Check Out Photos from the Big Idea Awards!

We unfortunately weren’t a winner at the RedEye’s Big Idea Awards, but it was still a great experience! This year marked the largest number of applicants, and we were honored to be among so many inspiring finalists!

Take a peek at some of the photos from this memorable night! Photography credit: Jeff Schear Visuals.

We Joined the FUND!

In addition to being a Big Idea Awards finalist, we had the opportunity to be one of the nearly 100 exhibiting companies at last month’s FUND Conference!

For those who might not know, the conference helps connect early-stage companies with angel investors, venture capitalists and more, which could hopefully lead to meaningful connections and eventually funding.

Prior to the startup expo on Oct. 26, we sat in on panel discussions specifically for exhibitors and VIP ticket-holders. Curious about what we learned? Here were our top five takeaways.

  • Don’t just look for investors who are willing to write you a check. Find someone who is as interested and invested in your idea as you. – Erik Nathan, COO of Sendio, Inc.


  • To clearly convey your idea, make sure your pitch has song elements: a beat (your problem), hook (your solution) and bridge (your approach). – Rajiv Nathan, founder of RajNATION Innovation


  • Show investors that you’re putting your own money into your idea. It’s not always enough to expect others to fund your project. – Corey Mays, angel investor and entrepreneur


  • Figure out your cash flow and how to grow your business. That way, you will no longer need outside funding sources, like investors. Once you get customers, make sales and earn revenue, you can sustain yourself. – Ryan Mundy, chief strategist of Techlete Ventures


  • When hiring new talent, consider taking candidates out for drinks. You will get to know them better, such as whether they could hold their alcohol. – Mark Vargas, co-founder and president of Licentiam

We’re a Big Idea Awards Finalist!

We’re a bit behind in sharing the news here. But in case you haven’t heard, we’re a finalist for the RedEye’s Big Idea Awards! And we couldn’t be more excited!!!

The fourth annual awards serve as a chance for “entrepreneurs, innovators and dreamers” to present their ideas to members of the public. More than 90 ideas were submitted, but only 16 finalists were chosen in the following categories: “Food and Drink, “Arts and Design, “Tech and Apps” and “Giving Back.”

We’re nominated in the “Tech and Apps” group along with three other stellar apps that help with student loans, fashion choices and leveling the playing field for underrepresented professionals. On the day of the awards, attendees will cast votes for their favorite ideas, and a winner in each category will be named.

That’s why we need your help! Each winner could receive funding toward advertising through the Chicago Tribune Media Group, membership with the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, workspace and workshops. And since we have not yet received investments, a vote for us would get us a step closer to launch!

But it’s important to note that you can ONLY vote if you attend the awards! So, please join us Monday, Nov. 6, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Untitled Supper Club (111 W. Kinzie St.) and show your love for Happenstance!

Visit the Big Idea Awards website and enter the promo code “BIA17” to buy tickets for $20. If you don’t get a chance to do that, you can always buy them at the door for $25.

We hope to see you there!!

Check Out Photos from Pop! Con!

We had a great time Saturday at Franklin Park Public Library’s first Pop! Con — a convention that celebrated various aspects of pop culture, from comic books to tabletop gaming!

Check out the photo gallery below! All photos were provided the Franklin Park Public Library. To see the entire album, click here.

We Fell Short, But It’s Okay!

We learned this week that we unfortunately weren’t named a finalist for the Chicago Innovation Awards, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try again next year! We were still honored to be among this year’s 530 nominees that created close to 24,000 new jobs.

A view of the crowd at the Chicago Innovation Awards nominee reception on Sept. 6.

Now, the judges have narrowed the list to 100 finalists, and 25 winners will be announced at the award ceremony on Oct. 30. These products and services will be chosen based on their ability to “fill unmet needs, spark a competitive response in the marketplace, exceed market expectations, achieve financial success, and improve people’s lives.”

In the meantime, you can make a contribution by casting a vote for the People’s Choice Award, which received 46,000 votes last year.

What’s next for us? Catch us Saturday, Sept. 16 as an exhibitor at the Franklin Park Public Library’s inaugural Pop! Con!

Our Summer Story Stops!

We have had a busy summer gathering Happenstance stories for the launch of our River North test pilot this fall! We still have plenty of work to do and know that our October goal is still a little far off. So, to satisfy your growing eagerness, here’s a quick roundup of our story spots so far!

Poetry Foundation: The foundation’s library is the only poetry library in the Midwest and holds more than 30,000 volumes.




The Mirage: Now known as the Brehon Pub, The Mirage was a fake tavern set up by the Chicago Sun-Times in the late 1970s to confirm widespread claims that city inspectors were accepting bribes.




The Boarding House: Its owner and master sommelier, Alpana Singh, holds the title of youngest woman to pass the final level of the Master Sommelier exam.




Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap: This restaurant is home to the “XXX” wings, which have garnered international attention.




Remember, our test pilot stories will only be available to beta testers. If you’re interested in hearing our Haps and giving feedback, send us a note to get on our list!

We’re a Nominee for the Chicago Innovation Awards!

We’re very excited to announce that Happenstance is a nominee for this year’s Chicago Innovation Awards!

To give you a quick idea, the Chicago Innovation Awards annually recognize new, innovative products and services in the Chicago-area. And previous winners have included a range of companies from Tesla to CTA to EveryBlock.

Last year, the awards honored the most women-led businesses in its 16-year history, and we think that indicates a promising future. In 2015, Chicago had the highest percentage of female founders in 35 cities across the globe, and we could now join that statistic with our new female CEO!

Judging is scheduled to start this week, and we’ll hopefully find out soon whether or not we’re added to the list of finalists. In the meantime, you can catch us at the nominee reception on Sept. 6!

So, wish us luck! But whatever happens, we’re simply honored to be in the company of so many talented Chicago entrepreneurs.

Meet Our New CEO!

We’re pleased to announce that we have added a third co-founder and CEO to our Happenstance team!

Kathy Bartlett joins us with more than 20 years of entrepreneurial experience in a range of industries, from finance to restaurants. Among her accomplishments, she turned one financial storefront into 40-plus locations in multiple states, helped create a nationwide online lending program and developed procedures that positively transformed restaurant profit margins.

She also holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and an Executive M.B.A. from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Learn more about the other members of our women-led team here!

We’re Looking for Beta Testers!

In case you haven’t already heard, we have begun beta testing for Apple and Android devices! That means we’re looking for curious Chicagoans to test out our app!

If you’re interested in being one of the first few to hear some of Chicago’s obscure stories, send us an email! The more feedback we get, the better! We look forward to hearing from you!

A Big Hello and Welcome!

Hello, fellow Chicagoans! I’d like to introduce you to our new app, Happenstance, that blends Chicago-based journalism and geolocation technology.

Happenstance has been in the making for more than a year and aims to educate Chicago residents – whether you’re fresh to the city or a lifelong learner – about aspects you might not know about the city. And it’s all done in an entertaining way!

We offer unique stories about Chicago’s food, arts, landmarks and sports, and they’re told by the folks who know these subjects best. We like to call them the “everyday experts,” people who are great at what they do but not always highlighted.

To experience our Happenstance stories, also known as Haps, you just need to slip on a pair of headphones. Haps are geotagged to various places around the city and are fairly short, only 30 seconds to roughly two minutes long. So, you don’t need to go out of your way to use our app. We want to build ourselves in to your normal routine!

How does it work? When you’re near a location that has a Hap, we’ll send you a notification about it. The fun part? You won’t know when we’ll ping you! It’ll be spontaneous! You can then swipe to listen and explore other Haps, if you’re so inclined!

We know you might not be interested in every topic we offer. That’s why we give you the option to choose your favorites. And your experience will become more and more tailored the more you use the app.

Now, pairing journalism and geolocation technology is not an entirely new concept. Some examples are the Bloom platform, which allows readers to search for news publishers’ geotagged content. And then there’s Flying Content, which aims to help newsrooms better target breaking news coverage for affected people, among other things.

You might now be wondering what makes us qualified to deliver the city’s lesser-known stories to you. Together, we have four journalism degrees, including Master’s from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and reported and written for various outlets. So, we understand what it takes to tell a compelling story.

I’m also a Chicago native, and my partner, Jasmine, has several years of experience in this Windy City. In short, we’re able to sniff past the common tourist facts and dig deeper.

If you ever have any issues with your Happenstance experience, don’t hesitate to let us know! We strive to keep user-friendliness at the forefront.

So, let us be the soundtrack to your city. We’re beyond excited to start this journey with you all! We hope you’re ready to hear something new!


Your managing editor,

Stephanie Choporis