Why Chicago Incubators (and Why Ron Shulkin?)
My passion is monitoring emerging technologies. To satisfy my intellectual curiosity. And to introduce these technologies to enterprise clients.
The world of Chicago Incubators is exciting. Acting as a mentor for these organizations, I’m presented with a steady stream of new, interesting, intriguing technologies. My work history has nurtured an ability to take intuitive leaps. I’ve accumulated a set of experiences mapping technology to business challenges.
I get to meet smart, creative visionaries. These folks are usually technologists. They seem to appreciate my contribution to their marketing plans, their go-to-market strategy development and my sales skills.
We all have our satisfying moments during our careers. For me those moments come when I can help the original product creation team behind the offerings define their existential purpose; to articulate their breakthroughs; to identify their optimal markets; ultimately to help these startups tell their story in a way that frames their offering in a way that solves business problems. It can be a joy to “solve the puzzle” by creatively blocking and tackling the development of a tactical strategy. The deliverable? Market awareness and credibility.
This is a critical time for a startup as they transition from a technical company to a commercial one.
The Chicago Incubator/Accelerator Universe
The list on this website includes Chicago Incubators, Accelerators and Co-Working spaces. I’m seeing the Co-Working bubble as likely about to pop soon. Don’t be surprised if I curate them right out of my list of Chicago Incubators.
Chicago Incubators can be member based, corporate sponsored, or managed by VCs. Some of these facilities are “real estate plays”, where resident’s lease payments provide revenue. Other Chicago Incubators earn their keep by garnering member dues.
In Chicago, you can find incubators focused on the Arts, on Tech, the Maker Culture, IoT, FinTech and many other arenas. Specialties like BioTech can’t create in a garage; they need certain facilities and capabilities to get off the ground. These specialty focused incubators attract mentors and investors who understand the specific topics.
This also means members get to work alongside those with similar pursuits, where the programming is directed toward their interests, where the incubator partners understand the topic, where the VCs are scouting for complimentary technologies to bring under their umbrella.
There are over 120 Chicago Incubators (including Accelerators & Co-Working Spaces). I count seven “generalist” Chicago Incubators: Blue 1647, Catapult, 1871, Seedary, TechNexus, The Cultivator and Venture Shot.
By my count there are two incubators focused on Art: Fulton Street Collective and Art Incubator in Washington Park. Two are dedicated to startups pursuing IoT: The Connectory and Cisco EIR. A similar space is the Manufacturing and Maker area with Lost Arts, Maker Lab, mHub and DMDII. Macy’s offers an incubator on Fashion. There are two Chicago Incubators nurturing Food Startups: Good Food and Cleveland Avenue. Healthbox, Incite and Propel are incubators for the Life Sciences and healthcare. You can find three incubators for Social Impact: Impact Engine, Collation Impact and Panzanzee. Leap Innovations is dedicated to Education. The National Association of Realtors hosts the REach Incubator. You can count ten Chicago Incubators who are University related: Chicago Innovation Exchange (U-Chi), Coleman Entrepreneurship Center (DePaul), HCB (Roosevelt), Innovate (UIC), LUC@1871 (Loyola), The Garage (Northwestern), UI Labs (Illinois) and University Tech Park. A number of Chicago Incubators attract members with similar demographics: WiStem (Female run), DVX Labs (DeVry), Bunker Labs (Veterans) and IHCC (Hispanic run).
Incubators are where entrepreneurs can get started. Accelerators are environments where your finished offering is ready to launch beyond your original set of clients. They’re a source of investment capital.
There are 9 Chicago Accelerators: Polsky, TechStars, HealthMax, Reach, Founder Institute, Goldman Sachs 10K Small Businesses, Platform Venture, Sunshine and Uptech.
Accelerators offer a popular way to get a business up and running. There are hundreds of programs to choose from and some of them receive more than 5,000 applications for each class. The average program taking 6% of equity, but not universally.
Out of Seedranking’s top accelerators for 2017, five out of these top thirty are in Chicago (Polsky, TechStars, HealthMax, Reach and Uptech). Only San Francisco has more out of all the HQ cities, with twice as many. It is a telling story St. Louis, Los Angeles & New York are tied for third with two Accelerator HQ’s each.
Pitch Sessions are also a possible source of capital and awards. Startups presenting at Pitch Sessions have a product, initial clients and are seeking capital to take the next steps forward. The judges at Pitch Sessions ask investor due diligence questions. It is always thrilling to see the entrepreneur respond with answers…they really know their topic, their product and who makes up their market.
A Collaborative Effort
This blog can best succeed with an involved audience. If you’re among Chicago’s Incubators, please reach out. I’d love to take a tour, get to know you and how best to tell your story here. If you’re an entrepreneur, I’d love your suggestions on how to make this site a useful resource.
Please follow our LinkedIn Company Page to keep up with the latest information. https://www.linkedin.com/company/chicago-incubators
Please join the Chicago Incubators LinkedIn Group. A great place to ask questions, start discussions and learn more about Chicago Incubators. https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13555269
September 29, 2017