The Innovators Connection

What it is

The Innovators Connection builds bridges and linkages between the region’s most innovative small businesses and large corporations located in and around Chicago. The Innovators Connection is funded by the Chicago Innovation Awards and Molex.

How it works

  • Large company participants express their desired needs to us relating to technologies, products, services, categories and industries that provide them value.
  • The Innovators Connection matches relevant Chicago Innovation Awards nominees and start-ups to large company participants.
  • Large companies review potential qualified start-ups, and we facilitate meetings between organizations.

Why participate

Large and small companies will benefit through new connections and the sharing of innovations that will increase company revenues and grow the economy.

Large companies gain access to pertinent new products, services, technologies and business models in their industries and adjacent industries. These new resources can sharpen the competitive advantages of large companies and add value to existing operations.

Start-ups gain access to large corporations, which can provide opportunities for new customers, licensing agreements, joint partnerships and acquisitions.

Our local focus aims to yield economic growth and job creation for the Chicago region.


“The spirit of innovation is thriving in Chicago. Big and small businesses have the potential to grow even faster through cooperation and interaction. The Innovators Connection will foster this interaction, helping to create jobs and economic opportunity for our city and its residents.”

-Mayor Rahm Emanuel


“The Innovators Connection will provide to the large companies a portfolio of startups that have created some type of economic value and done something that is innovative and very different.”

-Tom Kuczmarski, Co-founder, Chicago Innovation Awards


Our network

The Innovators Connection emerges from the web of relationships we have built with businesses of all types and sizes over the course of the first 12 years of the Chicago Innovation Awards. The Innovators Connection will use our database of proprietary data and personal relationships to help create new business opportunities throughout the region. After all, it is when the fruits of innovation flourish and grow within the Chicago region that our hometown economy will grow and people will prosper.

First year large company participants

Through the Innovators Connection, start-ups and small businesses from across the region tell us how they can meet these needs and provide solutions to large corporations.


If you are interested in joining as a large company participant, contact Bryan Brochu at 312-988-1514 or at


The Innovators Connection Process

Summer & Fall 2014: As a small company, there are two ways to become a part of the Innovators Connection database.  Either nominate for the Chicago Innovation Awards or apply to the Innovators Connection (details below).
Winter 2015: Small companies in our database then receive the needs assessments from our large company members.  Small companies tell us how their capabilities address the needs of these large corporations.
Spring 2015: Large companies are given portfolios of relevant small companies.  From these portfolios, the large companies select small companies to meet via Demo Days and individual introductions.
Summer 2015: Large companies and small companies are invited to join the annual Innovators Connection Reception.

Apply now to the Innovators Connection

Click here to answer a few simple questions and become a part of the Innovators Connection


If you have any questions regarding the Innovators Connection, please contact Bryan Brochu at 312-988-1514 or at