The future of urban leadership: mapping potential for growth for a new mayor

Brad Keywell, cofounder and CEO of Groupon, said Chicago played a key role in his company’s success during the final session of the Future of the City Symposium.

The day ended with an unabashed nod to the city and a diverse panel of business, cultural, and community leaders that contribute to its vibrancy.

Groupon, a Chicago-based discount e-commerce website, grew from 125 employees in December 2009 to more than 5,000 employees in 40 countries today, making it the fastest growing company in history. Keywell and his cofounders reportedly turned down a $600 million acquisition offer from Google.

Keywell said Groupon’s connection to Chicago and the Midwest was instrumental in its success and would not have happened if it had been based in Silicon Valley, where many technology companies congregate.

During the same session, Madeliene Grynsztejn, the Pritzker director at the Museum of Contemporary Art, spoke about the role of museums in an increasingly interactive world. She said the Internet has increased the MCA’s important role as an authority on art in Chicago, while at the same time inspiring artists to create exhibitions that invite viewer engagement and diversify the museum’s audience. She said part of the future vitality of cultural institutions in Chicago, however, requires the city’s next mayor to make education a priority.

Like many speakers throughout the symposium, Raul Raymundo called for better schools but also emphasized a need for improved partnerships. Raymundo, CEO and cofounder of The Resurrection Project—a community-based nonprofit that does work in everything from affordable housing to education, financial services, and improving the streets and sanitation in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood—challenged Chicago’s next mayor to focus on community development through better coordination with local organizations.