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Published Thursday morning on Crain's blog for Chicago entrepreneurs:
By Steve Hendershot
TechNexus turns five Thursday. The co-working space for tech companies at 200 S. Wacker has housed about 130 companies since its founding, and those companies have raised about $75 million in investment capital and created 400 jobs, according to the company.
Terry Howerton and Fred Hoch co-founded TechNexus LLC in 2007 as a 25,000-square-foot “clubhouse” to complement the Illinois Technology Assn., a tech trade group that the pair also founded.
By housing tech companies such as online parking-reservations startup SpotHero and supply-chain management firm ArrowStream at TechNexus, and connecting those companies with investors and mentors, Messrs. Howerton and Hoch pioneered an all-in-one approach for startups in Chicago.
Although Mr. Howerton says TechNexus was intended more “as a place for the tech community to coalesce and collaborate, and where we could all hang out an play” than as an incubator, he and Mr. Hoch quickly discovered its potential. Now, Mr. Howerton contends TechNexus “is the most successful incubator Chicago has seen.”
The coworking-plus-mentorship model is now in vogue, as startups work side by side in several clusters through the city including at Lightbank, the incubator launched by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, as well as Excelerate Labs, a three-month accelerator program that offers year-round office space to participating companies. In addition, Chicago tech leaders including Viewpoints Network founder Matt Moog and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center's Kevin Willer announced Wednesday they will open a 50,000-square foot co-working space for tech startups, dubbed 1871, in the Merchandise Mart this spring.
“All this other action coming is very much welcome,” says Mr. Howerton, who says that TechNexus stands apart from other area tech incubators in its breadth of focus beyond Internet companies (green-tech groups such as the Clean Energy Trust are based at TechNexus) as well expansion into additional cities.
“We've created this collaboration ecosystem,” says Mr. Howerton. “Now, let's expand that ecosystem beyond Chicago, in a controlled way.”
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