Eric Lefkofsky’s Ventures: How the Chicago-Based Entrepreneur Nurtures the City’s Business Ecosystem

Eric Lefkofsky

Last year was a great year for Chicago exits and investments. In fact, the city is positioned among the top cities in the nation for high startup exit valuations thanks to high-value exits over the past few years. These include GrubHub, Coyote Logistics, Orbitz, Naurex, Vivid Seats, Gogo, ExteNet, Cleversafe, Fieldgrass and Trustwave. What is also strengthening the Midwest ecosystem is that most of Chicago’s top entrepreneurs are in the market with new ventures. Add to that the fact that all those ventures have investor and public traction, and it is not difficult to see what contributed to Chicago’s healthy and maturing ecosystem.


PitchBook reported that Chicago remains the nation’s leader in investor returns in the United States. Out of 17 metropolitan cities, Chicago had the highest multiple on invested capital (MOIC).


Among those who are adding to the city’s rich diversification of experience and ideas that promise to continue breeding success over the long term is entrepreneur Eric Lefkofsky.


Lefkofsky obtained his law degree from the University of Michigan Law school in 1993, and since that time he has been a part of a number of several business ventures. His most recent company, Tempus is supporting physicians efforts to deliver personalized medicine. It is revolutionizing cancer care by combining big data analytics with operating systems and delivering that to cancer doctors. It has been voted as one of Chicago’s top ten health tech companies. The company has raised a total of $210 million with a valuation around $1.1 billion and is Chicago’s newest “unicorn” company.


In 2001, Lefkofsky co-founded InnerWorkings, where remained on the board of directors until 2012. The company focuses on providing managed print and promotional solutions globally. According to their website, InnerWorkings assists Fortune 500 companies and large non-profits to better connect with customers and enhance marketing return on investment.


In 2005, Lefkofsky co-created Echo Global Logistics, a technology-enabled transportation and logistics outsourcing firm. It serves its clients’ shipping and freight management needs via its web-based technology platform that gathers and examines data from a total of 24,000 transportation providers. It has 17 different locations nationwide and provides services to tens of thousands of clients on a yearly basis. It went public on the NASDAQ in 2006 under the symbol ECHO.


In 2006, Lefkofsky co-founded MediaBank. MediaBank later merged with Donovan Data Systems to become Mediaocean, which is an integrated media procurement technologies provider. Mediaocean currently serves over 80,000 advertising professionals across the United States.


Lefkofsky then began a venture that he probably became most known for. Initially called in 2007 for which Lefkofsky provided $1 million in funding, the venture was renamed Groupon in 2008. The following year it raised $30 million from outside investors. In 2010, Groupon had a valuation of $1.35 billion and was reported as the fastest growing company in history by Forbes magazine. Groupon is a worldwide e-commerce marketplace that links subscribers with local merchants by offering activities, travel, goods and services across several countries.


In 2010 Lefkofsky founded Lightbank, a venture capital firm that focuses its investments on disruptive technologies. The company takes a unique approach to venture capital by investing beyond money through seed, Series A, and even later stage investments. It takes a hands-on role in helping the company rise quickly. Lightbank has invested in more than 70 companies in Chicago, the Midwest and throughout the United States. Since its founding, Lightbank has raised $302 million and created over $2.8 billion in returns.


In addition to being an entrepreneur, Lefkofsky is a philanthropist. In terms of his civic engagements, he is the Trustee of the Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry and World Business Chicago. He also serves as the Board of Trustees’ Chairman of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company. He and his wife Liz co-chair the Lefkofsky Family Foundation that supports high-impact initiatives that improve lives in the communities served. Since 2013, the two have also been part of the Giving Pledge, whose members commit to donating half their wealth to philanthropic causes.

Lefkofsky currently holds an adjunct professorship at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He also authored Accelerated Disruption: Understanding the True Speed of Innovation.


For more information on Eric Lefkofsky, please visit, LinkedIn: ericlefkofsky, Twitter: @lefkofsky or Facebook: @eplefkofsky

Haley Thompson

About Haley Thompson

Haley is a journalist with over 10 years of experience in the field. She has held many editorial roles at a number of high-profile publishers – both offline as well as online.

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