By Michal Lev-Ram
March 18, 2015

There’s no shortage of cities vying to be the next Silicon Valley, and over the last few years Chicago has made it clear that it too is throwing its hat into the ring.

Investors like venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates have taken notice, pouring money into companies like social media management tool Sprout Social (the VC firm was also an early investor in the region’s most well-known startup, Groupon). Entrepreneurs Brad Keywell, recently profiled in Fortune, and his partner Eric Lefkofsky, who co-founded Groupon along with former CEO Andrew Mason, are also investing in Chicago-area companies—their local venture capital firm Lightbank has funded 91 startups, about a third of which are based in the Windy City.

Buoyed by private and public investments in incubators like 1871, Chicago’s entrepreneurs have more resources than ever before (Mayor Rahm Emanuel, up for a runoff election on April 7, has made the city’s technological prowess a priority). Of course, Chicago has a long way to go: When it comes to venture capital dollars, it still lags behind New York, Seattle, Boston, Cambridge, Los Angeles and, of course, San Francisco and Silicon Valley, according to data from research firm Preqin. But then, as Chicago’s homegrown tech frenzy grows, the Second City may one day earn that title on the entrepreneurial map.

Check out the eight hot startups below.


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