Last month, Chicago welcomed the official launch of 1871– a 50,000-square-foot digital forge for startup entrepreneurs currently taking applications and set to open in the spring. It is the culmination of an unprecedented collaborative effort that brought together hundreds of builders and doers from throughout Chicago’s digital landscape, all lending their minds and vision to a common purpose.
With a cityscape view from its 12th floor perch in the Merchandise Mart, 1871 will provide a collaborative home dedicated to supporting those startups and individuals - designers, developers & innovators – who set their sights on solving challenging problems and seek to be surrounded by an ecosystem of supportive like minds and creative thinkers.
Longtime entrepreneurial champion, venture capitalist and current World Business Chicago board member J.B. Pritzker conceived of its creation and committed the resources to allow 1871 to take root. His vision was inclusive and drew from all points of the community – universities, serial entrepreneurs, civic organizations, investors, designers, corporate leaders and beyond. Its very DNA is derived from the hundreds of contributors who have chiseled their mark on its foundation.
Its time is now. This month, two major sources for national venture capital (VC) information, Dow Jones Co’s VentureSource and Thompson Reuters’ / PWC MoneyTree published investment data for 2011 – both illustrating a measurable increase in the amount of money and number of companies funded across the nation in 2011.
Chicago has also seen a tremendous amount of activity and excitement around its startup community and venture capital funding for companies in the past year. Each report shows the number of Chicago companies that received VC funding in 2011 has increased dramatically over 2010.
In addition, Built In Chicago (BIC),an online portal that serves as a resource for digital professionals by connecting, educating and promoting Chicago’s growing digital community, has compiled an extensive report on VC activity in Chicago bysourcing data from the community. In its reporting, BIC has been able to capture local first stage funding deals, which are often missed by other reporting systems and are arguably where the dynamism of the startup community lives.
Built in Chicago cross references its internal data with VentureSource, CB Insights, SEC Filings, New World Venturesand several other sources in attempt to build the most comprehensive data set on Chicago digital tech funding (you can view the full report for 2011 here).
The findings showed the total dollars raised by Chicago digital technology companies were 431% higher than 2010 and 37% higher than the peak of 2000. Specifically, $1,452M was raised by 77 digital technology companies in 2011. This compares with 41 companies that raised $273M in 2010.
The Illinois Innovation Index also reports venture capital information on a regular basis, as well as data on new business starts by industry in the metro area and statewide. The most recent issue showed that in 2011, more than 13,000 new businesses were established in the seven-county Chicago metropolitan region, generating almost 23,000 jobs.
One thing is for certain and the data is quite clear no matter how it is cut – Chicago’s startup scene is hitting on all cylinders. With VC funding on the rise, and following a meteoric year-over-year increase of investment activity in Chicago’s startup community, 1871 will be a critical asset when it opens this spring. The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center will manage 1871, curating the ongoing success of this vital addition to Chicago’s landscape.
Video: 1871 on Chicago Tonight