It's no secret that too few of the top tech talent at University of Illinois heads to Chicago after graduation.
So Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking Chicago tech to Urbana-Champaign on Oct. 2, joined on the road trip by representatives from some 40 of the city's tech companies, including Boeing Co., BrightTag Inc., Cleversafe Inc., Google Inc., Groupon Inc. and GrubHub Inc.
The brain drain from U of I is legendary – Marc Andreessen worked on the first commercial web browser there but went to Silicon Valley to start Netscape – and much lamented. But Emanuel might be the first mayor to do something about it by taking the drive downstate to roll out the welcome mat.
The meet-and-greet with engineering and computer science students, organized by World Business Chicago, sprang from a conversation Emanuel had with the U of I's new president, Robert Easter.
Emanuel will have quite an entourage. He's bringing techies and entrepreneurs who have startup cred with students, including Eric Lunt, chief technology officer of BrightTag and Feedburner; Mike Evans, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer science and electrical engineering grad and cofounder of GrubHub Inc.; and Brad Keywell, serial web entrepreneur and co-founder of Groupon and venture fund Lightbank.
The group is expected to hold a talk with students at the U of I's sacred ground for computer engineers, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, where Andreessen and countless others honed their skills before heading to the Golden State.
The following week, 100 top students — 50 from the U of I and 50 from other Midwest schools — will come to Chicago as part of the ThinkChicago program that is part of Chicago Ideas Week, organized by Keywell.