CIW Moments: Bing Gordon on Chicago and Digital Disruption

It’s my favorite time of the year: The sky is clear, the weather is perfect (not too hot, not too cold) and the leaves are turning caramel brown. Everyone is back to work, back to school, feelings of anticipation and ambition in the air. And people in Chicago (and beyond) are getting ready for Chicago Ideas Week.

In the spirit of the magic of CIW — and as a lead-up to what is shaping up to be the most magical CIW yet — I will be sharing memorable CIW moments, featuring some of our most influential, game-changing, dynamic speakers. And I’m starting with Bing Gordon, a friend and one of the truly legendary venture capitalists. Last year, I interviewed him about entrepreneurship, building companies, the importance of disruption in the world of technology and the role of mentors in life. Woven throughout the conversation was our mutual affection for Chicago, a city, as he says, of “big ideas and generous big mentors”. Below is the poem he kicked off our conversation with — a poem he wrote on the plane as he traveled from his home in San Francisco to the Windy City. It’s a poem that answers the question: Why Chicago?

Why Chicago

Yours is the city of big shoulders, windy and all,

Where winter buries parked cars, and the Bears rule the fall;

Where the pizza is deep dish, and your museums have coal mines,

Second City imports Canadians, phase balls get lost in ivy vines.

Groupon is based here, its stock recently rallied,

Illinois engineers are more loyal here than in the Silicon Valley.

You have the Bulls and the Hawks rocking at the United Center,

And now it seems Chicagoland has big Ideas and generous big mentors.

The presenters share wisdom without California-style self-promotion,

The Goose Island beer here must contain drops of truth potion.

You don’t mince words in Chicago, not because you have more class,

But some giant eating bratwurst in the bleachers will kick any braggart’s ass.

Your Festival has unflinching sponsors, and a committed group of leaders,

Rahm Emanuel could really get the vote out with the energy of the ushers and greeters.

The agenda is over-packed this week, too much to do, hear and see,

The Festival’s organizers must suffer ADHD.

We visitors creep up Michigan Avenue on little cat’s feet,

And unlike New York City, your meat-packing district actually has meat.

We understand why you love it here, think your city is best,

Although the traffic from O’Hare sucks as bad as the Long Island Express.

We come to Lake Michigan’s shores for the Midwest work ethic,

For Northwestern grads, and pulchritude that is mythic.

Once I left the Midwest, because Horatio Alger was right,

It used to take Silicon Valley chips and hippie values to build a big business overnight.

But the world has changed! AWS and new comm channels are the infrastructures that give

You digital disruptors the freedom to choose where you want to live.

Business is good here, you are industrious and frugal,

So stay in Chicago, you don’t need California to create the next Google!


Bing Gordon, Chicago Ideas Week, October 2013

Founder and CEO at @Uptake. 2019 EY Entrepreneur of the Year. Co-Founder of @LightBank, @Groupon, @EchoLogistics, @TeamMediaocean and @chicagoideas.

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