Chicago’s tech scene is built upon a strong sense of community and collaboration. Ask just about anyone in our tight-knit ecosystem, and they’ll tell you it’s woven in the fabric of our DNA.
In celebration of that sense of community, here’s a list of 20 accelerator programs and incubators designed to help your small business grow. The line between accelerators and incubators is quite blurry, and though the ones on our list vary in size, age, mission, and expertise, they share a common, underlying mission: building Chicago’s tech ecosystem into one of the most flourishing in the world.
1871 is a cornerstone of the Chicago tech ecosystem, home to more than 400 startup digital tech startup with massive growth potential. They’ve recently made their third expansion, adding 40,000 additional square feet to their growing tech hub.
2112 is modeled after 1871 and aims to provide similar services and support to Chicago’s film, music and creative technology companies. 2112 is located within Fort Knox Studios, a larger community for Chicago’s creatives.
BLUE1647 is a tech and innovation hub in Chicago with a clearly defined goal: to support and improve Chicago’s economic development by teaching technological and professional skills. They work with entrepreneurs, nonprofits and creatives to make a lasting impact.
Bunker Labs is Chicago’s home for entrepreneurial veterans. Their mission? To arm former service members with the technical skills, business acumen and networking opportunities with mentors and investors required to grow a successful business.
As the line between physical and digital products becomes increasingly more blurred (thanks to booming industries like connected devices, the Internet of Things and wearable tech), many a digital entrepreneur has turned to manufacturing. That’s where Catalyze comes in — they partner with companies to provide the manufacturing tools and support (on top of connections and other perks) to help small businesses thrive.
Catapult is a hybrid co-working space/incubator built by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs. Their peer-selected community hails from a variety of backgrounds and industries, with about 30 current members and alumni benefiting from Catapult’s success.
Elmspring is a three-month venture accelerator designed to propel real estate and housing tech companies to the next level. Elmspring promises to open the door to the real estate resources and connections a small tech business in the industry needs to scale — and scale fast.
Healthbox, a health tech-focused arm of Chicago investment firm Sandbox Industries, is an accelerator program that helps startups with disruptive potential test and validate their business models at scale.
INCISENT labs takes the incubator experience and reimagines it entirely. Instead of taking in fledgling digital startups, INCISENT builds disruptive and innovative ideas in-house from their conception, watching them eventually leave the coop and grow into fast-growing companies.
For startups looking to disrupt the healthcare industry with their tech-enabled medical devices, Insight Accelerator shines. They provide member companies at all stages with all the resources a startup needs to fuel growth.
MATTER is 1871’s health tech incubator cousin, providing its member companies with a package deal of events, resources, community and education that helps grow not only individual companies, but also Chicago’s contributions to health tech innovations on a national — and global — scale.
Propel, a program run by the iBIO Institute, is dedicated to helping young companies in the life science industry develop and grow. They offer the resources and industry expertise needed to prepare companies for early-stage funding.
One of Chicago’s newest additions to the incubation/acceleration landscape, Roniin is an innovative take on what it means to grow successful companies. Roniin starts with a novel, disruptive idea and marries it with the capital, talent and entrepreneurial resources needed for explosive success.
Sunshine Enterprises is hyper-focused on small, neighborhood-based entrepreneurs and business. Their program is dedicated to education and coaching to help that niche of business grow.
One of Chicago’s earliest tech hubs, TechNexus launched in 2007 to give entrepreneurs an informal space to connect with one another around emerging problems and opportunities. Since then, TechNexus has grown into a staple on the Chicago tech circuit, helping more than 350 local companies grow.
Treehouse Adventures is a hybrid between a VC and an incubator — not only do they invest capital in their member companies, but they also provide a whole suite of in-house services — from talent and office space to technology needs.
VentureSHOT offers a number of programs across a variety of verticals aimed at helping tech companies grow. From strategic growth to mentorship and collaboration initiatives, VentureSHOT can assist with a wide array of goals.
1871's WiSTEM is designed specifically for women who run startups. Though not an accelerator or incubator in the traditional sense, the 16-week program is nevertheless tailor-made to work with women growing tech companies and the unique challenges (and opportunities) they face.