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Chicago's Startup Ecosystem Gets A Boost

Personally, I think any growth-oriented hospital above a certain size and level of sophistication ought to be working on a business incubator strategy. Learn a few lessons from this recent "Crains Chicago Business" article featuring developments in the Chicago startup community.

Lesson #1: Money AND coaching go well together...
"Among those leading the charge are some Chicago heavyweights. A new incubator-slash-boot-camp called Excelerate offers up to $20,000 in funding to startups chosen for an intensive 10-week program to start this summer. It also offers access to a group of mentors that includes entrepreneurial icons like Howard Tullman, Michael Ferro and Genevieve Thiers. Excelerate is taking applications through March 18.

Also throwing their weight behind startup support are two of the city's most prolific and proficient technology entrepreneurs. Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky emerged from the dot-com boom-and-bust to build InnerWorkings, Echo Global Logistics and now Groupon. Flush with those successes, the pair has ponied up 10 million dollars to launch Lightbank, an incubator that could invest in as many as 10 companies a year. Lefkofsky and Keywell have ponied up 10 million dollars for the first round of Lightbank investments. Just as importantly, the companies they fund will get access to Keywell and Lefkofsky themselves, who promise to personally get down in the day-to-day muck with the entrepreneurs they back."
Closer to my southwest Michigan home, I'm working on an idea similar to this from Scalewell.

Lesson #2: it doesn't take LOTS of money to get going, and access to a network of supporters is another important form of currency...
"Scalewell is the brainchild of Andy Angelos, Sean Corbett and Ziad Hussain. They've recruited 42 trustees--entrepreneurs and business people who pledge a hundred dollars apiece toward thousand-dollar grants that Scalewell will award to the winners of quarterly business-plan competitions. The winners also get free office space in the Loop. But again, the most valuable prize is access to the trustees--an instant network of experienced supporters."
Lesson #3: watch the video...


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