Chicago Innovation Blog

Chicago Innovation leadership announcement: Luke Tanen promoted to CEO & President

by | Oct 27, 2021

Luke Tanen Promoted to CEO and President of Chicago Innovation; Paul Kitti Named Vice President of Marketing and Events

Chicago—Luke Tanen, Executive Director of Chicago Innovation, has been promoted to the position of CEO and President, reflecting the steady growth in the size and scope of Chicago Innovation under his leadership.

Paul Kitti, who leads the team responsible for organizing and coordinating the rapidly expanding offering of Chicago Innovation (CI) events and activities has been promoted to Vice President of Marketing and Events.

The move was announced by Thomas Kuczmarski, President of the Chicago-based consulting firm Kuczmarski Innovation, and the Co-Founder, in 2002, of Chicago Innovation (CI). Kuczmarski will continue as Senior Advisor. The promotions will be effective on October 28th.

“All who have worked with Luke and Paul know their dedication to helping grow the innovation community in the Chicago region,” said Kuczmarski. The Chicago Innovation team has sparked a decade of growth that has been nothing short of breathtaking and shows no sign of slowing down.”

When Tanen joined Chicago Innovation in 2010, its only program was the annual Chicago Innovation Awards, which remain at the heart of CI’s three part mission to celebrate, educate, and connect innovators in the Chicago region. Its view of innovation is inclusive, captured by CI’s well-known slogan embracing “high tech, low tech, and no tech; public, private, and non-profit” organizations, and its core value that “innovation is for everyone.”

The scope of Chicago Innovation has grown to embrace the full spectrum implied by these slogans.
The expansion also included the launch of four subsidiary programs which have greatly expanded CI’s community and diversity. They are:

• The Women’s Mentoring Co-Op, which has grown to become the region’s largest mentoring initiative focused entirely on women mentoring women to help advance their careers.

• The Chicago Student Invention Convention, which works with teachers and their students in Chicago elementary and middle schools on the skills and values of invention. More than 20,000 students have participated, each developing their own invention, with the best going on to regional and national recognition.

• Ageless Innovators, which teams up older innovators with younger counterparts in a co-mentoring relationship.

• The Ladder, which begins operation in 2022, will be a mentoring program for Black and Latinx innovators in the Chicago region.

“When Chicago Innovation was established by Tom Kuczmarski alongside co-founder journalist Dan Miller, our innovation community was a fraction of what it is today,” said Hardik Bhatt, President of Chicago-based SDI Presence and 15-year Chicago Innovation Board member and Innovation Awards judge. “Today our innovation ecosystem is among the most vibrant in the world. Chicago Innovation is widely known and admired for the important part it has played in making that happen.

“This is an ideal time for Luke to step up as CEO,” said Bhatt. “He works closely with the current generation of business and civic leaders in Chicago. He is tireless in his efforts to engage the new and rapidly growing generation of innovators, as well as Chicago technology stalwarts that are actively injecting innovation throughout their organizations. He reflects the best of the efforts that are underway to see Chicago become home to the talent that is developed here.”

In the past 20 years, 335 companies have won the Chicago Innovation Awards. 98 percent of those companies are still in business. 60 of those winners have been acquired with exit values exceeding $110 billion. Among this year’s nominees for its popular Up-and-Comer awards, 38 percent are organizations led by women.

Sponsor support for Chicago Innovation has grown in tandem with the expansion of the organization, with dozens of corporations now sponsoring the organization.

Tanen is a 2007 graduate of Northwestern University, earning his MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in 2016. During his time at Chicago Innovation, Tanen has been named a Crain’s “20 in their 20’s” and Crain’s “Top 25 Rising Stars in Tech.” He recently served as Chair of the Innovation and Technology Membership Committee of the Economic Club of Chicago. He and his wife Jamie, a teacher in the Chicago Public School system, live in Chicago and have twin boys, Avi and Jonah.

Kitti joined Chicago Innovation in 2013, following work as an event coordinator at Chicago-based Red Frog Events. Earlier he had been a journalist and promoter for Pakmode
Media+Marketing in Ypsilanti, MI, with a special emphasis on community events. A resident of Chicago, he is a graduate of the University of Michigan.


Contact: Ray Boyer 312-330-6433 or

Innovation expo to be held in Chicago

Innovation expo to be held in Chicago

An event named The Innovators’ Guide to Chicago will take place next month at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Luke Tanen — president and CEO of Chicago Innovation — joins the Noon Business Hour.

Here’s who won big at the 2022 Chicago Innovation Awards

Here’s who won big at the 2022 Chicago Innovation Awards

This year’s Chicago Innovation Awards highlight how the city’s tech and startup scene is not as much the boys club that it used to be. Mayor Lori Lightfoot alluded to as much in her opening address, highlighting that of the 21 winners at Wednesday night’s awards, 11 were women-led businesses and nine were founded by people of color.

Chicago Innovation Awards winners revealed

Chicago Innovation Awards winners revealed

A self-sanitizing diaper changing table, a digital health platform, and an apparel brand that eases dressing for older adults get special honors in this year’s awards.

Innovation expo to be held in Chicago

Chicago Innovation Awards: A Preview

This year’s Chicago Innovation Awards are set to take place on Nov. 16. Luke Tanen — president and CEO of Chicago Innovation — joins the Noon Business Hour with a preview.

Innovation expo to be held in Chicago

Innovation Award spawns study on Chicago trends

A study of data from Chicago Innovation Award nominees has led to a report on trends in the city. Luke Tanen, president and CEO of Chicago Innovation, joins the Noon Business Hour.