Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, a pivotal player in one of the nation's most successful tech start-ups, offered encouragement to Chicago's emerging tech community Wednesday, saying the city has the beginnings of the necessary elements to develop as a digital hub.
The city has fine universities, good quality of life and a growing venture capital scene, but still lacks solid tech anchors, he said.
"Almost every place that is successful with start-ups has one or two or more big companies that have made it in the tech field," he said in an appearance at start-up hub 1871 in the Merchandise Mart that drew about 250 of the city's tech entrepreneurs and software developers.
"Right now you have some that are sort of emerging, like Groupon, and Motorola is sort of in flux," he said.
Ballmer made his remarks after touring 1871 with Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Kevin Willer, who led the launch of 1871; and venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker, one of its early backers.
After recalling his early days at Microsoft, started by his Harvard classmate Bill Gates, Ballmer encouraged start-up hopefuls to forget about the risk of failure and pursue their dreams.
"Whether you succeed or fail, you will be smarter and better and will have new opportunities that come out of this," he said.
Ballmer's appearance comes about two months after the city signed a four-year deal to move its 30,000 employees' email and desktop applications to Microsoft cloud computing.
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