The Nerdery - Overnight Website Challenge

Chicago 2014, April 12-13

Chicago Startup Leadership Program

Paired with Code to Joy

SLP Chicago supports first time entrepreneurs as they traverse their entrepreneurial journey and increases their probability of success through education and community.

SLP offers a six month, selective educational experience that helps early stage entrepreneurs learn the skills necessary to be a successful startup CEO. Held at 1871 in Chicago, class speakers have included Square Planet’s Brian Burkhardt, Todd Wyder, Armando Pauker from Apex Ventures, AKTA, Booth School of Business Professors Craig Wortman and Mike Moyer, virality expert Emerson Spartz, two time YC alum Savraj Dhanjal, guests from our sponsors and many local angel investors, including members of Hyde Park Angels.

Chicago SLP graduates include JiveHealth, TwoTara, Dermbids, Snapclass, Roommations, Cleveland Whiskey, PreScouter, GeoPollster, Found in Town, Motozuma, Furnishly, Gourmet Gorilla, FasPark and Human Practice.

In just two short years, the graduate companies have:

-Been accepted into the VW Accelerator

-Won Partnership for a Healthier America’s Obesity Challenge

-2013 Northwestern Venture Competition Winner

-Secured a national retail contract

-Doubled their business

-Moxie Award Finalist

-Topped $5M in revenue

SLP is a non-profit, never takes equity from participating companies, and has a one-time cost of $450 to cover food during the program.


Please see "additional notes" next as it may help explain some of my answers to the following questions.

What new functionality we are looking for

I'm a big fan of the website: My thinking is heavily influence by what they've done. The big highlights include:

*Telling the story: through great use of pictures, icons and words they've effectively told their story. Ahead of the workshop I would work with some copy/branding folks available to us to really help hone the language around SLP Chicago. That would include creating a website theme - something like (but probably not this) "creating the billion dollar entrepreneurs of tomorrow"

*Highlighting mentors & companies: because we rely very heavily on the generosity of individuals and companies, being able to recognize them on the website is a huge motivator. We've currently got a start, but it needs some significant design help. There's nothing like going to a website and seeing one's own picture.

*Conveying legitimacy: I've mentioned this in other parts of the application. Having a local website that truly reflects what Chicago SLP is about will help with recruiting, our most important part of the program. Not only recruiting from a candidate fellow perspective, but also in attracting new sponsors, advisers and mentors. A new website is the #1 priority for us in the coming year.

*Collecting interest: Because our program runs once a year, we need to keep momentum up and maintain some presence in the news. We've adhoc put out newsletters and other communications, but only via people that our in our personal networks. I would like to see functionality that collects email addresses for two purposes: 1) "Let me know when applications open" and 2) SLP Chicago Newsletter

*Applications: SLP globally uses the F6S ( platform to collect applications. There is no need to integrate - although we could try. Linking would be sufficient.


Because I've already been thinking about this extensively, I've already started putting together wireframes, branding documents and assets. In a former life, I used to project manage website development - and am very familiar with the creative process and what will be required. If selected, I think you'll find that I'll probably be one of the more organized individuals coming into the competition .. and very open to whatever ideas or brainstorms come out of it.

How the new functionality will help

The Startup Leadership Program, in general, suffers from a lack of awareness. Given that there are 20 chapters across the world, with 700 Companies and $370M in raised capital .. you would think people would have heard of it. But the focus and resources have always been on helping companies and not on marketing.

Hence, we know that we miss helping many worthy entrepreneurs who simply don't know about the program.

Currently, Chicago directs people to the Global website ( or to a local page we have created (

The challenge is that most of the information on the Global website is out of date or inaccurate as it is managed by an volunteer IT team based in India. Getting a current list of program Fellows and updating our sponsor logos took 6 months last year. The Global website reflects the ideals of the larger organization, which are in harmony with but slightly different from our local goals.

Pushing people to our Built in Chicago page has helped, but still leaves many individuals with a sense that the program is not legit. One fellow confided in me that he felt the program was sketchy and reluctantly came to our first event. After meeting the individuals involved, it relieved his concerns.

I believe our goals are easily accomplished in a 24 hour period. Given our support of the tech and entrepreneurial community, we hope that many of the participants in the hackathon will some day consider going through our program.

How our organization will use the technology

Who will use the technology

4 Messages from Supporters

2014-03-17 16:11:59 UTC
Bryon Finke

The Startup Leadership Program (SLP) has proven a critical component to my entrepreneurial journey and success. After leaving a career in management consulting, I launched local furniture marketplace Furnishly and grew it to thousands of stores and shoppers across the US. SLP connected me with the right people, and provided guidance that ultimately lead to a successful exit of the business.

My latest startup, Relished, continues to benefit from the community SLP-Chicago has created. Inside of six months we are operationally profitable and growing fast within a nationwide food market that offers limitless potential.

Entrepreneurship is most challenging when it leaves you stranded, alone, on an island with no resources or market recognition to cling to. SLP is the island party every entrepreneur needs to be a part of.

2014-03-17 16:16:46 UTC
Moses Hohman

I went through SLP Chicago as a fellow in 2012 and as co-program leader in 2013. The program is a great resource for Chicago entrepreneurs that complements some of the other organizations out there. SLP does not take equity, charges a very modest fee to accepted fellows, and focuses on building relationships between fellow entrepreneurs in addition to relationships with mentors.

My startup, Human Practice, has benefited in a number of ways from the program. For example, one of our key advisors is a relationship I first developed through SLP. One of our key customers was introduced to us by another SLP fellow. As we near closing our seed round of financing, all the things I learned about fundraising through SLP have really helped. And last but not least, I really appreciate the continued support, feedback and friendship I get from other SLP fellows!

2014-03-17 17:35:35 UTC
Scott Mandel

In 2013 I was fortunate enough to be apart of the StartUp Leadership Program in Chicago. Over the course of 6 months I learned the skills and disciplines needed to build a successful business. But more importantly SLP introduced me to a high quality network of business experts, attorneys, entrepreneurs, accountants, investors and more. This networks provided me a with the foundation and support that every entrepreneur needs to be successful.

I would strongly recommend SLP. It has helped shape me and many others.

2014-03-17 19:39:04 UTC
Kadesha Thomas Smith

I applied to SLP for a very simple reason—I had no idea what I was doing. SLP’s classes, mentors and most importantly my fellow SLP members were an incredible source of knowledge, guidance and encouragement. Even though our class ended almost a year ago, the camaraderie has not changed. And I don’t think it ever will.

My company, CareContent, Inc, does blogs for hospital websites. In the past year, we’ve started working with 11 hospitals and have a team of 5. I’m thrilled at the progress, and SLP has definitely helped us get there.

Our Mission

Being a startup founder is hard. In addition to giving up a full time job and financial stability, you must manage the highs of success that are almost always immediately followed by the lows of a setback. And at times it feels like everyone else is killing it BUT you. SLP Chicago takes the approach of investing in the promising entrepreneur. Our goal is to give the individual the skills, community and resources to make this company, or their next company, successful. We invest in first time entrepeneurs at the very earliest stages. 75% of graduates from SLP Chicago mention the community as the #1 benefit of the program in their exit surveys. It's the knowledge that there are non-competitive entrepreneurs experiencing the same challenges and setbacks is most helpful. Need a talented UX designer or help putting together a new client pitch? Email your cohort and ask for advice. And by invest, I don't mean dollars. We give our time and resources. We never take equity or charge a large fee. It's a pay-it-forward mentality and a true desire to see young entrepreneurs successful.