- All Community
(Originally posted on 1871.com)
By Kevin Willer
Back on May 2nd, we opened the doors to a new 50,000 square foot center for digital startups in the Merchandise Mart. We named this place 1871 to reflect the great spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship following the Great Chicago Fire. We hoped that a place like this would become a hub for startup activity in Chicago – and would provide a supportive community of like-minded entrepreneurs building early-stage companies alongside one another. We hoped that bringing together incredible partners like Code Academy, Excelerate Labs, Impact Engine, and the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition (ISTC) – as well as top local universities and venture capital partners – would provide access to the talent, capital and mentorship startups need to grow their businesses. We hoped for so much and so far it has exceeded our expectations!
1871 has 149 startups working in the space today including the brave few who moved in while we were still in “beta” back in April like MarkitX, Media Chaperone, ProOnGo, Toodalu, and SimpleRelevance. And who can forget the first event – Code Academy’s Demo Day where we really tested the 1871 auditorium early. Since then, we’ve hosted 80 events at 1871 and have welcomed over 10,000 people to come and learn, network, and engage. The CEC team has programmed over 30 Workshops for over 400 entrepreneurs and complemented this with over 170 Office Hours sessions with local experts volunteering their time and expertise. At the beginning of August, 1871 celebrated our first company to “graduate” to their own office space when Food Genius moved nearby. I’m happy to say that they will continue on as members of 1871 so they can stay connected to the community. We’ve also had some high-profile visitors including the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron, as well as Governor Pat Quinn and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Today, we are welcoming in new startups each week and still have capacity in our Shared space for amazing entrepreneurs. We’ve recently started to welcome in Associate Members to 1871 – companies or organizations that want to be part of the 1871 community but are larger, have their own office space and don’t need the same type of membership as a startup. Please welcome Loyola University, Microsoft, Doejo, and Technori for being some of our first Associate Members.
In the first 100 days of 1871, we have seen an incredible response to this new startup center and the community has really come together to support these early-stage startups. We’ve been humbled by the huge response and are committed to making 1871 better each day going forward.
As we look forward to the next 100 days, I’d like to give a huge thanks to my CEC team: Una, Caity, Brian, Kristi, Mike and Melissa – not to mention our many awesome interns this summer. Thanks also to our incredibly supportive CEC Board of Directors, co-chaired by Bryant Keil and Jim O’Connor. And a special thanks to the core team who built the plan for 1871 – Steve Collens, Dan Lyne, Matt Moog, and JB Pritzker – none of this would be possible without your leadership.