Chicago unveils digital innovation and entrepreneurship center

Click here if you can’t see Mark Schaefer’s interview with Una Pipic of Chicago’s 1871 Center.

I had the chance to be a guest speaker at Chicago’s rocking new digital innovation center, 1871. Located in an expansive space in the downtown Merchandise Mart. This video interview with Managing Director Una Pipic provides a perspective of the entrepreneurial opportunities being created through this exciting project.

The organizers of “1871” – the number refers to the year of the Great Chicago Fire and the Chicago that was eventually rebuilt – believe they have built something important. And, apparently, hundreds of entrepreneurs seem to think so, too. The center just opened a few weeks ago and it is already bursting with activity.

1871 will be an incubator of new ideas and digital businesses by putting a lot of smart entrepreneurs in a closed space, let them talk, mentor each other, and dream up the next big thing.

Tom Drugan is one of the founders of a tech-start up called Naymz.  Although he already had office space in another part of town, he found the entrepreneurial process lonely and loves the energy and camaraderie of his new tech homebase.

The organizers of this enterprise, the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, have been around since 2003 and say they have raised $160 million to help finance new businesses. Funding also comes from entrepreneurial memberships from the individuals using the center.

Isn’t this a great concept? What is your city or region doing to support entrepreneurs?

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  • This sounds like something our leaders put together here in Birmingham a few of years ago. We call it Innovation Depot and it’s a start up incubator with centralized resources to help entrepreneurs focus on their businesses.

    It has spawned several successful businesses in the region and is a really cool place! Good work Chicago!

  • Thanks for sharing the video Mark. What a great idea and wonderful example for other communities to follow. There is so much empty or under under-utilized space all across the country, I can’t think of a more creative way to put it to work. And putting ideas to work leads to putting people to work.

  • Pavel Konoplenko

    Sounds like a great idea and it’s great to see big-cities focusing on digital innovation and incubation. As far as incubation in my city, Google partnered with Cornell University to develop a CornellNYC Tech Program in exchange for 5 years of free rent. I’m excited about where this will lead.

  • Every city needs something like this to some degree. It takes a village to make a successful entrepreneur!

  • I had the same thought Billy. Igniting empty real estate for economic growth!

  • Oh I have been following that Cornell development with interest. An amazing project!

  • Qualcomm and CommNexus just started one here in San Diego – Happy to see the idea catch on.

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  • Anonymous

    Atlanta needs one bad, when I have time:) That is a fantastic operation!

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