Last night I was invited to a mentor meeting at Excelerate Labs in Chicago. I have mentored at Excelerate since its inception. Walked into 1871 and there was the usual buzz there. It is always fun to see old acquaintances and catch up. Brad Feld was there as well, and it was good to see him in the flesh instead of virtually.
We chatted, and then Troy got the program started. He had some pretty exciting news. Excelerate is going to become a part of the TechStars network. This is exciting news for Chicago! If you are a startup company, this morning is the first day you can get your application in. Apply. If you are accepted, you will have a great summer here in the city. Chicago is the best summer city in America.
Saying the Chicago entrepreneurial community is jazzed about this would be an understatement.
Chicago historically has a chip on its shoulder. Second City. Fly over country. We do our own thing here. Networks exist between cities like New York and LA, or New York and San Francisco. But, the network between Chicago and New York or Chicago and San Francisco, or Chicago and Boston has less strength.
Entrepreneurially that is about to change.
Six years ago now, there was little deal flow in Chicago. When we started Hyde Park Angels, it took a lot of effort to recruit people willing to even be an angel. We had to beat the bushes for companies. That metric has changed and one of the reasons I started West Loop Ventures. WLV is trying to add another dimension to the ecosystem in a radically different way.
In addition, there are other things going on in Chicago that will change the way we work. They will change the way we network and interact. They will change the metrics for success/failure for startup companies.
First, in the crowd was a guy named Raman Chadha. Today marks the first day of classes for the Junto Institute. It’s the graduate school for a program like TechStars. The Junto should be an amazing program. If you have gone through an incubator/accelerator, contact Raman to find out what it’s all about. Raman has been thinking hard about leadership, the way we lead and how it relates to startups for a long time. He developed the program utilizing principles of leadership from a person that is a five time successful entrepreneur.
When Brad was speaking, he talked about the way we view “work” in the US. He talked about how that whole dynamic is changing. I have seen that too. There is a company in Chicago that is integral in supporting people who are changing the way the world works, interacts, and does business. They aren’t a flat social app, research site. They aren’t mindless. It’s a place to get things done in a meaningful way. It’s a total support network, even when you fail. More about them in another blog-but the way they view the world compared to similar companies is radically different. If you take Brad’s words and look at their business plan, you might think he wrote it.
The business world in Chicago is fundamentally changing. It’s easy to plug in and be a part of it. Everyone is welcome, as long as you follow the code of ethics entrepreneurs subscribe to. It starts with “give before you get” and goes on from there. TechStars, Junto, and other support systems are there for you to lean on so you can be successful.
Even though the broader world is engaged in some upheaval. It’s a great time to be alive. Come, be a part of this with me.