The 225 startups working out of the 1871 collaborative hub at the Merchandise Mart created 800 jobs during the space’s first year, according to data released Friday.
The 50,000-square foot space opened in May 2012 with backing from local venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker and the state of Illinois. It caters to entrepreneurs building Web and mobile applications that rent month-to-month workspace at affordable terms. The center also hosts events and has permanent offices for local venture capital firms and universities.
“We really have a town square for the tech community here in Chicago,” Pritzker said at a Friday press conference at 1871.
The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, which runs 1871, surveyed the center’s members and gathered responses from 225 startups. The figure includes several companies that have “graduated” from 1871, or gotten big enough to move out and get their own office. According to the survey, the startups created 800 jobs during the year, with 173 of those full-time positions. Another 313 were temporary employees and 205 were interns. In the next 12 months, the startups said they plan to hire 1,342 people, with 449 of those full time and 428 temps.
The survey also showed that $27.6 million has been invested in the 1871 startups, with 43 percent of that coming from the founders. Another 20 percent came from angel investors, while a small slice — 6 percent — was furnished by Chicago venture capital firms.
In addition, the startups reported generating $12.7 million in revenue since joining 1871.
Kevin Willer, the outgoing chief executive of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, said 1871 has received about 1,000 applications from startups seeking to rent space in the center. Tenants are chosen by a nine-member committee, whose members include local tech leaders such as Genevieve Thiers, founder of Sittercity.com, and Harper Reed, who was chief technology officer of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.
Startups with “the best chance of getting accepted tend to have a technical co-founder and a business co-founder,” Willer said in an interview. “It’s harder for people who are just business and don’t have the technology, and maybe they outsource (that part). Our committee would really like to see the technology built here in Chicago. We don’t accept applications from a company that’s based in California or the East Coast that wants to have their regional sales office here or something like that. We’re accepting companies that are building themselves in Chicago.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn made media appearances at the space this week to celebrate the first anniversary.
“Our state understood that investing in 1871 was a prudent investment … that would pay dividends,” Quinn said at the Friday press conference.
Willer said corporate sponsors have also stepped up, helping to support programming and subsidize rent. In addition, established companies such as Redbox, Microsoft and Zipcar have purchased “associate memberships” that allow their employees to spend time at 1871.
For 1871’s second year, Willer said he hopes to hold more “office hours” where experts and technology executives volunteer to hold 30-minute sessions for entrepreneurs to ask them questions or seek advice. About 125 people agreed to hold office hours during the first year, with more than 200 sessions a month.
Willer said he’s also seeking to attract national venture capital firms to visit 1871, with an eye toward encouraging them to establish local offices in Chicago down the road.
In addition, “we always need more and better technical talent in Chicago and the Midwest,” Willer said. The recruitment effort includes convincing graduates of local universities to stay in town rather than move out to the coasts. Recently, a group of 40 computer science students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign visited 1871 during a tour of the city’s high-tech scene.
“Even a year ago, we didn’t have as much to show them,” Willer said.
The CEC announced in February that Willer would be stepping down as CEO to join local venture capital firm i2A Fund as a partner. The CEC’s search committee has hired Chicago-based executive search firm Lantern Partners to find Willer’s replacement and “they’re talking with folks right now,” he said, adding that “we’re not terribly far from making an announcement.”
Willer, for his part, won’t be traveling far when he moves to i2A — the firm has offices in 1871.
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