News Column

Tech incubator 1871 expanding this summer

June 17, 2014

By Ellen Jean Hirst, Chicago Tribune

June 17--Chicago's largest tech innovation hub is about to get 50 percent larger.

In April, the Tribune reported that 1871, a 2-year-old incubator for tech startups, would expand its space from 50,000 square feet to 75,000.

On Monday, the state confirmed it will pledge $2.5 million from the Build Illinois bond fund to retrofit an additional 25,000 square feet on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart into workspace for digital entrepreneurs. 1871's goal is to help build businesses to the point of self-sufficiency.

"This expansion shows that our investment in the next generation of Chicago businesses is paying off," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement. "The jobs of tomorrow will come from the types of small businesses growing at 1871 today, and this expansion will allow even more entrepreneurs and businesses to locate here, bringing new jobs with them and supporting the city's economic growth."

Gov. Pat Quinn said 1871's companies and alumni have created more than 1,000 jobs over the past two years.

"1871 has become a true entrepreneurial hub for our state, and its expansion means more career opportunities for the hardworking residents of Illinois," Quinn said. "We look forward to a strong partnership with 1871 as we continue to grow our startup community and support our innovators."

The expansion also means that more venture capital firms, who pay more for their space, will call 1871 home. Tullman said 1871 now houses 250 startup companies, with that number growing to 350 to 400 by the end of the year.

Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, said a construction team should be selected soon, and the rehab would begin by July 1. He said the project should be completed in October.

The space will be dedicated for seven mini-incubators focusing on food, real estate, education, financial services, startup engineering, women-owned tech businesses and something called the Internet of Things, conceived by the belief that everyday objects can be connected to the Internet and send and receive information.

The startup engineering incubator will include a presence from the Startup Institute, which trains people to succeed at startup companies, and professors who run a startup accelerator program at the Georgia Institute of Technology called Flashpoint, among other advisers.

In addition to the latest funding, the state contributed $2.3 million to help launch 1871 a few years ago. Venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker also provided early funding. The incubator also pulled in sponsorships from companies such as CDW, Google and Comcast, among others.

"For the second time now, the state has stepped up and expressed confidence that we can continue to grow, create jobs and focus on these areas," Tullman said. "We're very excited. I think it's the right thing to do, because we really didn't want all of this momentum and all this energy to be limited by 14 different incubators spread out throughout the neighborhood."


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Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)

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