Viresh Bhatia had few high-tech role models to turn to in Chicago five years ago when he was building his Schaumburg-based software company.
So Bhatia, president of InstallShield Software Corp., turned west.
In the thriving Silicon Valley technology community, Bhatia found an organization - The IndUS Entrepreneurs, or TiE - where young start-ups could turn to seasoned entrepreneurs for advice on anything from getting funding to hiring staff through informal networking and formal presentations and programs.
So valuable were the connections Bhatia made through TiE, he and other Midwest entrepreneurs decided to bring the concept to the Chicago area.
"That resource was beneficial to us and to me personally. I thought why not make that benefit available in the Midwest," Bhatia said.
Now starting its second year, TiE Midwest plans to expand the resources it brings to Chicago-area entrepreneurs. In addition to bringing in top speakers, the organization will launch the TiE Midwest Angel Forum, in which start-ups can present their business plans to a panel of successful entrepreneurs, "angel" investors and venture capitalists who can critique the plans and offer advice.
Bhatia regards such support for young entrepreneurs as crucial if the region is ever to shake its also-ran status in the high-tech economy.
"I think there is potential here," Bhatia said. "I think Chicago has the opportunity to be the No. 2 high-tech area," with its central location and relatively lower cost of living.
Candy Renwall, executive director of the Chicago Software Association, sees TiE Midwest as part of an emergence of resources for the high-tech entrepreneur in the last year to 18 months. Government and high-tech associations have targeted certain niches as they work to attack the region's handicaps to high-tech growth.
"Everybody in our business, in the association business, wants to help these folks get up to speed quicker and faster so they can become a going concern," Renwall said.
Other associations, including Chicago Women in Technology and the Association of Internet Professionals, government and academia, have stepped up efforts to support high-tech entrepreneurs, Renwall said. "We all kind of work together to make sure they get what they need," she said.
Though its mission involves broadly serving its technology company members, the Chicago Software Association offers mentoring, strategic business plan reviews, "boot camps" on start-up issues, and an annual early stage investor conference for startups looking for financing up to $1.5 million.
Bhatia acknowledges the other resources for entrepreneurs but says he sees a benefit in an organization focused solely on high-tech start-ups, which must act very quickly to establish a presence in the market and tend to need more capital than a non-technology startup. "We are surgically focused on start-ups," Bhatia said.
Formally started in 1993 by a small group of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs with roots in the Indian subcontinent, TiE has grown to include people of all backgrounds brought together by their needs and goals as entrepreneurs.
For details about TiE Midwest, see www.tie-midwest.org. The Chicago Software Association is at www.csa.org, and the Association of Internet Professionals is at www.aipchicago.org. For information about Chicago Women in Technology, e-mail Liz Ryan at email@example.com.