in, Rahm says

By Brady Jones
Medill Reports

Fighting crime in Chicago will soon be getting a lot greener.

The 2019 Chicago Auto Show unveiled sleek new designs, increased towing capacity and even a pizza-baking concept car. And Ford Motor Company’s new hybrid version of its police SUV, called the Police Interceptor Utility, promises to offer an environmentally friendly option for law enforcement that will reduce both fuel costs and the department’s carbon footprint.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—who noted that he owns a hybrid vehicle—spoke as an invited guest of Ford for the press conference, and he highlighted the long-standing, positive relationship between the company and the city. Continue reading

The future of shopping expands–grab and go at Amazon’s 4th store in Chicago

By Yixuan Xie
Medill Reports

Amazon launched a fourth automated check-out store in Chicago this month, giving Chicago and Seattle most of the 10 stories open nationally.

The latest Amazon Go store opened at 111 E. Wacker Dr. at the Illinois Center this month,  offering 1,950 square feet of ready-to-eat foods and grocery essentials. Its “Just Walk Out” technology allows shoppers to walk in a store, grab items they want and simply walk out with everything automatically charged.

A store without cashiers or checkouts? Although it sounded like a gimmick when the first Amazon Go store opened to employee testers in 2016 in Seattle at company headquarters. It has expanded rapidly to the 10 stores operating across the U.S, including four each in Seattle and Chicago and two in San Francisco.

Chicago’s first Amazon Go store, located at 113 S. Franklin St., debuted in September 2018. The second and third, which opened in October and November, are located at 144 S. Clark St., and 500 W Madison St.

Photo at top: Chicago’s fourth Amazon Go cashierless store opened this month. (Yixuan Xie/Medill)

Social media brings Chicago Native Americans home to their reservations

By Lily Qi
Medill Reports

Pamala Silas used to hold annual meetings in downtown Chicago with other Menominee tribal members who lived in the area.

“I could get a hundred people to come to a meeting two times a year. I gave them a nice dinner, we had a presentation, the tribal leaders would come, we gave little gifts,” says Silas, who lives in Avondale.

Now meetings are no longer all downtown, with smaller breakfast meetings hosted in the suburbs as well.

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Local Chicago Instagram account helps launch international media company

By Seth Schlechter
Medill Reports

Andy Lederman describes himself as the friend who likes to find fun new things to do with his pals. This mindset didn’t change when he moved to Chicago after college seven years ago to work in private equity. The issue was he couldn’t find the go-to guide he wanted, so he decided to produce his own.

“We were all working really hard at our respective finance jobs so we didn’t have time to research this stuff and there was no good research out there,” he said.

Lederman created Chicago Bucket List, an Instagram account with a mission to curate a list of the best things to do in Chicago for his friends.

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