Chicago's Tech Boom: PayPal Acquires Another Local Company

By Justin Freeman in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 21, 2015 8:25PM

PayPal's recent acquisition of another Chicago tech company spells good news for the local tech scene. But the more things change, the more they stay the same: The man to watch is Harper Reed.

Once, Reed was a developer leading the technology team at Threadless. He had a rep as a top-notch hacker and developer, at one point even convincing the City of Chicago to release their real-time transportation data to the public, effectively creating Bus Tracker. Then he got a call from Barack Obama to lead the tech team for his presidential re-election campaign. As Obama's Chief Technology Officer, Reed helped secure Obama's presidency, using open source software as a platform. After the campaign, he embarked on a new project, Modest, with Dylan Richard and two other engineers from Obama's campaign.

And now, PayPal has acquired Modest for, what we’re assuming, is a ton of money, though those details haven't been released.

Modest is a commerce platform that embeds purchase buttons into apps and email newsletters, allowing users to buy things they find interesting without leaving the communication they’re engaging with. For example, let’s say, hypothetically, you get an email from Lincoln Hall and see that a band you’re into is coming to town to perform. Let’s use the industrial band HEALTH for example. Modest would allow you to buy tickets for their show in late November without leaving Lincoln Hall’s newsletter. (By the way, You should really buy tickets to see HEALTH; DEATH MAGIC is SO GOOD.)

Modest’s potential caught the attention of PayPal, which made an acquisition offer for it. Reed, Richard, and the rest of the crew at Modest will join another local PayPal acquisition, Braintree, as part of a team that’ll specialize in contextual commerce. Braintree was acquired for $800 million by eBay in 2013 to bolster its PayPal offering. PayPal has since broken up with eBay and is now its own company.

The technology scene in Chicago is on fire, and we wouldn't have it any other way.