All that Jazzmatazz in Chicago

Igor IZotov
11 min readMay 6, 2019


“My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of people, too
People who smile at you
And each time I roam, Chicago is
Calling me home, Chicago is
Why I just grin like a clown
It’s my kind of town” — Franky Sinatra

Probably the lyrics that define Chicago more than me in this boring story. Before getting to the interesting part, let me tell you how I got here. I am here for a Professional Fellowship, a program of the US State Department that takes place twice a year in cooperation with World Chicago and is one of the three professional fellowship programs offered by the US State Department. If you wanna apply to it feel free to reach out and I will give you the details. The program is a one-month fellowship program that places you home family and host organization so you can feel like an American blue-chip “worker” for a month. And the following story is based on my first 2 weeks of the program Bellow is a group picture of the 16 fellows. Remember those faces, they will be someone one day.

US Department of State Proffesional Fellowship Program 2019

US State Department Fellows 2019World Chicago
WorldChicago is an organization that brings the world to Chicago and Chicago to the world. If I am to know better-networked organization in Chicago I will say no way. Our official reception was at the penthouse of Steve Sarowitz , the CEO of Paylocity. As I ask them for introductions to various important people, I realise more and more that they know everybody important in Chicago. They just informed me that I am on for a breakfast with the CEO of the World Economic Forum Klaus Schwab on the 16th of May .

Steve Sarowitz with his wife

I am not sure but I think a ticket for some of the fundraisers they are organizing go form 2000$ and up. Another interesting fact about WorldCHicago is that they have an enormous network of hosts who are hosting professional fellows as myself in order to give them the American spirit while they are doing their stay in the US. I don’t know the official numbers but WorldChicago manages at least 300 fellows on a yearly basis.

Roland Kulla is my host, in this picture he(the one in the middle ) is with some of the fellows he has hosted over the years

Future Founders
As part of the World Chicago program, all of the fellows are based in different organisations based on our expertise. I was matched with Future Founders an NGO (yes there are NGOs in the USA, something I didn’t know before coming) that believes that every youth can be an entrepreneur. And Scott Issen (the CEO ) and Brad Keywell, the chairman of the board(btw in his spare time is a Billionaire founder of Groupon and Uptake — pretty much the biggest AI company out there) truly believes in.
So over the years, Scott and his team have created these wonderful programs that help high school students and all the way up to 30year olds develop and launch their products. The scary part for me was when I found that most people after University cannot use any public fundings or help in a way of mentoring/coaching in order to develop their idea. This huge gap has not stayed unnoticed by corporates and Future founders have gotten on board some interesting corporate to help fill in this gap. Future Founders works out regularly with Blackstone group, the Coleman foundation (who are matching with Dollar donated with Dollar from their foundation), Google, Motorola etc.

Instead of a picture of Scott and the team, the impact they have made 2016–2018

Back to me, I was lucky to be part of this organisation in their busiest month, so the third day of the program I was part of their residency program (that highlights 18 -30 year olds ) demo day. Till now I have been to pitching (demo days) in different countries and If I am to make comparison American youths to everybody else is that they are huge on customer discovery. These guys know their target market as they know the bible. All of them have these compelling stories why they are doing the things they are doing and why they are solving the problem they are solving.
However the financial literacy of the startup founders is about the same level as European founders. This month I will spend to work more hands on with them in improving their acceleration and startup programs.

I am still new to Chicago and it looks like a huge city so to write something more than the normal trivia facts will be exaggerating. I am based in South Chicago close to the former industrial complex of the city. I have the original Wrigley factory few blocks from me (8 blocks are around 1,6 km), and a HUGE meat processing plant that is now a food Incubator just around the corner. The whole complex is called Back at the Yards, and the closes point to my house is called a Whiskey point, place where back in the days afterwork bars were based. Nowadays, all of them are closed and lot of minorities and underprivileged people have moved in and the area is considered under-severed (that is the original term for nobody cares about u ;) areas.

Wrigley Factory in South Chicago

South Chicago is where the working class was/is based. The place is full with neighbourhoods, so you have Greek neighbourhood (with Greek columns to represent ur in Greek neibourhood ), Irish neighbourhood, Polish, Ukrainian, Italian (Al Capone was living here ) and so on and so forth. These neighbourhoods started as people who were “invited “ to work on the development of the city developed their own ghettos and communities where they can “thrive”. For example, the Irish were invited to build the channel that connected the Michigan lake with Mississippi River thus opening a channel for transferring goods from Chicago to New Orleans down south.

The Greek Columns in the Greek neighbourhood

In one such community , Barak Obama was inspired by one community worker Jerry Kellman, (who hired him ) to become what he is today. The crazy part is that even though, these part of Chicago are dangerous there is a small area called Hyde Park wherein few blocks (a couple of Km) from the most dangerous part of Chicago house prices skyrocket and where the famous University of Chicago is based.
Furthermore, South Chicago is a place that most whites that I met over these couple of days have never been to. A normal conversation avout me living in the South would go as this:
Average educated Chicago person — Hey Igor where are u based?
Igor: “ South Chicago -
Average educated Chicago person: You sure,?
Igor: Yap, man Back of the Yards neighborhood
Average educated Chicago person: nooooo, please use Uber or Lyft after 8p.m just in case.

200m from my house, is the palce if you want to be a gang member

On another note, Chicago is called the city of architecture. Before coming here I never knew that there are so many different architectural styles that were “invented “ here. The story goes, in 1871 (yes they named an startup incubator after a fire) there was a great fire that destroys most of Chicago with one or two buildings surviving the flames. Ever since architects were given open hands to do whatever they pleased with the city as long as they use steel and concrete, materials that don't burn. And because of the fire, they started building with steel frame constructions and oh boy what have they produced.
The first ever skyscraper was build here. The famous bungalows (two flat houses ) that I always thought were English, were first built in the Chicago suburban parts. The Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) highest building for 25 years (1998 Petronas Buildings in Malaysia). The Marina City complex, skyscrapers where u can park your boat in the basement, ur car till the 40th floor and go up live in the clouds. The Hancock tower. All and all, Chicago is considered the city with the best downtown panorama view.

Home Insurance Building, build 1885, demolished 1931.
Sears (Willis Tower) highest tower in the world for 25 years 1973–1998
Hancock Tower
Picture from one of the Cannals overlooking Chicago Downtown arae. Trump building is the one in the middle.
How tinny everything looks from the 98 floor restaurant at the Hancock tower

Obama’s Chicago
Speaking with ordinary people both republicans and democrats and Chicago is democratic (everybody hates Trump although the second tallest building in town is Trump ), they consider their President as US royalty. One guy even noted we don’t have a queen so Michelle is our queen ;)
So I spend one morning discovering how does Obama’s Chicago look like?
Michell was born in Chicago in a poor family by US Standards, she had to share her room with her brother (I know people back home who were sharing the bed with their brother), while Obama moved here to teach at the University of Chicago. Both of them were well educated for black Americans (both Harvard graduates) and lived in Hyde Park in south Chicago where houses can go up to a couple fo Mil $ easily. For all conspiracy theorists out there close to Obama’s house there is a synagogue…

The house where Obama and Michelle lived before they moved to the White House on east Hyde Park blvd
The place where they kissed the first time (there is a rock memorising the place Un Fucking believable ).

I was a bit jet legged and hangover from the previous night’s bar crawl so I cherished the breakfast at Obama’s favourite restourant.

Obama’s table at Valois Restaurant

I had the Mediterranean omelet made as Obama likes it . I must admit that the vibe behind the place was excellent but the Obama thing was a bit tooo much.

University of Chicago
After the whole Obama walk, the excitment rose as I went down to visit the University of Chicago. The university has the funnies motto “Where fun goes to die”, and the motto is right on the spot. You know how the US universities are HUGE on sports well Uni of Chicago is Not. The university has NO sporting team, one of the formal deans said Why do we need a football team we are educational institution so he turned the football stadium into a library + a particles accelerator, similar to CERN but smaller. On December 2, 1942, scientists at the University of Chicago produced the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction beneath the West Stand of Stagg Field, the University’s athletic stadium or put it another term WHERE the atomic bomb was Born.

Monument commemorating the place where the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction took place

University of Chicago is also famous by it’s noble price winners. A total of 90 Noble laureates have roots at the university and UChicago is ranked 3rd in this index after Stanford and Princeton. As I am an avid reader and one of my reading habits include to read I read either the most famous book written by that years Noble laureate in economy or his Phd desertion I truly cherished the notion to be at the Chicago Booth School of Business where few of my finances or behaviour economics idols teach or teached. FYI those are Eugene Fama, Merthon, Scholes and Richard Thaler, and I already send an email to bug Thaler to have a short talk with me. So if you know him pleas tell him to reply to my email.

Where Business is developed

Future Founders is based in 1871, which was voted the best business incubator in the States a couple of years in a row. On the other hand 1871 is situated in the Merchandise Mart, which was the biggest building at the time it was build (1930).

Yap, the Mart is Enormous

So what is so special about 1871.
1. There is NO free Coffee or tee (nothings free in the US),
2. most of the offices have NO windows, ( the building where the incubator/co-working space is — Merchandise marks, is the second largest building after the Pentagon by volume but it short and wide building so the windows are reserved for the rich and famous and not startups and early stage companies)
3. The community management team is not nice at all, you need to book their time or go through a robot type of system to answer all your questions. Not everybody can get in, maybe is US style but they can give u 4 hours free with a guess but everything over that is charged 25$ per day.
4. No communal events (drinking beer parties for example) where the people gather

p.s no windows

The CEO is the formal Chief Innovation office of Kellogg School of Management (top 10 Business schools in the World) so she knows how to grow companies. She even comes to orientation day to say hi and is always open to talk to you.
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter just gave a members speech in 1871- did you know he coded Twitter in 2 weeks. UpTake CEO is next in a couple of days.
It’s named after the great fire that almost destroyed Chicago in 1871
most of the accelerators/tech stars, bunker labs are based here , so if u are early stage startup this is the place to scale up
the numbers behind this place are extraordinary 130,000 square feet of space around 12 000m2, they have over 1,500 members, they do 1,000 events a year, and they offer more than 10,000 hours a year of one-on-one mentoring — — Yap they have 100 mentors offering free advice on various subjects every day 365 days per year.
and unlike Europe, they have children rooms where you can leave your child while you work.

Random events are happening all the time

Last but not least, I need to say something about the weather. I have traveled quite a lot but I have never seen anything like this in my life. When I opened accurate weather for the first time to check how will be my 6 weeks in Chicago I never saw,
In one day the weather went from +20 sunny with a bit of wind to -4C snowy with 10cm of snow. The reason behind this weather behavior is Lake Michigan which serves as an air conditioner in many cases. So when the wind is coming from the north it’s getting cold from the lake and when it’s coming to form the south is warm and nice.

The white is actually snow

In the next edition

  1. How I met the CEO of the World Economic forum
  2. The Chicago Cubs and pre-war baseball
  3. Why do billioners never use business cards
  4. Who is Brad, and why he is important to Chiacgo
  5. some other landmarks of Chicago which I have not discovered yet
  6. the Green MIle, the speackeasy where Al Capone used to hang around
  7. Chicago the musical
  8. 1871, 7th birthday and who will be there

till then…

  1. Pray for the Bucks vs the Celtics, so I can get to an NBA match

Wanna know more check



Igor IZotov

W.R.I.T.E.R - "Not particularly intelligent, but passionately curious by nature"; FYI I make typos all the time