Justin Massa is an innovator and entrepreneur with expertise in food, big data, housing, open gov data, and civil rights. His work centers on connecting industries, companies, and governments which have historically lagged behind with the technologies and data they need to leap ahead. He is currently a Portfolio Director in IDEO’s Chicago studio, focusing on the intersection of data + design.
Justin was previously the founder and President of Food Genius, a venture-backed big data and analytics company in the food industry whose customers include US Foods, McDonald’s, Safeway, Coca-Cola, and Kraft. Food Genius has been named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s “100 Brilliant Companies” list and was the recipient of a Chicago Innovation “Up and Comer” Award and a Core77 Design Award. Food Genius was acquired by US Foods in April 2016.
Justin is a widely respected expert on food trends and the intersection of food and technology. He has been featured on/in NPR’s Morning Edition, Newsweek, The Washington Post, Inc., Restaurant Business, QSR Magazine, and Nation’s Restaurant News. He has been a featured speaker / presenter at the National Restaurant Association Show, the Restaurant Leadership Conference, FARE (Foodservice at Retail) Conference, the Food Leaders Summit, NRA’s Innovation Summit, SXSWi, the Produce Marketing Association, and CUSP.
Food Genius was part of the Summer 2011 class of Excelerate Labs, was the first-ever “Startup in Residence” at IDEO‘s Chicago studio, and was the first company to “graduate” from 1871. Justin has been named to the Crain’s Chicago Business Tech50 list (2012) and Chicago’s Food & Drink 50 (New City, 2013). Food Genius was the winner of Ad Age’s “Brand Hacks” on behalf of the Food Network (2012).
Early in his career, Justin was a radio DJ, a fair and affordable housing advocate, a kindergarten teacher, and an undercover civil rights researcher (although not all at the same time).
Justin was the Director of Project and Grant Development at the Metro Chicago Information Center (MCIC) and a the co-founder and executive director of MoveSmart.org, an organization that connected housing seekers to neighborhoods of opportunity and diversity. While at MCIC, Justin instigated the Apps for Metro Chicago competition, one of the earliest civic data competitions. In 2009, he was named one of the “35 Under 35″ emerging civil rights leaders in Chicago by the Community Renewal Society.
From the spring of 2009 through February 2010 Justin was the Program and Technical Coordinator at NetSquared, where he managed internal communication and helped run innovation competitions. Before that, he was the Fair Housing Testing and Outreach Coordinator for the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. There he supervised the testing program, handled intake and investigation, and conducted fair housing trainings for 3.5 years. At the Lawyer’s Committee, his work focused on the intersection of fair housing and technology and he the led the investigation into craigslist’s publication of discriminatory advertisements, helping create the model for pursuing complaints against creators of discriminatory online housing ads.
Prior to working in fair housing, Justin was a Chicago Public School teacher (8th and 3rd grades) for two years and a research analyst for the Center for New Community for four years. At the Center, he monitored white nationalist activity and trained more than 5,000 young people on how to spot and respond to hate. While at the Center, he wrote for Fellowship, Intelligence Report, and Searchlight magazines and appeared on CLTV, VH1, and NPR’s “All Things Considered”.
Justin holds a BA in Political Science, with a minor in Womens’ Studies, from Loyola University of Chicago and a MA in Teaching from National Louis University. He completed the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST training and NFHA’s Fair Housing School. He helped organize meetings of Illinois Data Exchange Affiliates and was a founding co-covener of Chicago Net Tuesdays. He used to pitch in with the Open Gov Chicago meetup and is the founder of Urban Geek Drinks.
From 1998 through 2002, he was the co-host of Government Music on WLUW, 88.7fm in Chicago, a Friday night punk and hardcore radio show. During the same time he co-founded and ran a record label of the same name, releasing one great and one truly amazing record.