Not too long ago, we profiled Technori, a Chicago-based startup, that gives entrepreneurs in the technology startup scene the resources, information and the platform to successfully build their company. Technori was founded by Seth Kravitz and Val Chulamorkodt in 2010 and they have become an important part of the Chicago tech ecosystem. Val Chulamorkodt started her career as a lawyer but now is a full time entrepreneur. Not too long ago I sat down with Val over coffee to discuss the vibrant Chicago tech scene. From that conversation came several more email exchanges, which in turn resulted in a hot seat interview. Here is the condensed form of our conversation, which you’ll find besides her passion for Technori, her favorite sports and foods.
Why did you start Technori?
My co-founder Seth Kravitz and I started Technori to galvanize and uplift the Chicago startup community using the resources and skills at our disposal. It was and still is a project inspired by the people and ecosystem that supported both of us and many, many others so diligently and sincerely.
What makes Technori a big part of the Chicago tech scene?
I think our passion for creating great articles and high-value events for entrepreneurs and startups comes through. We work really hard to maintain high standards, and I think (I hope!) that's appreciated.
Plus, both Seth and I really love the scene. So in many ways as hard as we and our team works, the joy is always present. And you know what they say about a party, if the hosts are having a good time, the guests will have a good time!
Technori Pitch, the monthly startup pitch event Technori hosts, is one of Chicago's biggest pitch events. When did you first start this and tell us how it has evolved since then?
Our very first Technori Pitch was in September 2011 at NAVTEQ. Although the purpose and spirit to truly showcase local startups before a captive audience has been steadfast, we've made a number of tweaks along the way to enhance the experience for ticketholders. We made an opening keynote standard, and added an afterparty to foster networking. We also streamlined some logistical elements. The details are totally boring, but they're also really important to executing a smooth event.
Technori Pitch continues to evolve, and we're excited to see future editions.
You started your career as a lawyer. Now you are an entrepreneur. Obviously a big difference in career and lifestyle. What would you say is the biggest adjustment for you from being a full time corporate lawyer to a full time tech entrepreneur?
The biggest adjustment has been figuring out when to stop working. Even as a lawyer, I was still an employee. I had distinct boundaries between my work self and actual self. As an entrepreneur those boundaries are barely apparent - for better and worse. For Technori my "work" is more my purpose than a series tasks to accomplish. Technori also dovetails into my social life and personal interests, as a result I sometimes don't "power down". It's hard to power down a fun machine!
Do you have a chip on your shoulder? I ask because being a minority and a woman, do you feel like you have to prove yourself more so than say a white male counterpart in your position?
I don't think I have a chip on my shoulder.... I hope I don't! There are some biases out there - I like to believe are unintentional and unmalicious - that make it harder to get work done or deals signed. For the most part though, I've seen it apply to a lot of different demographics and different contexts. That's not to say it doesn't annoy me when it's happening. It does. But I have to also appreciate the fact that the tendency cuts both ways.
If a woman similar to you is having thoughts about starting her own business, particularly a tech startup, what advice would you give to her knowing what you know now?
Just start. Even if you can't fully break away from a current job, take actionable steps toward validating the inclination to start a business. Be ok with the ups and downs of the learning process and fail fast. Failing is great if you learn from it and don't let it define you. Leverage all advantages at your disposal unabashedly.
You used to blog for thefootballgirl.com. So are you still a big fooball fan? If yes, what is it about football that makes you a fan?
I do still love football, though I don't follow it as rigorously as I used to as a blogger. My Deadspin RSS feed has been supplanted by Mashable and Springwise.
I like the extended strategy of football. There are small battles along the way to winning the war. And I tend to gravitate toward brutish sports. I enjoy MMA as well.
I know you love sushi. So do I. But I love Thai food too. What is your favorite Thai dish? And do you cook a mean one at home?
Ooh. Hard question! If I could only pick one Thai dish it would be something called Kow Mon Gai. It's poached chicken served with seasoned rice alongside a chicken broth and other condiments. It's perfect and delicate and delicious. I've made it before, but admittedly my mom's is better.
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