EIR Spotlight: Chris Steiner

The Garage is a second home for more than just student founders at Northwestern. It’s also a co-working space for our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence (EIRs). EIRs use the resources and space at The Garage to bring their next big ideas to life while offering mentorship and Office Hours to our Resident students. Let’s get to know one EIR a little bit better.

Chris Steiner, Founder and NY Times best selling author, studied engineering at the University of Illinois as an undergraduate, but later pursued journalism as a graduate student in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. A proud Northwestern alum, he went on to write for The Chicago Tribune, and afterwards, covered tech for seven years at Forbes Magazine. He had always had the “tech bug” he says, but it wasn’t until he felt he finally had the right idea before he started an entrepreneurial venture. He created Aisle50, a subscription buying program for purchasing discounted consumer packaged goods. The company sold to Groupon in early 2015, and now Chris serves as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at The Garage. Chris appeared on The Colbert Report back in 2010; click below to check out the clip.

Chris Steiner \ The Colbert Report

He’s currently working on a “passion project” as he calls it: a website called Z-Rankings that ranks the best ski resorts in North America. His interest in skiing is what motivated the project, and he now maintains it from The Garage. For students interested in entrepreneurship, here are Chris’ best bits of advice:

  • If students are able to balance academics and founding a company, they can learn a lot. The company may not go anywhere, but the learning comes from the experience of building a company; you learn how to handle cofounders, you learn how to work with a team. You can learn a lot of the little skills so that when you enter the real world, you’ve already mastered the basics.
  • Don’t have too many people in your company; people overvalue their own contributions and fight over equity, so be selective and judicious when building your team.
  • Surround yourself with an environment that encourages entrepreneurship, get a job at a startup, and fully immerse yourself in the work because that is how you’ll learn. 

To learn more about Chris’ recent work, check out his website here. Want to meet one of our EIRs in person? Check our Office Hours offerings here.