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Lightbank looking for promising website designers

Updated: January 20, 2013 6:26AM



Chicago would seem to be chock-full of web and graphic designers, since it’s the birthplace of legendary ad agencies, but the latest technology companies are running short of designers who make websites that engage people and are easy to use, local tech investor Paul Lee says.

That’s why Lightbank, the $200 million, Chicago-based investment fund started by Groupon co-founders Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky, will announce Wednesday fellowships to promising young designers to work with some of Lightbank’s 56 early-stage tech companies.

Lightbank isn’t saying how many designers will be accepted into the three-month program, called Lightbank Design, but it will likely accept some of them from Chicago-based web-programming school Starter League, formerly known as Code Academy, Lee said Tuesday. The designers will be mentored and paid negotiated rates comparable to full-time jobs. Applicants for the winter program have until Jan. 31 to apply at http://lightbank.com.

The Chicago tech community is also short of front-end and back-end software developer talent, and Lightbank expects to address that issue soon, said Lee, a Lightbank partner with Keywell and Lefkofsky.

“There aren’t a lot of great web designers,” he said. “There are a lot of graphic artists who create beautiful-looking images, but in terms of the web site interface and increasing engagement with the (website) user, it’s a burgeoning art.”

Lightbank also sponsors Lightbank Start, a startup accelerator that invests $100,000 in a young would-be entrepreneur’s venture to encourage him or her to become a business owner; holds Lightbank Office Hours to hear ideas from entrepreneurs working at the 1871 tech center at the Merchandise Mart, and helps its startup companies recruit accountants, administrators and experts in business development and operations.

Lee said Lightbank’s operations and funding commitments are independent of the stock price performance of beleaguered daily deal site Groupon, also founded by Keywell and Lefkofsky.

“Lightbank has outside investors” in addition to Keywell and Lefkofsky, Lee said.



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