The Chicago area is a great illustration of the need for the right environment and what can happen when the entrepreneurial eco-system is built.
. . . Since the entrepreneurially challenged days in Chicago, many flowers have bloomed. In addition to the tech incubator 1871, run by visionary Chicago entrepreneur Howard Tullman, which now houses over 400 digital start-ups, a second large tech incubator, called Matter, has also emerged. Housed in the Merchandise Mart (built by retail pioneer Marshall Field), it supports about 200 start-ups focused on life sciences and biomedical. The major universities now all have courses in entrepreneurship, business plan competitions, associated venture capital investment firms often funded by university alumni, tech accelerators, and mentor and coaching programs. VC funds have also emerged for minorities, women, military vets and just about anyone with a good idea.
There is now substantial venture capital funding available in Chicago, and also coming in from both coasts and all around the country, as Chicago becomes more widely known as a center for tech and other innovation. Up until now, the start-ups spawned have been somewhat more modest, but Cleversafe, the first billion dollar Chicago-founded tech company funded by Chicago-based individual investors and VCs, has moved this city into the big leagues. The 80+ millionaires minted through IBM’s recent acquisition of Cleversafe are now reinvesting their gains in new Chicago-area start-ups — the virtuous cycle.
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