This is a guest post by Shahab Kaviani, Co-Founder and CEO at CoFoundersLab, the largest marketplace of entrepreneurs seeking a co-founder to launch or grow their business.
Over the last couple years, I’ve visited lots of startup communities to help integrate CoFoundersLab into the local startup ecosystem. My journey started in my hometown of Rockville, MD, in the Washington, D.C. metro area and has continued to other cities including Los Angeles, New York, and Boulder. I’d like to share my latest adventure to Chicago, where we kicked off our inaugural Co-Founders Wanted Chicago event, a free Meetup to match up co-founders.
Our inaugural event was held at 1871, and I’m happy to report that the startup scene in Chicago is alive and well. There are a number of other places in town that have made tremendous contributions to making Chicago’s startup scene so vibrant, but 1871 has done a great job pulling the community together in a number of ways. They offer workshops and co-working space, and have brought in many impactful tenants that help the community including Excelerate Labs, Founding Moms, Northwestern University and Starter League, all of whom we value as community partners and were instrumental in accommodating such a welcoming launch into Chicago.
A couple observations about what made our Chicago launch unique. Of all the cities we’ve been to thus far, no other city had as many people stand up and volunteer at the event to offer to help keep the CoFoundersLab torch burning. Our online matching platform and local Meetup events are free, so we rely on local volunteers to help promote, organize, and run the events every couple of months.
I was amazed and inspired by how many people sincerely wanted to join in and help the Chicago startup community. From my short two-day adventure, I got the impression that Chicago seems less fragmented than other major cities like D.C., LA, and NYC. By this I mean there are a few incredible resource sites, communities, and events that most people get behind such as Technori, Built in Chicago, and Entrepreneurs Unpluggd.
Geographically speaking, from talking with Adam Haun from MobileMakers, I learned that there’s River North (where 1871 is located) and the West Loop. It was so refreshing to hear Adam’s vision of trying to unite these two regions. Adam’s commitment and sense of singularity would make Brad Feld, author of Startup Communities, proud.
I also had a chance to meet with Troy Henikoff and Tony Wilkins from Excelerate Labs who are helping launch great companies in Chicago. My experience with Tony, an Entrepreneur in Residence at Excelerate Labs, was perfect; not only was he supportive of my movement, but he made an on-the-spot introduction to a great potential partner who was sitting across the room at 1871. These are the types of rapid synergies concentrated startup communities create.
I’m looking forward to watching Chicago become a major player in startup land, and proud to be a part of it!
In addition to the 1871 team and the other people mentioned in this article who were all instrumental in standing up CoFoundersLab in Chicago, I’d like to also give big ups to Jason Jacobsohn, Director at Founder Institute Chicago and Joe Abraham at BOSI. Oh and Joe, I’ll never forgive you for stealing my title as The Entrepreneur’s Biggest fan.
Go Chicago! Entrepreneurs Unite!