It was a night of laughs, music, dance, and celebration of Chicago’s special place as a world center of innovation at the 17th Annual Chicago Innovation Awards on October 29, 2018. Hosts Tom Kuczmarski, Co-Founder of Chicago Innovation, Luke Tannen, its Executive Director, Nancy Ruscheinsky, COO of Zeno Group, and Andrea Zopp, President and CEO of World Business Chicago, opened the show by highlighting the theme of the year, “Lifting People Up.” Dance group, The Future Kingz, led the stage (and the hosts) in a choreographed routine that brought the crowd to its feet.
The ceremony continued with Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlining how far Chicago has come as a tech mecca, and how Chicago joins the most preeminent business economies in the world when it comes to talent and support in the tech industry. Smokeball attended the event as one of 100 finalists out of 519 company nominees. While Smokeball did not walk away with an award it was amazing to see how much companies in Chicago are doing for their industries and how talented and supported innovative companies are in the city.
Special awards included BallotReady, an app that delivers information on every race and contest so that people can walk into the voting booth informed, Adler Planetarium, for its innovative collaborations on meteorite excavation from Lake Michigan, the Bra Lab, the people’s choice winner that allows bar customization, and the Chicago Children’s Choir, which performed a moving and uniting piece midway through the show. Flagship awards went to Abbott Labs for their diabetes control innovations, Advanced Valve Technologies for safe water pipe repair, Cameo for fun greetings from celebrities, Ensono for technology migration innovations, Farmer’s Fridge for delicious and healthy vending machines, the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center for holographic interactive exhibits, Molex for innovations in automobile technology, Sittercity for their work in the childcare realm, Sterling for construction industry advances, and UPShow for advances in TV marketing. The awards also recognized several up-and-coming startups with less than $1 million in lifetime revenue.
Smokeball was honored to be among 100 finalists across many industries. “To be at the awards and really get a sense of how Chicago stacks up against other famous tech cities of the world was incredible,” said Taryn Mohnsen, head of marketing operations and one of Smokeball’s attendees at the ceremony. “The support for Chicago-based innovators is unmatched in the U.S., and we’re so happy to be a part of that ecosystem.” Smokeball’s finals-worthy innovation was its legal industry-changing Auto:Time feature, which tracks and reports all time spent in the Smokeball system for accurate billing and profitability analysis. Not only does this feature improve legal practice for lawyers and their staff, it has an obvious trickle-down to courts and clients, as lawyers can confidently submit time spent on matters to the court, and clients can be sure they are being billed accurately for work done on their cases. Plus, the time-saving results of using Auto:Time allow for more time spent with more clients, perhaps even more pro bono clients.
While not victorious this year, Smokeball looks forward to continuing its own innovation and standing on stage with other inspiring Chicago award winners in the very near future.