By Adam Stanley, Global CIO and Chief Digital Officer & Howard Tullman, CEO, 1871
It All Started With An Entrepreneurial Vision
On May 2, 2012, 1871 was born and the Chicago technology entrepreneurial community has never looked back – and never looked better.
Led by CEO and visionary Howard Tullman, the Chicago Entrepreneurial Center (CEC) opened 1871’s doors after only five months of construction in a raw space on the 12th floor of The Merchandise Mart. Welcoming 60 member companies and 145 entrepreneurs. The original 1871 space was the seed that would grow into the massive collaborative co-working enterprise that it is today. Now companies of all sizes are flocking to 1871 just to be part of the ‘entrepreneurial’ digital scene in Chicago.
Providing Something for Everyone
1871’s environment is all about innovation, collaboration, evolution, and growth. As one of the largest technology incubators in the world, it caters to all different types of co-working space to accommodate the increasing needs of its enterprising member companies
- Traditional space where one can rent out a desk or table
- New classrooms and individual private office spaces
- 41,000 additional square feet of new printing and consulting labs, virtual reality spaces, conference rooms, podcast studios and more.
When a company works at 1871, they get ongoing access to events, workshops, mentors, universities, venture funds, shared experiences, and so much more. Some notable speakers who have visited 1871 include former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright; AOL Co-Founder, Steve Case; U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith; Founder and CEO of Khan Academy, Sal Kahn; and former Senior Advisor to President Obama, David Axelrod, to name a few.
Countless networking opportunities abound within the 1871 ecosystem as well. With two floors of continuous and contiguous space, happy accidents happen all the time, enabling people to really interact with and learn from one another. Aside from entrepreneurial companies working side-by-side and leveraging each other’s expertise on any given day, the more than 500 mentors who come to work with tenants love learning about the new innovations and technologies. Major corporations including Ford Motor Company, Bosch,
and State Farm Insurance come to 1871 because they want to be exposed to new entrepreneurial ideas and opportunities they can’t find within their own organizations. On the flip side, young entrepreneurial companies love to work with these mentors and organizations because they represent not only clients, but investors as well.
Key to the success of this collaborative co-working environment is the quality and integrity of 1871’s member companies. To be considered as a member, companies must be B2B and they must possess the five “P”s: passion, preparation, perspiration, perseverance, and principles. Startups don’t get built overnight. Rather, 1871 companies embody a similar work ethic and culture. According to Howard Tullman, “companies at 1871 don’t get what they wish for, they get what they work for.” They work hard, remain focused, are intellectually curious, and possess the genuine desire to make a difference in today’s world. And if anyone should know what a successful startup looks like, it’s Howard. He’s been personally involved with several profitable ones that have also made their start at 1871, including ConceptDrop, Thyng, Indiegogo, and HighTower Advisors.
From leveraging ideas to attending workshops to meeting with mentors, startup companies that would otherwise be ‘flying solo’ benefit across the board. At the end of the day, 1871 does whatever it takes to ensure its member companies are provided with the resources and tools necessary to be successful in this quickly changing world.
Pursuing Dreams Together Can Be Contagious
Once a company has matured enough, they can, in essence, ‘graduate’ from 1871. Companies that have graduated to date include SpotHero, Caremerge, Rocketmiles, ThinkCERCA, and Pangea, to name a few. From the shared learnings to the electric energy to the overall culture, companies say they love everything about this space. After all, being in an entrepreneurial environment where everyone is pursuing their dreams can be contagious.
When EX3 Labs was launching, Founder Adam Wisniewski knew 1871 would be the perfect launchpad for the company. As a startup, the company received mentorship on everything from sales to marketing to business development – really everything they needed to know to get the company off the ground. In addition, 1871’s energy was contagious – just being able to walk into a space every day with such an incredible amount of energy was vital to EX3 Labs’ business. But above all else, the networking opportunities proved to be invaluable as the company was able to showcase its innovative technologies – and ultimately form partnerships – with other member companies, including several large enterprises that are always looking to learn from smaller, more agile companies like EX3 Labs.
As one of the very first companies at 1871, Co-founder and CEO of SpotHero Mark Lawrence is all too familiar with the tremendous benefits of this shared ecosystem. According to Mark, “It’s hard to describe the magic that happens when everyone involved in startups is all in one place. With so many companies working on different issues, it’s nice not having to reinvent the wheel on everything. We can and we really do leverage each other.” What he’s especially loved about 1871 is that the space has legitimized startups in Chicago. For the first time, starting a company is acceptable and even ‘cool.’
In only five years, 1871 has expanded from 50,000 to 150,000 square feet of space, created more than 7,000 jobs, fostered the growth of 150 alumni companies, continues to support 500 companies and thousands of entrepreneurs and helped transform The Merchandise Mart by adding thousands of tech jobs in the historic building.
1871 is currently the largest tech incubator in the world. No other location has been able to bring this many entrepreneurs and companies, major universities and schools, venture funds, and different countries together like this in one place – to not only develop and grow, but thrive. 1871 offers thousands of events and workshops throughout the year, as well as more than 500 mentors who work with the individual companies on a daily basis.
Adam Stanley provides strategic and operational direction for Cushman & Wakefield’s client facing and colleague technology systems and infrastructure across all global business lines. Drawing on his more than 20 years of industry experience and as an integral member of the global executive team, Adam is a change agent with proven success driving growth, performance, talent retention and innovation.
Howard A. Tullman is the CEO of 1871 and the General Managing Partner for the Chicago High Tech Investment Partners, LLC and for G2T3V, LLC – both Chicago-based early-stage venture capital funds which has invested in more than 25 Chicago-based startups in the last two years.