CHICAGO, May 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Entrepreneurs at Chicago’s new hub for digital start-ups, 1871, got a surprise visit Sunday from British Prime Minister David Cameron prior to the start of the NATO Summit. The Prime Minister spoke with several entrepreneurs about their businesses and Chicago’s strong technology innovation sector, then toured the shared work space for digital start-ups that opened May 2 in the historic Merchandise Mart building.
Mr. Cameron had asked to visit 1871 (www.1871.com) as part of his ongoing mission to strengthen economic ties between the UK and the United States – especially in the technology sector, which he has described as having tremendous potential to fuel economic growth and job creation.
The 1871 entrepreneurs were only told the identity of their VIP guest moments before his arrival, for security purposes.
Upon his arrival, Mr. Cameron had a spirited conversation with three entrepreneurs, quizzing them about their businesses and the advantages of working in a tech “ecosystem” such as 1871:
- Neal Sales-Griffin, founder of Code Academy, an immersive three-month training program housed in 1871 for people – often those who started in other careers — who want to become web developers, designers and entrepreneurs.
- Louise Monger, a UK native who recently located in 1871 to start up the US version of an interactive silent auction fundraising company, FunRaising Events USA.
- Erik Severinghaus, founder of SimpleRelevance, which improves digital marketing conversion by using data to segment customers and personalize their messaging.
In his exchange with Monger, Mr. Cameron offered his view that “there’s a great market” for her interactive fundraising service, and that the technology available to power her start-up is “fantastic.” Perhaps her greatest challenge, he quipped, is making sure the technology can be used by “an 80-year-old philanthropist.”
During his visit to 1871, the Prime Minister cited Tech City (www.techcityuk.com) in East London, an area with a network of start-ups and incubators alongside established technology companies such as Google and Cisco as well as university researchers and investors. He has said he intends for Tech City to become “one of the world’s great technology centers.”
The Prime Minister’s tour was led by Kevin Willer, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC). The CEC, which manages 1871, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to growing Chicago’s entrepreneurial community.
After talking with the digital entrepreneurs and touring their co-working space, Mr. Cameron also met privately with a handful of Chicago-area business leaders, including J.B. Pritzker, World Business Chicago Board member and one of the founders of 1871, to promote investment in the UK and invite them to visit Tech City.
In addition to providing co-working space and a sense of community, 1871 features educational programming, events and seminars to help foster the growth of digital startups in Chicago, which has seen an explosion of growth in the sector. The name “1871″ was inspired by the period of rapid innovation that followed immediately after The Great Chicago Fire in October of that year, when leading engineers, designers and builders came together to build a new city.
To view video of today’s visit to 1871 by Prime Minister David Cameron, please visit http://youtu.be/HPOE4arjf0s
To download photos, please visit http://bit.ly/1871Photos