Northwestern University

The Greener Side of Chicago Startups

Chicago is no stranger to being green and focusing on sustainability. As far back as 1909, city planner Daniel Hudson Burnham created a plan focusing on urban growth and greenbelt around the metro area. Now there is more than 5.5M square feet of green or living roof coverage, with a 5-to-1 ratio for electively green vs city required green roofing. Housed within many of these green buildings are also Chicago startups that specifically focus on green activities and technology. From turning carbon waste into opportunities to advancing mobile batteries lifespan, the green startup community in Chicago is continuously growing.
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Chicago’s SiNode Systems
We all love our smartphones, but let’s face it, a lot of the time batteries can’t even survive a full day of regular use on a single charge. On top of that, many batteries take hours to charge and their lifespan don’t survive your two-year contract. SiNode Systems is changing all of this with their batteries which are said to have a longer life and charge more quickly.
According to their site, they “utilizes a composite of silicon and graphene in a layered structure, which was developed, optimized, and patented by our team working in collaboration with researchers at Northwestern University and Argonne National Laboratory.”
Founded in 2012, SiNode Systems has raised $1M across two rounds. They are based out of Northwestern University.
Headquartered in the suburbs of Chicago, LanzaTech is helping turn waste from carbon into a green business.
“At the heart of the LanzaTech process is our patented, wholly-owned microbes that convert carbon rich wastes and residues produced by industries such as steel manufacturing, oil refining and chemical production, as well as gases generated by gasification of forestry and agricultural residues, municipal waste into valuable fuel and chemical products through a process of gas fermentation.”
Founded in 2005, LanzaTech has raised $186.3M across four rounds. They were originally founded in New Zealand, but later expanded and moved their headquarters to Chicago.
Green Per Square Foot
As businesses grow, so does their need for more office space. Green Per Square Foot (PSF) is helping by creating a simple platform that let’s any company interested in going green find cost savings, contractors, and materials to make it all happen.
“We help customers go beyond energy audits and data analysis to actually get projects done. From global REITs to Fortune 500 companies to local businesses, we help companies save between 15-30% on energy efficiency retrofits, renewable energy installations, energy purchasing, waste hauling contracts at properties of all types and sizes throughout North America. We’ve also certified dozens of buildings for LEED, Energy Star, and IREM Certification.”
Founded in 2010, Green PSF has completed 15M square feet of green building projects.
Want something great such as a park to be built in your neighborhood? FounderHut is a Kickstarter twist with a community focused crowdfunding focus, and was developed in Chicago. Founded by Dan Salganik and Eugene Salganik, the pair allows people within your community to create educational programs, green events, and supports those looking to volunteer around the world.
“FunderHut is a community-oriented crowdfunding platform that helps communities, small businesses, nonprofits, and individuals fundraise online. Through the support of others, ambitious project creators are able to turn their goals into reality.”
FunderHut was founded in 2010 in Chicago.
Similar in goal to Green PSF, another Chicago startup is helping small businesses replace their lights with energy efficient LEDs. Best of all, they have a subscription service that spans three years, so if any light goes out during that time, it gets replaced for free (covered by the subscription fee).
“This subscription model was found after I interviewed hundreds of restaurant owners about their lighting needs. We found why businesses have yet to upgrade to LED lighting, and have addressed all of those concerns around high costs, dimming of the lights, quality of the lights, and bulbs burning out early,” stated Verde Founder Jamie Johnson.
Verde is based out of 1871, a digital startup incubator in Chicago. They began as an energy efficiency startup by building the Verde API, an iPad app, and the Stopwatch meter.