Start-up successes (and newlyweds) Katy Lynch and Craig Ulliott are creating an empire in Chicago, together and apart.
Tech power couple Craig Ulliott and Katy Lynch first met when he hired her to handle social media for his new Facebook app.
As part of the fifth annual Techweek Chicago, thousands of tech industry movers and shakers will gather to brainstorm, network, and celebrate the city’s growing tech scene from June 22-June 28. Two of those influencers, Katy Lynch and Craig Ulliott, are newlyweds who’ve helped shape the city’s tech scene.
The two are among the most visible and successful young entrepreneurs in Chicago’s mushrooming tech community. Ulliott, 31, is cofounder and CTO of loyalty app Belly, which now has a presence in all 50 states. Lynch, the 30-year-old former head of business development at Manifest Digital, takes over as CEO of Techweek on May 11. The couple has also become angels: They have invested in Chicago based WeDeliver, which offers delivery services for businesses, and Ulliott serves on the board of Home Chef, a prep-at-home meal service.
The pair’s relationship has a natural balance. Lynch is the salesperson. “I have the energy and enthusiasm... I can sell a chair,” she says. Ulliott “is the practical, logical one.” That balance is key, says Ulliott: “We do almost everything together and always push each other to take chances and be the best we can.”
The two, both natives of Scotland, hadn’t planned tech careers: She wanted to be a psychologist; he, a pilot. By the time they met in Chicago, both had become entrepreneurs: Ulliott hired Lynch to handle social media for Where I’ve Been, a Facebook app that lets users share their travel history via a virtual map.
It was love at first sight, romantically and creatively. Where I’ve Been attracted 9.7 million users, becoming a favorite app among tech types. In 2011, Ulliott sold it to TripAdvisor LLC for an undisclosed sum and soon moved on to Belly. In 2010, the two parlayed Lynch’s social-media savvy into SocialKaty, a social-media marketing firm. By 2014, SocialKaty had its own offices, 25 employees, and a buyer: Lynch and Ulliott sold it to Manifest Digital just a week before their wedding (they have yet to take a honeymoon).
Lynch has big plans for Techweek (“We have a ton of momentum—I can’t wait to get started.”); Ulliott says he’ll stay at Belly, with plans to take the company public one day. Then what? A VC fund, perhaps, and definitely kids. Meanwhile, they’re enjoying life as newlyweds at their high-tech home in River West. Every morning, “the heat comes on, the lights go up, and music starts,” Ulliott says. “It’s a beautiful way to start the day.”