I’m really happy to share that we’re building Startup Institute Chicago this Fall. Here’s why.

It’s clear that Chicago is a special place for startups, and we want to make it the place for people to join them.


When you boil Chicago down, it’s the community and the pillars that make it a strong place. In addition to the amount of activity, there’s an understanding of togetherness and a general feeling of support. There is a “we know we’re battling the odds, so we might as well work together to beat them” type of feeling here. People immediately pay it forward—which is something I’ve experienced since the very first conversation I had about opening a hub in Chicago.

There’s macro-level support helping to lead others into startup life. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and key folks in his office, like Tom Alexander, are incredibly active and regularly involved. For those in Chicago, you already know this, but for everyone else, Mayor Emanuel has said: Chicago will be “Startup City” three years from now. Personally, I’m excited for us to work together and to help build on the already $400MM invested in 197 early-stage startups last year alone.

There are amazing hubs within this community, providing a platform to make the Chicago startup community grow and strengthen. TechStars Chicago, who have joined forces with Excelerate Labs, and 1871 are two hubs that not only provide a safe haven for entrepreneurs, but also push them to be game changers.

With all of that support, it’s important to have channels like Technori and BuiltInChicago talking about the action, and providing an outlet to share great things with people across the ecosystem.

What is a community without people and companies to look up to? Chicago is home to some amazing individuals and large tech companies (Groupon, Threadless, Orbitz, and GrubHub) that are paying attention and blazing the trail for hundreds of early-stage companies based in Chicago.

Then, of course, you have investors like Lightbank and Hyde Park Angels who make it their business to facilitate so much of this activity. Just like some firms across other key ecosystems, many investors in Chicago are providing much more than capital.

But, what feeds all of this? Chicago is home to several great universities who graduate thousands of students each year; some ready for the workforce, others not yet prepared for startup combat. It’s also home to a new wave of technical education. The Starter League has shown that it’s possible to become a technical entrepreneur without a degree in computer science. We love that.

So what does this mean for Startup Institute? Chicago has all of the best ingredients. What’s most exciting about our job (and will soon be for our graduates) is that we get to work with and help people from each of these key pillars, and then we start to connect  them. We’re assembling a new layer of talent in the already bustling community of Chicago. A layer comprised of people who are ready to turn a corner in their careers, and who are ready to make an impact on the world, doing work they love.

If you’d like to get involved and support our program in Chicago, we’d love your help. I’d personally love to meet you (yes, you) and anyone who is ready to make a dent on the world and join a startup.

Photo Credit: Songquan Deng /