More than 140 people from 65 local startups moved into new digs Wednesday at 1871, a 50,000-square-foot work space for digital entrepreneurs at the Merchandise Mart.
The space on the 12th floor can accommodate up to 500 people, or more than 100 startups, who are seeking flexible terms and a collaborative environment. Venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker and the state of Illinois are among the backers of the space, which is named for the resurgence of Chicago after the great fire of 1871.
More than 400 startups have applied to rent space in the hub since mid-January, and 65 have been accepted, with more on the way. Other tenants include local universities, such as the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, as well as Chicago-based investors Hyde Park Angels and Pritzker’s New World Ventures. The space also pulled in corporate sponsorship from CDW, Google and Comcast, among others.
Amenities at 1871 include an Intelligentsia coffee bar and common areas for social gatherings, classes and lectures. The calendar for May is already booked with events such as “hack nights” for female software developers and workshops on contracts and marketing.
“1871 is a step along the way for startups,” said Kevin Willer, president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, which is managing the space. “It is not a place for them to be forever.
Monthly memberships at 1871 range from $125 to $400, with the highest level securing a reserved desk and access to all conference rooms. Willer said the typical startup at 1871 has the potential to secure venture funding, is efficient with capital and has prospects for fast growth “if you hit it right.”
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