business & marketing

4 Chitown Startups Featured On Shark Tank

June 4th, 2018

Chicago has been the breeding ground for countless startup companies. A space that is constantly evolving and changing, Chicago harbors endless talent in the startup sector. As a UX design company in Chicago, Codal also calls the Windy City, “Home, sweet home.”  

And while Codal is now a global application development agency, we still fondly recall our own humble beginnings in Lincoln Park, and like to keep tabs on the thriving Chicago startup community we once enjoyed ourselves.

4 Chitown Startups Featured On Shark Tank


Like so many other startups in America, many of Chicago’s intrepid entrepreneurs get their first taste of the national spotlight on Shark Tank, the popular reality television series where contestants pitch their businesses to a panel of investment experts, ‘the sharks.’ Swimming with the sharks might seem like a daunting prospect, but the Chitown startups mentioned here jumped in headfirst. Here’s a list of some startups that caught Codal’s eye on Shark Tank, all of them hailing from the Second City.

Guard Llama

Specializing in personal security, Guard Llama was featured on Shark Tank in 2017 when they pitched an innovative and discrete way to contact law enforcement.

With a simple double press of its fob device, law enforcement will be notified that you’re in danger. The small handheld device also transmits the distressed individual’s GPS location, photo and medical information to dispatch. Then, after the dispatch center receives this signal and information, law enforcement is deployed to the location of the signaler.

4 Chitown Startups Featured On Shark Tank


Guard Llama provides a quick, easy way to contact the law. If one is in danger or at risk, law enforcement can be signaled without a single word spoken. As a UX design agency, Codal admired the usability of the device. Barbara Corcoran, one of the panelists, had a similar sentiment and offered the company $100,000 to invest in their security device.

Guard Llama continues to produce these life-saving devices, receiving a large amount of praise for their UX. In our opinion, the company deserves all of the positive testimonials it has received. Guard Llama can save lives and slim down the response time of an emergency responder- a valuable addition to the medical industry.


ChangEd is a mobile application that seeks to minimize student loans by making periodic payments to a FDIC insured account. Offering the enticing value proposition of relieving student debt faster, ChangEd’s appeal is that it doesn’t change any of the user’s typical spending patterns. Regular spending is rounded up to the nearest dollar and saved in order to make a loan payment.

So if a student spends $3.60, the application will put the other $0.40 into the FDIC insured account. A similar concept to the investment application Acorns. The user is paying off their loans without any budgeting or afterthought. While on the show, Mark Cuban also loved the application that professes student bank account salvation. Cuban made the founders an offer after their pitch.

Since Shark Tank, ChangEd has been mentioned on Forbes, by Apple with their “New Apps we love” award, on Business Insider, and more. A great addition to the fintech industry, ChangEd continues to tackle student loans head-on.

Rent Like a Champion

Another startup based in sweet home Chicago, Rent Like a Champion is a vacation home rental agency. Although similar to an Airbnb, Rent Like a Champion specializes in big event-weekends like football games, golf tournaments, and racing events.

For any crazed sports fan making the trip to a big game, this agency provides a perfect solution. The fans can search online for their desired event, pay with their credit card, and attend the game knowing they have an accommodating place to stay.

The Rent Like a Champion company left Shark Tank feeling like ‘champions,’ after Mark Cuban offered to invest in the company for the pretty penny of $200,000. Since their debut on the hit series, the company has its services in a number of college towns and is still expanding.

4 Chitown Startups Featured On Shark Tank


Rumi Spice

Rumi Spice is a saffron import company that pitched to the sharks in May 2017. A company founded by U.S. veterans, the spice distributor works with Afghan farmers to send their products around the globe.

Rumi Spice offers a product that is sustainable and hand-harvested. The product has an international effect, as they describe their goals are, “economically empowering Afghan farmers, inspiring Afghan women through direct wages, and building out Afghanistan’s agricultural infrastructure.”

The company garnered high praises from the sharks and received an offer from Mark Cuban for $250,000. Rumi Spice has since been labeled a ‘B Corporation’ for their economic work. The Chicago corporation continues to ‘spice’ up the market and have an impact globally.

How did these companies make it out of the ‘tank’ in one piece?

These companies all brought to the table ideas that were innovative, applicable to a real market, and had the potential to expand. There were quite a few other startups that could have been mentioned in this compilation. Chicago is swimming with startups, and the number grows every year.

If you’re also a proud owner of a startup and want to work on your expansion (like the companies above), it’s time to hire a UX company to help you get your start. From one former startup to another, take the plunge and get in contact with us.

Taylor Cygan


Taylor is a content writing intern at Codal, authoring blog posts anywhere from UX design to other facets of the vast World Wide Web. Working alongside the talented members of the Codal team, Taylor works to produce relevant and engaging content. When she’s not immersed in the world of development and design services, Taylor spends her time: reading classic American literature, binge-watching a Netflix series, or ordering an excessively large iced coffee from her local Starbucks.


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