Startups in the suburbs: 8 companies with offices outside Chicago

James Risley

Chicago is a great place to start your company, but it’s also surrounded by great suburbs that have a deep history in tech. In fact, suburban companies like Bell Labs and CDW, along with research institutions like Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory, have helped feed Chicago’s tech scene from the beginning.

Today, Chicago’s suburbs are still bustling with startups and tech firms. Many companies have offices out in places like Evanston, Oak Park and Skokie, letting suburban techies expand the tech scene beyond the city, and there are even startup spaces like 25N Coworking to help budding startups get off the ground.


Pampered Chef helps cooks succeed with high-quality kitchen tools, often sold by independent consultants at cooking shows and parties. But their tech team is constantly innovating behind the scenes, building mobile-friendly storefronts and improving tools for consultants. The company has offices in both Addison and Chicago, with the 120-person-strong tech team sitting in Addison.


Managing a workforce can be a hassle. Paylocity offers a cloud-based solution to human capital management and payroll services. The company is based in Arlington Heights, but its remote workforce makes up about 50 percent of the product development team, and the other 50 percent have a generous work-from-home policy., the online consignment and thrift store, has offices in Helsinki, Finland and an open workspace at WeWork downtown, but the company’s U.S. headquarters and fulfillment center is in Bolingbrook. The company recently raised $20 million to increase that facility’s efficiency.


NowSecure literally wrote a book on iOS security, and the small-but-mighty team is dedicated to ensuring that their customers and their devices stay secure. While the company is based in Oak Park, its workforce spans the globe.


Auctions are a great way for charities to raise money, but they often leave money on the table due to confusing and inefficient bidding processes. Westmont-based Gesture brings the process online with a mobile bidding system. This gives more time for dinners, speeches and socializing — the things that really draw in the big donors.


You may not know it, but one of the most trafficked sites in the world is headquartered in Evanston. outranks sites like Reddit, Craigslist and CNN in terms of views, bringing in clicks from the 1,500 newspapers and 3,500 funeral homes it partners with to host online obituary and memorial content.


Evanston-based LiveWatch Security protects homeowners with DIY alarm systems. What started as a group of home security enthusiasts building their own systems eventually turned into a full service with alarm monitoring and advanced software that get homeowners in contact with emergency responders sooner.


Marketing your product to a business (instead of a consumer) can be a struggle. The Mx Group integrates digital strategy, technology, operations and sales optimization services to help companies attract customers. The company is based in Burr Ridge and has been ranked among Built In Chicago’s Top 100 Digital Companies.


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