The “Windy City” is certainly winning when it comes to entrepreneurship. There is a plethora of resources and events around us to inspire action and motivation. Since having a community of support is key to entrepreneurial success, lucky for us, Chicago’s got it covered. According to Built in Chicago, in 2016 over 179 tech companies raised more than $1.7B, in addition to 55 exits.
Chicago’s entrepreneurial scene is booming. If you’re not a founder yourself, odds are you know someone who’s working to build out a full-time passion or side hustle. Beyond a coffee shop or your parent’s garage, an incubator is an ideal community-centered space to make this happen. Incubators may offer resources, events, education and programming, access to mentors and even co-working space, creating an ideal environment to help startup ideas grow and hatch into sustainable companies.
Based on your industry of choice, it’s easy to find and get involved with the right hub for you. Although membership fees are usually required for full access, most offer opportunities for the public and free tours. To find the perfect incubator for your business, here’s a list of the top entrepreneurial incubators in the general Chicago community based on industry.
1871 is home to 400 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Named after the rebuilding and growth that spurred from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, it is known as “Chicago’s center for technology and entrepreneurship.” Future Founders, where I serve as the Senior Director of Startups, is headquartered out of 1871 and from experience, it’s a great, active community to grow a startup.
1871 was launched in 2012 under the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC) with the goal of supporting Chicago’s digital startup community. It has since grown into an internationally acclaimed startup incubator for thousands of inventors, designers, creators, investors and tech entrepreneurs.
BLUE1647 is an entrepreneurship and technology innovation center that focuses on using technology for workforce development, people development and business acceleration. This space allows diverse people making a positive impact in the community to gather to create, collaborate, learn, and build.
As the newest incubator in Chicago, the Chicago Connectory is a co-creation space for Internet of Things (IoT) innovation. It formed out of a partnership between Bosch and 1871 who are fostering a collaborative ecosystem around technology and IoT.
222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, Suite 570, Chicago IL
mHUB is Chicago’s first innovation center focused on physical product development and manufacturing. Chicago has a deep history of inventors and makers in the Midwest, and mHUB is designed to allow the manufacturing industry that built America continue to accelerate, grow and thrive. From 3-D printing labs to metal and plastic fabrication equipment, mHUB has more than $2.5 million of prototyping and manufacturing equipment.
MATTER supports a community of healthcare innovators. Its mission is to accelerate the development of technologies that solve the right healthcare problems in the right ways. It focuses on healthcare startups focusing on medical devices, healthcare IT, diagnostics and biopharmaceuticals.
MATTER opened its doors in 2015 and now works with 200 healthcare startups.
ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT
2112 is Chicago’s first incubator focused on the development of businesses and entrepreneurs in music, film and creative technology. Complete with rehearsal space and recording studios, 2112 launched as an offshoot of Chicago’s very own Fort Knox Studios.