The Junto Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership

I’m pleased to announce the launch of The Junto Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, a new school that develops leadership capabilities, emotional intelligence (EI), and management skills of startup founders.

Many people in the community know that I formed a group six years ago called the Chicago Junto (hoon’ toe), an invitation-based forum in which entrepreneurs engaged in peer-to-peer learning, mentoring, and dialogue. Well, I took the core components of that, became motivated to build a next step for graduates of accelerators and startup programs, and put it all in the context of a school.

The result is an incubator of founders…not startups. Our primary purpose is to create great entrepreneurs by focusing on the competency behind virtually every great company – leadership. It’s something that can’t be taught but can be learned, and doesn’t get nearly enough discussion in the startup ecosystem.

The Junto Institute is built on a peer-to-peer learning platform. Not only do the participants learn “horizontally” – from one another – but also “vertically”. Our instructors and mentors are people who have been there and done that: seasoned entrepreneurs, CEOs, executives, and investors. Consider it a school that is based on crowdsourced, experience-based learning.

Last week, we kicked off Junto I, our initial cohort of seven startups comprising 20 participating founders.

BriteSeedBriteSeed is a medical device company whose first product, SafeSnips, alerts surgeons before an unsafe cut is made. Hatched in Northwestern University’s NUvention program.

EclipseEclipse delivers Telecom Lifecycle Management, Telecom Expense Management, and procurement services for enterprise customers. Bootstrapped startup that resulted from the founders’ deep industry experience.

ICONICON is a technology design and development shop for web and mobile applications. Bootstrapped and hatched at the startup community, Catapult Chicago.

Music Dealers

Music Dealers is a full-service music licensing technology firm that connects independent artists and music producers with big name clients and brands. Founded by music industry professionals, and counts Coca-Cola Co. among its clients.

Power2SwitchPower2Switch helps homeowners save money on electric bills by switching electricity providers. Incubated through the Polsky Center at the Booth School of Business and through Excelerate Labs.

TiestaTiesta Tea is a distributor of high quality loose-leaf teas, available in over 1,500 specialty, natural, and conventional grocery stores. Incubated through Illinois Launch, an accelerator at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

WeaveWeave the People is a software firm that helps enterprises engage employees, maximize ROI on meetings and events, and change face-to-face conversations. Bootstrapped startup that is a charter member of 1871.

Junto I is an impressive group of companies with diversity in industry, company stage, founder profiles, and funding. But what they have in common is what’s most important…founders who have:

  1. the self-awareness that, despite early success and impressive credentials, they have so much to learn as entrepreneurs; and
  2. the desire to learn how to develop from founders into leaders and CEOs.

The founders in Junto I are participating in our flagship program, a 12-month curriculum which integrates:

  • a CEO forum to improve leadership aptitude and EI;
  • a series of classes through which EI and critical management concepts are learned;
  • professional service provider office hours that are instruction-based rather than advisory; and
  • deep mentoring in leadership for the CEO and management for the founding team.

It’s a program that was built from experience in entrepreneurship education, mentoring, and leadership, and has been two years in the making. But I couldn’t have done it without the advocacy and participation of dozens of amazing people. There are too many to list in this post (most of the instructors, mentors, and partners are here) but they know who they are: area entrepreneurs, angel investors, business advisors, venture capitalists, educators, senior executives, community leaders, and more. Thank you.

I’m especially grateful to the founders of Catapult Chicago and the leaders at Foley & Lardner, who saw the vision early on and agreed to be a strategic partner and the host of Junto I. In addition, I owe deep gratitude to the self-described “right-hand woman and Jill-of-all-trades”, Catherine Jelinek, who helped me bring all this to reality over the past several months. Her passion for our mission and attention to detail have been instrumental.

Needless to say, Catherine and I have a lot of work ahead. But with our combined motivation and the belief of an engaged community, we hope to contribute to the recent trend of great things being built in Chicago.


  1. Edward

    Ever since I heard you were working in this, I have been excited for the launch Ramman. A great idea that no doubt will be executed well.

    I also know some of the entrepreneurs in your first class, and they are excited to be a part of it.


  2. Keith Waxelman


    I’m very excited for you. BIG CONGRATS on the launch.
    Wishing you and the inaugural class of The Junto Institute all the best. May you learn and create great things together!


  3. Pingback: A Peek into The Junto Institute: Class on Self-Awareness | ramanations
  4. Pingback: Applications Now Open for The Junto Institute | ramanations

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