Rahm Emanuel visits EveryBlock

Feb112011

Chicago mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel and his media entourage visited the EveryBlock office this morning to give a speech about attracting tech talent to Chicago.

This is an important issue for us, as we’re a Chicago-based tech company with a vested interest in bringing more great Web developers to the area. Here’s the text of my introductory remarks:

I’m Adrian Holovaty, founder of EveryBlock.com, a neighborhood news site based here in Chicago. The way the site works is you specify your address and we keep you updated with whatever’s been happening around you — from what the newspapers and blogs have covered in your neighborhood to what crimes have been reported to what neighbors are generally chatting about. People across the city have been using us to connect with their neighbors and stay informed about their neigborhoods, and people around the world have been influenced by our ideas about new forms of journalism, our design, and the various bits of technology we’ve created.

We’re totally committed to Chicago. We started here in 2007 with three people and over the years have expanded to six, including two people who moved to Chicago from out-of-state to join our team. About a year and a half ago, we were acquired by msnbc.com, which is based in Seattle, and one of my key demands was that they let us stay here. We actually had a funny part of the negotiation where we went back and forth about how many miles from the city center they were allowed to move us.

We’re small, with only six people, but we have made a few hires over the years, and the fact that we’re in Chicago can be tough for recruiting top-quality Web people. There are great Web developers and designers here, but our talent pool is nowhere nearly as deep as that in Silicon Valley, Boston or New York City. We’ve managed to attract great people so far, but I worry that if we expand our development team significantly, we’ll face some real challenges. So I support anything the city can do to bring great technical talent here.

And even when we’re not hiring, I’ve found that it’s incredibly useful just to be able to talk to, and network with, other local Web startup people. Startups like us really benefit from talking with other startups about our common problems — whether it’s technical stuff, or strategic advice, or how to raise money, or dozens of other startup-specific challenges. The more of these people we have in Chicago, the better the ecosystem, the more potential each startup has.

So thanks for letting us host this event, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens as Chicago moves forward.

We gave Rahm a tour of our site, choosing a block page near the el station he was campaigning at this morning:

Adrian Holovaty gives Rahm Emanuel tour of EveryBlock.com

During his talk, he unveiled a plans to begin an annual recruitment weekend and encourage tech companies to hire local developers. Judging by the number of TV cameras and reporters in attendance, I’m sure the full details will be covered in the Chicago media in the coming hours.

Rahm Emanuel at the EveryBlock office

Before Rahm left, he stopped to take a few photos with our staff. Here are a few, and check out the full set here.

Members of the EveryBlock team with Rahm Emanuel

Dan O'Neil with Rahm Emanuel

Rahm Emanuel at the EveryBlock office

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