World Economic Forum Takeaways

Charlie Connor | September 26, 2018

1871 is known for being the center for technology and entrepreneurship in Chicago. They recently gained global attention after being ranked first in the world, among university-affiliated business incubators, for their impact among local startups and dedication to diversity. This year, 1871 graciously nominated Heretik with a handful of other start-ups to join them for the first time ever at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Tianjin, China.

Being a part of such a global and impactful event will be something I never forget. I found myself in conversations involving a Secretary of State, a successful fictional writer from Japan, a CEO of a tech-incubator in Ghana, and the founder of a hardware manufacturing company located in Seattle. I learned so many invaluable lessons during my at the WEF. I wanted to document my three biggest takeaways and why you, the reader, should care.

1. Cities will be the engine of the new economy.

This is one of my favorite learnings from my time at the WEF. This concept was brought up during a session titled ‘Innovation after Brexit.’ Over the past few years, I have intimately learned how the law firm market is evolving and can identify so many parallels to this idea.

My co-founders and I spoke to a partner at a large law firm about what problem Heretik needed to solve. He took us on a tour of his law firm and showed us the library. He said they were moving into a new office the following year, and their new office would not have a library. He then told us his firm had opened more offices over the past five years than they had the previous 15 years. He said, “Not needing a library at every office has really leveled the playing field for the mid-market firms.”

This is not far off from what we are seeing happen in cities today – the opportunity to build a more connected world. During WEF, so many people asked if Chicago was going to be the next Silicon Valley. The answer was always, “No, but that doesn’t mean we both cannot be skilled at what we do best.”

Chicago is positioned to be the hub for B2B enterprise and SaaS start-ups versus New York City or Silicon Valley dominating the B2C startup markets. Cities can be the engine for the new economy by empowering their communities to do what they do best and providing access to information that was once only available to a select few.

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2. Entrepreneurs measure survival in months, which makes the collaboration between government and the start-up community at odds end.

All businesses are working towards a similar goal of creating economic opportunities for our communities, team, and colleagues. However, it has become painfully clear how each of us define success differently. 

While start-ups tend to feel the pain or successes immediately, governments generally plan to see effects more slowly.

For example, take the situation with the on-going Brexit negotiations. Everyone is on pins and needles to see how the dust settles after the final negotiations. However, when you ask a start-up located in the United Kingdom if they are feeling the effects of Brexit, they’ll tell you “Brexit is causing an issue on the flow of talent and flow of capital.”

On the other end of the spectrum, when talking to a government official, they tend to speak to the fact that we are months or years away from the real impacts of Brexit.


1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler on a panel about global innovation.

3. Start-ups will be the link for governments and large enterprises to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution.

With all the advances in technology, founding a start-up has never been easier. A start-up can empower transformation instead of ‘disrupting the status quo.’  Especially since much of the status quo is not even a decade old.

Start-ups are seizing the opportunity to build on and join existing communities, adding immediate value by having less legacy baggage.

If you look at the companies sky rocketing to the top , like Apple or Amazon, they are transforming entire systems of production, management, and governance. Heretik is attempting to do the same for litigation by creating a technology that enhances professionals.

While this might appear to be more hype than reality, take a look at some readily available public data about the Fortune 500. If you were to compare the top 10 revenue earners in 2000 vs. 2017, you will see two very different groups in less than two decades. 

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1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler on a panel about female entrepreneurship.

Why it matters to us?

Heretik’s vision is to empower professionals at their trade. The best professional finds a way to improve, learn, and evolve in their field. The same goes for corporations and start-ups, as you constantly hear references to ‘focus’ and staying true to core competencies.

During one of the sessions, the managing director and CEO of Siemens Venture talked about how corporations are in the business of processing incoming data and converting it into value for their clients. This statement reassured me on why our vision of Heretik has never been more relevant and most importantly, attainable.

If we all focus on what success look like for all parties involved, we can start creating transformation and globalization that the world has never seen before.

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Charlie is the CEO and co-founder of Heretik. With more than a decade of experience in technical product management roles in enterprise SaaS, Charlie believes that any challenge can be solved through the right mix of people and technology. Prior to Heretik, Charlie worked as a product leader at BookedOut (acquired by Shiftgig), Relativity, and West Corporation.

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