Unfortunately, it is common knowledge that women are underrepresented in technology. In fact, only 5% of technology startups are women-founded, according to Women 2.0. This is all the more alarming when we realize that women-owned startups are actually much more likely to succeed than those run by men. It is with this imbalance in mind, along with a strong desire to support a more diverse startup community in Chicago overall, that 1871 is announcing 1871 FEMtech, a new incubator for women-led startup companies that will launch in Fall 2014 and live right here at 1871.
We are excited about this. We think it’s one of the most important and highest potential initiatives we’ve undertaken. We think it’s smart. We’ll be looking to capitalize on our prominent position as the leading hub for digital entrepreneurs to recruit some of the best and brightest female-founded tech companies from across the country to come here to Chicago. And we’ve got strong partnerships in place to help us along the way. We’re partnering with Google as part of their #40Forward women in tech gender gap initiative, as well as the Motorola Mobility Foundation and the Lefkofsky Family Foundation.
1871 FEMtech will feature between ten and fifteen women-owned technology businesses which will co-locate at 1871 and engage in programming, mentorship, and training that is specifically designed to maximize their resources and opportunities for success. But here are some of the plans that will make the program unique:
- Flexible and Family Friendly – This is going to be a rigorous process like any incubator, but it is also going to be structured in a reasonable and flexible way in order to cater to the needs of female entrepreneurs who may be juggling work and family. We think this will help to significantly ease many of the work-life balance tensions that may arise. We will do this in a number of ways, including providing state-of-the-art video-conferencing capabilities, shuttle services, and more.
- We’re number 1! – 1871 is a leading support of female entrepreneurs with nearly 30% of our companies either founded or co-founded by women. We’re already a national leader, and, selfishly, we want to build 1871 and ultimately Chicago, as the destination for women to found and build businesses.
- Tighter Mentorship and Programming – We are not going into this with a set-in-stone curriculum. We have come to realize that individual organizations across industries need custom programs to address their market segment needs. We are going to tailor our programming and mentorship based on the companies that we admit to the program.
- The 1871 Community – 1871 is already full of incredible resources, and all of these opportunities will be wide-open to our FEMtech cohort.
- Chicago’s Women Leaders – Chicago has a unique business ecosystem that is home to dozens of Fortune 500 companies, from a diverse set of industries. Chicago’s Fortune 500 companies also represent a critical mass of extremely powerful and successful female CEOs and business leaders, including (but not limited to) Archer Daniels Midland, Mondelez International, ComEd, Ventas, UnitedHealthcare, Johnson Publishing Co., Ingredion, Ulta, Health Care Service Corp., and Harpo Productions. This is an incredible strategic advantage for all of our female entrepreneurs to connect with the top female business leaders in the world.
- University Hotbed – Chicago is home to some of the world’s leading universities and research facilities. Even better, the University of Illinois, The University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and The Illinois Institute of Technology have strong and active ties to 1871 and maintain a physical presence at 1871 with dedicated offices. This level of consolidated access to some of the nation’s brightest young talent is unprecedented.
- Access to Capital – 1871 has strong partnerships with the city’s top venture capitalists. 1871 is the primary office for Chicago Ventures. Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Origin Ventures, Sandbox Industries, Illinois Ventures, Hyde Park Angels, and Irish Angels all keep satellite offices at 1871. Additionally, OCA Ventures, Microsoft Ventures, and Lightbank are key supporters and partners of 1871.
- Exposure – 1871 has generated a lot of great press and excitement in the 22 months since we opened. We have received multiple visits from Mayor Emanuel and Governor Quinn, and have hosted UK Prime Minister Cameron and many other world leaders. As a result of our startups’ successes, job creation, and economic impact, as well as our involvement in Google’s Tech Hub Network, and other events and milestones, we have garnered hundreds of feature articles (in publications like Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, TechCrunch, and others), and thousands of mentions on Twitter for 1871 and our companies. We hope to continue to increase exposure for our companies, and will be doing a road-show series of Demo Days for our FEMtech companies, taking them to multiple cities and bringing them directly to target investors.
We hope this post gives you a taste of what’s in store for the 1871 FEMtech program. Please visit 1871.com/FemTech to receive more information as we progress toward launch. We will officially launch our application process this summer, and will welcome our inaugural cohort to Chicago in the fall of 2014.
Written by Mike Huffstetler, VP of Partnerships at 1871