In the past couple of months, two fin tech incubators have started up in Chicago. At West Loop Ventures, we love it because we invest in B2B Fin Tech companies. More is better for us. We are going to work with both incubators, Currency and FinTank. We don’t see them as competitive. Why?
They are going to have different people in them with different skills. There also are so many problems to solve in finance that having one accelerator isn’t enough. There will be plenty of companies and activity. Philosophically, both incubators are starting with nothing. They don’t have huge resources. They don’t have tons of people or corporate support. They are ideas and led by people with a passion for fin tech, startups and entrepreneurship.
If you are interested in building a fin tech startup, Chicago is the place for you. The city of Chicago was built on the back of financial services. The key differentiator for Chicago over other ecosystems is the talent. The people here “get” fin tech concepts.
Startups continue to amaze and fascinate me. A person comes up with an idea and out of nothing, they build a business. They improvise. It’s built into America’s DNA.
I just read a book by David McCullough. It was a collection of his graduation addresses over the years. He is a historian. Here is a link to his graduation address at Hillsdale College in Michigan. The whole thing is moving and worth reading. Here is one quote I lifted from that address which speaks to the ethos of what it means to be an American and I think translates to startups.
Keep in mind that when we were founded by those people in the late 18th century, none of them had had any prior experience in either revolutions or nation-making. They were, as we would say, winging it. And they were idealistic and they were young. We see their faces in the old paintings done later in their lives or looking at us from the money in our wallets, and we see the awkward teeth and the powdered hair, and we think of them as elder statesmen. But George Washington, when he took command of the continental army at Cambridge in 1775, was 43 years old, and he was the oldest of them. Jefferson was 33 when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. John Adams was 40. Benjamin Rush—one of the most interesting of them all and one of the founders of the antislavery movement in Philadelphia—was 30 years old when he signed the Declaration. They were young people. They were feeling their way, improvising, trying to do what would work. They had no money, no navy, no real army. There wasn’t a bank in the entire country. There wasn’t but one bridge between New York and Boston. It was a little country of 2,500,000 people, 500,000 of whom were held in slavery, a little fringe of settlement along the east coast. What a story. What a noble beginning. And think of this: almost no nations in the world know when they were born. We know exactly when we began and why we began and who did it.
The key point is knowing exactly when you began and why you began.