By Jin Hwang, founder of EveningFlow an 1871 member
It’s been an amazing ride at 1871 for EveningFlow.
At the end of March 2012, with mixed emotions, we left our awesome startup friends at Catapult Chicago. But we were ecstatic to have the opportunity to join other earlier stage startups at 1871, a few blocks over in the Merchandise Mart.
In April, there were only 10 startups working at 1871 and construction was going on all around us. Caity, Una and Melissa were always on their way somewhere, making sure that everything was and would be running smoothly. Kevin hosted countless orientations for guests, ranging from hoodies to suits, in a space that was truly raw. The mothership felt like a startup of sorts. Pretty cool for a bunch of entrepreneurs in t-shirts.
Even with its rich history of innovation, Chicago is a newer entrepreneurial hub in the eyes of the coasts. In the city, 1871 was a fresh concept of centralizing entrepreneurship. And local startups were popping up everywhere. It’s like Venture Inception. A dream within a dream within a dream…top spinning.
We weren’t sure what to expect from 1871. Its massive co-working space promised tons of foot traffic and we didn’t know how a minnow like us would fare in this pond.
For EveningFlow, the value and benefit of us being here was immediately apparent. First, serendipitous introductions turn into a snowball effect of more introductions. We received actionable advice from people who we would normally have difficulty meeting. Many of these people had startup street cred themselves, having been through the wringer and come up on top. Second, having smart, startup folks around you with their own expertise provides a fast feedback loop, dulling the pain of limited resources and time. Third (and probably overlooked), being around so many entrepreneurs is therapeutic. Much needed catharsis occurs just by talking to a friend who knows exactly what you are going through.
Some incredible things happened for us here at 1871. We were able to undergo our second major user test for our product, with the help of The Starter League, which paved the way for our third version for launch (still not satisfied but put it out there). We got the advice of mavens in the industry we serve, like Chuck Templeton (Founder of Opentable) and Cary Chessick (Former CEO of Restaurant.com). And, in December, we launched a user tested and customer approved product.
Now, we have an even stronger team with a stronger product, key partnerships for growth and a mobile app shortly on the way. Could we have gotten here without 1871? The never-say-die entrepreneur in me says “Hell yes”, but the contemplative CEO in me knows that 1871 enabled us to get where we are today and definitely accelerated our progress.
Startups are extremely dynamic because every little thing is a variable. There are ups and downs and limited resources add a fun twist.
I believe I can speak for everyone at 1871 and say that, with its workshop programming, tech events, plethora of (strategy, marketing, funding, operations, etc.) office hours, always-helpful staff and collaborative startup environment, 1871 helps solve the startup limited resource and readiness problem.
We can’t wait to help the masses with our 1871 friends. Chicago rocks and everyone should know it.