Chicago’s startup community sticks by struggling Groupon

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. The views expressed are her own. –

Not long ago, daily deals giant Groupon was the toast of Chicago, a press darling that received the blessing of Oprah Winfrey, was commended by Forbes as the “fastest growing company ever,” and even reportedly spurned a multibillion-dollar buyout offer from Google.

A Chicago Tribune headline from last December summed up its place in the ecosystem: “Groupon’s Success Adds Luster to Chicago’s Startup Community.”

Things have changed somewhat, of course, with Groupon experiencing numerous setbacks since filing for an IPO in June. Among them, the company has been forced to amend its S-1 three times to satisfy SEC concerns over its accounting practices; it lost a COO who’d joined five months prior; and an email leaked to the press led the company to cancel its IPO roadshow. Early this week, a financial analysis firm released a report suggesting that Groupon may now be on a “self-reinforcing path to insolvency.”

If Groupon suddenly looks to leave a mixed legacy in Chicago, the city’s startup community is loath to acknowledge it publicly or privately. Indeed, talk with regional entrepreneurs and investors and two things quickly become clear: they say they still believe in Groupon; they also think no matter what happens to the company, their fortunes will not be tied to it.

Sittercity founder to launch “social recommendation engine”

– Connie Loizos is a contributor for PE Hub, a Thomson Reuters publication. This article originally appeared here. –

Genevieve Thiers is not a household name in Silicon Valley, but many Chicagoans know her as the founder of Chicago-based Sittercity, a 10-year-old online subscription-service that marries families to caregivers around the country for help with their children, pets, and aging parents.

Thiers is also among a small, but growing number of second-time entrepreneurs beginning to emerge from Chicago’s young, but maturing tech scene. Next month, Thiers officially launches her newest startup, Contact Karma, with co-founder Maureen Wozniak (no relation to Apple co-founder Steve).

Chicago incubator hopes to SPARK startups

Think you can form a technology company from scratch in just a week? That’s the idea behind SPARK, a new incubator program launched by a group of Chicago-area entrepreneurs.

The program is aimed at seeding viable ideas for Web-based and mobile applications during an upcoming startup competition that runs from July 22 to 27 in the Windy City.

“SPARK is about doing, not talking,” said 29-year-old Maliha Mustafa, a former investment banker turned entrepreneur and SPARK co-founder. “What we’d like to do is actually execute.”