Jason Fried Tells the Chicago Startup Scene: Don’t Try to Be SF or NY

Kira M. Newman

37signals cofounder Jason Fried told a Tech Cocktail Sessions audience last week that Chicago shouldn’t try to imitate other successful startup scenes.

“I don’t want to see Chicago try and be San Francisco or try and be New York,” he said. “That’s a mistake, it will never happen, and there’s no reason to try and be something you’re not.”

Instead, he proposed that Chicago startups focus on the smarter path of building profitable, long-term businesses.

“I think Chicago could be a great place for building bootstrapped companies, long-term companies, companies that are focused on selling stuff, on revenues and profits,” he said. “I think that represents the City of Big Shoulders, that represents the hard-working Midwest, the whole ethos here.”

Other startups scenes focus on “blowing things up fast” and not on making money, Fried said, and that’s a “dangerous, dangerous thing.”

Fried added that the new CEO of 1871, Howard Tullman, has the right attitude. “One of the things he said is this is not a place to play entrepreneur. This is not a place to pretend. This is a place where you build something and you move on. And we have to be about getting people in and up and out. And I love that mentality, and I hope that he really makes that happen here.”

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.