“To those of you who are wearing ties, I think my dad would appreciate it if you took them off,” Matt Moog said, which explained why he represented his father’s company t-shirt for his keynote talk at the 2016 Chicago Coder Conference.
Matt Moog started his keynote speech at this years’ Chicago Coder Conference by sharing his father’s story, as well as illustrate a positive sense of momentum and potential for what the city of Chicago holds for technology.
Robert Moog, also known as Bob Moog, was born in 1934 and attended the Bronx High School of Science. As a young entrepreneur, Bob Moog designed the Moog synthesizer. His improvement on the instrument became popular throughout the rock industry for legendary 1960’s rock bands such as the Beach Boys, the Monkees, Beatles and many more. By 1970, Bob was recognized for his attributes by the State of New York and was named “Small Business Man of the Year” and months later, Bob received a Grammy Trustees Award. By 2002, he accepted his second Grammy for technical excellence, alongside Steve Jobs.
Survived by his wife and five children, the American pioneer of electronic music died of brain cancer by the age of 71 in 2005. Bob Moog left behind many tangible items for his family to keep. His son Matt Moog held onto his legacy and determination to transform the technology world.
The Chicago Tech Ecosystem
Matt Moog is the founder of Viewpoints, Built In Chicago and Wavetable labs. He is also an active angel investor with the FireStarter Fund and the CEO of PowerReviews. Matt’s early experience with technology inspired him to spend his entire career focusing on it. As Matt emerged into his teenage years, personal computers were also coming on the scene. Matt learned how to program using the Commodore Vic-20. By 8th grade, he entered the Olympic of the Mind, a computer programming contest, winning first place in North Carolina.
After moving to the Windy City in 1994, Matt’s passion for the Chicago technology community grew so much, that he started the organization Built In Chicago. The business gives tech engineers the opportunity to learn, hire and build their companies. Throughout its five years of existence, it has accumulated over 200,000 people visiting the website each month looking for interesting technology jobs in the city.
Moog’s interest in finding statistics on the tech community within Chicago peaked after realizing how simple it was to find the lists of professions for doctors, nurses, real estate agents, etc., but the number of tech workers throughout the community was hard to track. What he wanted to do for the mayor, governor, and the community at large was research how big the community was, how many companies exist within it, and how many tech workers are there in the city of Chicago.
To get this information, Built In Chicago published a list featuring the largest employers of technology throughout the city. The list started out with nearly 25,000, and continues to grow after each publication, now listing over 55,000 tech employers. This proved that technology is both the largest and fastest growing sector of employment in Chicago. In terms of measuring the success and growth of Chicago’s technology startups, it has accumulated over 7 billion dollars in the last five years.
Built In Chicago has hired over 100 people in the last 18 months. With the quality of living and the dollar going significantly further than most cities, Matt explained that it is much easier to hire in Chicago as opposed to locations such as New York and San Francisco.
Starting the Fire
Matt once came across a thought by Brad Feld from the Foundry Group that reiterated that one of the leading indicators of success and growth in a tech ecosystem is the involvement of serial entrepreneurs who have had some success and then gave back to capital. After reading this, he contacted approximately 50 other tech CEO’s in hopes of receiving a portion of their capital to start an angel investing fund. Soon after, the FireStarter Fund was created, funding nearly 20 early stage companies.
Matt presented a graph which demonstrated an age breakdown of the top 100 tech companies. He pointed out that 65% of the companies within the group were more than ten years old, only 9% of them were under five years.
“One of the important myths that needs to be dispelled is that you can start a company and 18 months later sell it for 1 billion dollars, and it’s huge,” said Moog. “Anybody can tell you that real breakthroughs, real innovations, and real companies take time to build.”
Between PowerReviews and Built In Chicago alone, over 200 million dollars has been accumulated while employing nearly 100,000 individuals.
“We are used to thinking about month to month, week to week, and quarter to quarter. Start to think about the next five years, ten years, twenty year chunks,” Moog said. “If the Chicago tech community is going to continue to grow at the rate it has been, we need companies to start now, so that in 20 years, some of you have started companies with a very significant number”
Matt Moog is one of the few real leaders of this century. His demonstrated excellence in good, old fashioned hard work is the opposite of our “easy money” society. Matt’s passions drove him to redefine success which provided him with the forward momentum for over a decade that propelled him through rough times. His message to the local Chicago technology community is simple, but succinct.
“Technology is sort of a very interesting thing that creative and curious people are always fiddling with. He (Bob Moog) started literally in high school assembling instruments on his own and evolved from there,” Moog said. “I think it’s that spirit of constantly trying something new and constantly learning that helps connect things that happened 80 years ago to where we stand here today.”
Contributing Writer, Researcher: Margaret Fikany