Student Survey Shows Chicago, Midwest as Evolving Hub for Entrepreneurship

April 11, 2014

The University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (UIUC) is working with the Committee on Institutional Cooperation to survey ~500,000 students at Big Ten universities to gauge perceptions of startups and innovation in Chicago and the Midwest. World Business Chicago (WBC) provided input on the survey, especially around content addressing talent attraction & retention. Today, Steve Sprieser and Brian Lickenbrock presented their findings on Chicago and the Midwest as evolving hubs for entrepreneurship to WBC staff, and approximately 200 healthcare, manufacturing, agriculture, and venture capital executives. These findings are based on a survey distributed to 20,000 University of Illinois students, interviews with 100 tech executives and VCs, and targeted research on local biotech, healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture industries.

Key Findings

  • Students view Chicago as an “entrepreneurial city”, but noted the Midwest needs to enhance access to capital and entrepreneurial support networks — through initiatives like ThinkChicago — in order to entice more entrepreneurs to start companies in the region.
  • University, industry, and government collaboration is an effective means to better publicize and allocate resources to aid in tech transfer, commercialization, and the scalable growth of emerging firms. Initiatives such as the Digital Lab for Manufacturing and ChicagoNEXT are examples of approaches designed to positively impact new venture formation and accelerate the growth of established businesses in Chicago.  
  • Entrepreneurs noted difficulty in finding venture funding within advanced manufacturing, agriculture, and life sciences industries due to capital requirements and the timeline for return on investments.
  • Entrepreneurs and investors viewed term sheets within Chicago and the Midwest as more favorable to investors (e.g., emphasis on established revenue streams and commercialization plans vs. focus on growth potential).

Chicago 2030: Findings on the Midwest and Its Potential as a Technology Cluster

Executive Summary 
Presentation of Findings (33MB)
Full Report (37MB)