1871 http://www.1871.com Where digital startups get their start Fri, 05 Feb 2016 17:52:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Tullman: Why Your State Should Be a VC http://www.1871.com/tullman-why-your-state-should-be-a-vc/ http://www.1871.com/tullman-why-your-state-should-be-a-vc/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:15:14 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14152 By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. View the original post here.

The state of Illinois has serious financial woes. ... » Continue]]> By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. View the original post here.

The state of Illinois has serious financial woes. That’s not news here in Chicago and it would be difficult to find any state that doesn’t have money problems. There’s plenty of misery to share and Alaska, Louisiana and Missouri, among others, are sharing it. Sorry state finances are as much of a “bitter sweet” oxymoron as jumbo shrimp, military intelligence or exact estimates. The more interesting part of this situation is what the best state managers are trying to do to solve the problem. We all acknowledge that they can only address the budget parts within their control and those funds and resources available to them. Notwithstanding these limitations, the Illinois Treasurer, Mike Frerichs, is leading the way in a fashion that couldn’t be better or more timely news for entrepreneurs, startups and the overall tech community.

I would expect that you will quickly see other states jump on this business-boosting bandwagon and follow Illinois’ lead. I’m hopeful that– as an entrepreneur– when the conversations and arguments start in your state that you’ll have the ammo to hold up your end of the discussion as well and, if you’re so inclined, even help to lead the charge.

As the state’s chief investment officer, Frerichs has just announced the creation of a new $220 million growth and innovation fund (representing a very small percentage of the existing state investment pools and not tied to Illinois’ budget stalemate), which will drive innovation and job creation by supporting investments in emerging technology companies. These funds will not be directly invested by the state –thank goodness for that. Instead, they will be distributed to 15-to-20 existing, experienced and successful venture funds selected by an independent investment manager and financial institution, which will in turn make the specific company selections and investments. It’s expected that this action will attract another $400-to-$500 million in private-sector money as well for young and growing Illinois startups. Sounds pretty positive to me.

Much to my surprise, though, and to a certain extent because of an overall lack of understanding of the fact that the funds in any state’s coffers aren’t fully fungible, a lot of people–including some of our own VCs and entrepreneurs at 1871– have been critical of this new initiative. While there are legitimately two sides to parts of this argument, I think that it is really important for all of us to understand what really isn’t open to argument. Then, at least, the discussion can proceed on the merits instead of simple misunderstandings.

What’s not open to argument?

If you’re the chief investment officer of any state and you’re charged with earning the best possible return on all the state funds that have been entrusted to you (including, for example, thousands of families’ 529 college investment funds), then you simply have to invest. There’s really no choice. You can’t save your way to success by sitting on the sideline. In addition, you can’t spend a dime of these “trust” funds to help the state solve its general operating problems and deficits because the use of these funds is rigidly restricted by state law. It would be nice to see some of these dollars spent to save critical programs, feed and care for folks, and address other pressing needs, but it’s not legally possible. So the choices are pretty clear –sit on it or invest it smartly.

What’s debatable?

Venture capital investments are risky. Startups fail every day. Maybe the last place that the state should invest even one fiduciary dollar is with early-stage and growth-stage businesses. But I personally don’t agree. This topic we can debate all day long and there are certainly multiple viewpoints, but almost every fund (professional, institutional, family offices, etc.) understands the idea of diversification and the need to have some exposure to the various parts and sectors of the new economy. In addition, we know that the only real job growth in our economy for at least the last decade has come from the hiring spurts of new businesses (not small businesses) and frankly it’s very much in all of our interests to keep that ball rolling.

What’s really smart?

As often as this idea has misled us in the past, I firmly believe that the smartest part of this investment strategy is the state’s decision to leave it to the pros. The beauty of the VCs who will be making the investments is that they have one simple agenda and that is to maximize returns for their investors. They don’t have to deal with the media. They don’t have a million competing political concerns. They don’t have to try to be all things to all people. They just have to do their jobs the very best that they can and make a ton of money for the state.

Bottom line: you can argue the merits of the program any way you like. Just don’t tell me that by encouraging the growth and expansion of hundreds of new businesses and the creation of thousands of new jobs that Illinois is taking the food from any families or helping the “haves” to the detriment of the “have nots” ’cause that ain’t happenin’.

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Tullman: Doing Nothing Is Doing Something http://www.1871.com/tullman-doing-nothing-is-doing-something/ http://www.1871.com/tullman-doing-nothing-is-doing-something/#comments Tue, 26 Jan 2016 20:28:39 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14109 By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/doing-nothing-is-doing-something/html.html

Starting and growing a new business has much ... » Continue]]> By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/doing-nothing-is-doing-something/html.html

Starting and growing a new business has much more in common with a tornado than you might expect at first glance. They both begin with a lot of howling and blowing and, if you’re not careful and lucky as well, you could end up losing the house. While it’s never a good idea to bet against Mother Nature or gravity, the good news is that many of the things most likely to bring your business down are man-made and sometimes the product of your own actions or –more likely – inactions.

It’s increasingly clear that the costs today of true inaction far outweigh the risks of just about anything you’re willing to try to do. Keep in mind though that refusing to do things cheaply or quickly or too broadly or before you’re fully prepared isn’t inaction. It’s good decision-making. The things you say “no” to will in the long run will have a far greater favorable impact on your ultimate success than any quick hits or shortcuts you get roped into pursuing before you’re ready or before it’s time. Two easy ideas to keep top of mind: 1) Don’t say “maybe” when you should say “no” and 2) Don’t try to do something cheaply that you shouldn’t do at all.

Everyone is an expert on everything and a million people are willing to give you advice– especially when they have no responsibility or liability for the outcomes. (See Expert Advice is Overrrated.) Their advice almost always sounds the same: “do something now”; “go big or go home”; “if you snooze, you lose”; “be the first mover”, etc.  But sometimes the best decision you can make is to say “no” and that’s not because you don’t want to act –it’s because you want to act when and how you choose, and when the time is right.  It’s not always the popular choice or decision, but it’s almost always the smart one.

There are certainly going to be some unavoidable risks and existential threats to your company that you’ll need to respond to. You’ll go nowhere if you try to keep your head in the sand and just creep carefully forward. Things are moving too rapidly in the global marketplace to act defensively and a go-slow strategy of risk avoidance can be a death sentence for a startup.

At the same time, there are also some bumps in the road and some obvious pressures and problems that you can sidestep if you keep your eyes open, pay attention to the signs, and know where to look. The trick is not to let any of these influences (the need for speed, the gospel of scale, the ecstasy of expansion, etc.) or the influencers (analyst and media musings, competitors’ and critics’ complaints, investor agendas, politicians pushing for publicity) pull your business apart. Screw up your courage, stick to your guns, do what’s right for the present, and be ready to flex in the future.

It’s really a matter of physics. Critical mass actually is critical and it’s your job to build or assemble CM and to hang on to it.  You as an entrepreneur are a centripetal “force” pulling everything, all the time, toward the center –you’re focused, attentive, deeply involved, trying to hold a lot of things together. And you’re up against centrifugal forces constantly conspiring to do the opposite: pulling things away from you. That includes “trying too much too soon,” “spreading yourself a mile wide and an inch deep,” “trying to be all things to all people,” among others.  But as any good entrepreneur knows in his or her heart, you can’t have it all.

The trick is to not get tricked into trying.

While many of these concerns are external and market- or competitor-driven, the most insidious ones are from the folks you think are your friends and who technically should be looking out for your best interests. Here’s a flash: if they’re human and they’re breathing, they’re looking out for their own interests first. That’s just human nature and not a bad thing per se, it’s just something to keep in mind as you consider their suggestions and thoughts. A grain or two of salt doesn’t just make the soup tastier.

Influencers come in several recurring types, sizes and shapes.  Watch out for these:

(1)VCs and Aggressive Investors

Most of these guys never met a farm they wouldn’t bet and your business (in their minds) is no different. Full speed ahead is the only speed they’re interested in and, if you don’t make it, they’ll be long gone when the layoffs begin. Only moonshots matter; being in the middle of anything else is mediocre at best and boring, which is even worse. You’re trying to build a strong foundation for a sustainable and profitable business and they’re trying to find stories they can promote and sell to the next round of greater fools. It’s not easy to tell these people to cool their jets and that your pace doesn’t reflect the depth of your passion or your commitment. The best advice I can give you is to try to make sure that you’ve got some board members and other advisors (not investors) who’ve actually run businesses to help take your side in some of the silliest of these arguments. They can help you push back. (See Why It’s Better When Board Members Back Off.)

(2)Politicians

Politicians also love big winners, but they love patronage more. Their primary goals are favorable publicity (no surprise) and spreading the wealth around, meaning spreading your wealth around. As soon as they see a roaring success in the city, they want to put you and your business on the road and have you build copies and clones throughout the state or the country – whether it makes the slightest sense for you to do so or not. Because their focus isn’t on your progress, prosperity or profits, it’s on the populace at large and, as they see it,  the more sites and stories the merrier. This is a great way to over-extend your business so much that nothing works anywhere and then – of course – it’s gonna be shame on you when it all comes tumbling down. Meanwhile, they’ll be over the next hill chasing the newest shiny story. Rapid expansion is always exciting until it isn’t and it looks easy to everyone who doesn’t have to execute the plan.

(3)Media

The media operate on a simple principle. They’ll love ya ’til they don’t (hello, Groupon); they’re always waiting for you to slip on that banana peel and take a tumble. I realize that they’re a necessary evil, but you need to be very careful that you’re not saying things or doing things (even worse) to “prove” something to these people because (a) it’s never enough to satisfy them in any case and they won’t believe you anyway; and (b) it’s a fool’s errand to waste your time trying to impress people whose livelihood is much more about finding the warts and shortcomings in your story than in celebrating your successes. The best thing I can say about your interactions with most of the media today  is the advice I heard long ago about why it makes no sense to wrestle with a pig. Only the pig enjoys it and you just eventually end up covered in mud.

The bottom line is simple: these are all distractions that do next to nothing for your business and are best avoided as much as humanly possible. Keep your head down, keep your eyes on the prize, keep moving forward and all the rest of this stuff will take care of itself if and when it matters at all.

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Tullman: Making Student Debt Less Sticky http://www.1871.com/tullman-making-student-debt-less-sticky/ http://www.1871.com/tullman-making-student-debt-less-sticky/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2016 18:26:18 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14048 By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/making-student-debt-less-sticky.html.

Sometimes you just smack yourself in the ... » Continue]]> By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/making-student-debt-less-sticky.html.

Sometimes you just smack yourself in the head and say, “Why didn’t I think of that?” An idea surfaces that is so obvious and so right–and you never saw it coming. That’s what makes great entrepreneurs, of course. Entrepreneurs don’t know what’s impossible or what they can’t do. They don’t color within the lines or stay stuck in silos. They see what everyone else has seen (and lamented for years); they think about it differently; and they bring a new perspective or approach to the problem. Then, in retrospect, it becomes blindingly clear to all of us. As Nelson Mandela said: it always seems impossible until it’s done.

For years, I’ve been depressed by the fact that millions of people are trapped in crappy, dead-end jobs, yearning to be free to try to do something meaningful and important, because they are imprisoned by their need to preserve their company-based health insurance coverage. It’s hard to imagine the economic impact and the creative forces that would be unleashed if the futures of so many weren’t fettered by the bonds of the bozos who run the health insurance scams in this country. (See Why Wiki Work is the Future ) This is in part why 1871 became the first mega-incubator to offer health insurance programs for its member companies although– truth be told– almost all of our entrepreneurs think they’re immortal and indestructible, so they’re more concerned about innovation than insurance in their daily lives.

Now I’m not naïve and I do realize that “portable” health insurance and increased employee mobility isn’t exactly a high priority of major U.S. corporations. They’re more concerned with (a) motivating and hanging on to their good young people and (b) trying to figure out how they can attract the next several generations of smart, skilled newbies to their big, old and somewhat tired businesses. I don’t see their HR departments rushing any time soon to get rid of the insurance handcuffs.

But healthcare handcuffs aside, there’s actually good news on the benefits front that will serve both the existing young employee workforce and also be a sure-fire attractor for new talent. Forget Friday beer blasts, gym dues and mid-day massages– the new great employee perk for businesses big and small is right before our eyes. And the best news is that it’s something you can get started on tomorrow whether your revenues are billions or bupkes. Even the big guys can do some good for a change by doing good for their employees.

In my daily conversations with dozens of techies in their 20s and 30s, it turns out that the real problem for almost all of them is not insurance, it’s their substantial student debt. Frankly, none of these youngsters cares about a 401(k) when they’re more worried about foraging for food on a weekly basis. In fact, a staggering number of young workers these days don’t make any 401(k) contributions even when their employers are willing to match them. So much for the savings rate.

A new company based at 1871, called Peanut Butter, has come up with a simple, straightforward way for businesses to help their employees (new and old) get this brutal debt burden off their backs. It bears a resemblance to a 401k benefit in that a company can automatically make a payment on an employee’s student debt. Keep in mind that 40 million Americans have student debt right now and it averages more than $30,000 per person. This isn’t just a new employee recruitment tool; it’s also a powerful retention tool to help keep your proven people around the place years longer.

And believe me, in this competitive recruitment market where only a few companies can afford ridiculous signing bonuses and other incentives, this could be a way for your company to offer a helping hand to your best employees and hottest prospects.

Talk about a magnet for Millennials. This is the real deal and these kids in particular are saddled with more student debt than any generation before them. More than 70% of the Class of 2015 graduated with student debt.

By 2020, Millennials will represent almost 50% of the total U.S. workforce. Surveys already indicate that most of the major employment decisions new graduates are making are informed by the impact of their choices on their student debt, including industry selection, job acceptances, and relocation options. If, as an employer, your benefits offerings aren’t in the competitive set you can bet that you’ll be on the outside looking in as the best candidates head elsewhere.

Peanut Butter (www.getpeanutbutter.com ) is a benefits administration platform geared to let any business make contributions to help employees pay off their student loans. It’s all online and everything from establishing the plan, enlisting qualified employees, confirming loan amounts and determining contribution amounts, and even routing, tracking and documenting the payments are all incorporated with detailed real-time reports. Treasury management services are provided by a large and long-established Chicago-based financial institution.

Needless to say, this would be a difficult task for an individual company to undertake regardless of its resources (even with the best of intentions) because every single employee’s story is different and there are tens of thousands of different lenders, payers, borrowers, etc. It’s an ideal use case for a one-stop, cloud-based platform business where all the investigation, standardization, documentation, payment programs and infrastructure are already built and in place so that it becomes a turnkey solution.

You could always try to do this yourself, I guess, but it would be a stupid use of your energy, time and resources when the solution is already sitting there. And an even dumber thing to do would be to wait until everyone else is already offering the benefit to their people. Just remember the old adage: when it’s obvious that you need to change, it’s probably already too late to do so.

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Mentoring at 1871 – Josh Braun http://www.1871.com/mentoring-at-1871-josh-braun/ http://www.1871.com/mentoring-at-1871-josh-braun/#comments Mon, 11 Jan 2016 22:48:27 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=13900 Our new “Mentoring at 1871” interview series will feature 1871 mentors who have made a valuable contribution to our community. ... » Continue]]> Our new “Mentoring at 1871” interview series will feature 1871 mentors who have made a valuable contribution to our community. Our members gain incredible knowledge from the people who volunteer their time to mentor at 1871, and we’re excited to share some of those mentors’ insights with you.

Here’s what Josh Braun, VP of Client Happiness & Education at Chicago’s JellyVision Lab has to say about mentoring at 1871:

How long have you been mentoring at 1871?

About 2 years.

What do you get out of being a mentor?

The feel good feeling you get by accelerating someone’s learning curve and helping them dodge some bullets.

Is there a great story from your time as a mentor that you can share?

There was this guy Pere Marc Rigo, the founder of Package Zen. Love this guy. He’s a bit of a sales junkie like me, very knowledgeable in the weeds sort of sales-hacker guy. A tinkerer. He really helped improve the class by building on what I was teaching. I learned a lot from him as well (yet another benefit of mentoring).

Who is someone you’ve met recently through the mentorship program that got you excited about what they’re doing?

There are so many companies I’m excited about at 1871. I really like what Tangiblee is doing to improve the online shopping experience. Great team too.

______________________________________________________________________________

About JellyVision Lab:

JellyVision Lab an interactive communication software company that uses ALEX, a virtual benefits counselor, to help simplify and personalize the way employees make life decisions online. Whether an employee is selecting a health insurance plan, saving for retirement, or managing finances, ALEX serves as an interactive guide for these important HR messages and benefit options.

About Josh Braun:

Mentorship comes naturally given Josh Braun’s background in education. Josh received a B.S. in Communications from Florida State, a B.A. in Elementary Education from Florida Atlantic University and an M.S. in Education Technology. Josh got his start as a production assistant for Nickelodean followed by school teaching for the Palm Beach County School District. Before JellyVision Lab, Josh was VP of Product Development at Compass Learning, a K-12 learning acceleration software company. Josh is a fan of Bikram Yoga, running and playing the guitar!

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1871 Launches Applications For Third Annual Campus 1871 http://www.1871.com/1871-launches-applications-for-third-annual-campus-1871/ http://www.1871.com/1871-launches-applications-for-third-annual-campus-1871/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2016 22:12:24 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=14033 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2016

CONTACT
1871
Melissa Wooten
press@1871.com

 

1871 ... » Continue]]> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 7, 2016

CONTACT
1871
Melissa Wooten
press@1871.com

 

1871 LAUNCHES APPLICATIONS FOR THIRD ANNUAL CAMPUS 1871

Applications Now Open For Weekend-Long Startup Event; Students From 1871’s University Partners Encouraged To Apply; Event To Take Place April 8-10

CHICAGO (JANUARY 7, 2016) – 1871 today announced the opening of applications for Campus 1871, a weekend-long startup event held each spring for local university students. In its third year, Campus 1871 draws a diverse set of students from each of 1871’s university partners to brainstorm business ideas, learn about entrepreneurship, develop business plans, and pitch their businesses to a panel of judges. 1871’s university partners include Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Loyola University Chicago, DeVry University, and Illinois Institute of Technology.

“Campus 1871 is the ideal opportunity to introduce students to the entrepreneurial and tech community in Chicago,” said 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. “The programming throughout the weekend leaves students excited and inspired to pursue their entrepreneurial passions. Our goal is to retain talent in the city by showing them why Chicago is the best place to start and build a business and to have an impactful career with a wonderful quality of life.”

During Campus 1871, students divide themselves into teams (with each team including hipsters, hackers, hustlers and dreamers) and spend the weekend building out their business ideas. After joining a team and deciding on an idea for their new business, students spend their time creating their business plans, building prototypes, and developing their business pitches. The program concludes with pitches from each of the teams, with winners chosen by a panel of judges. Throughout the weekend, students have the opportunity to hear speeches and receive mentorship from leaders in Chicago’s entrepreneurial community.

“Campus 1871 is a wonderful opportunity for students to collaborate on creative business ideas while also learning the various aspects of entrepreneurship,” said University of Illinois President Tim Killeen. “The event engages students from all academic backgrounds and shows them how building a business, especially in Chicago, is an exciting and fulfilling career path.”

Campus 1871 draws students from each of 1871’s university partners, including Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Loyola University Chicago, DeVry University and Illinois Institute of Technology. These universities all have dedicated spaces at 1871 where students and faculty come to work on their businesses and immerse themselves in Chicago’s entrepreneurial community. 1871 was recently ranked as the top university-affiliated business incubator in the United States by UBI Global due in large part to these relationships.

“During the course of a single weekend, Campus 1871 allowed me to collaborate with students from other schools to explore the various aspects of building a successful business,” said Jessica Chitkuer, member of 2015 Campus 1871 winning team LanguaLlama. “It was a great program that was especially valuable in showing me how my academic and professional experiences could help me pursue a more entrepreneurial career path.”

Applications for Campus 1871 are open through January 31, 2016. To learn more and apply, visit http://www.1871.com/Campus1871.

About 1871

1871 is the home of more than 350 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, this 120,000 square foot facility is also the headquarters of nationally recognized accelerators Techstars Chicago and the Good Food Business Accelerator; impact investing fund Impact Engine; half a dozen industry-specific incubators in key areas such as real estate, education technology, food and financial technology; several emerging tech talent schools (Flatiron, The Fullbridge Program, Designation and the Startup Institute), and the state’s leading technology advocate, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition. It is the second home to Chicago-based VCs, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, MATH Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels, OCA Ventures, OurCrowd and Chicago Ventures, as well as satellite offices for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, and DeVry. 1871 has fast become recognized as the hub for the city’s entrepreneurial/technology ecosystem and has been featured in Inc. Magazine, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business among other top media. 1871 is the flagship project of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.

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Tullman: Bury the Unicorpses and Get Real http://www.1871.com/tullman-bury-the-unicorpses-and-get-real/ http://www.1871.com/tullman-bury-the-unicorpses-and-get-real/#comments Tue, 05 Jan 2016 19:58:27 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=13915 By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/bury-the-unicorpses-and-get-real.html.

As the bogus unicorns start to crumble into ... » Continue]]> By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/bury-the-unicorpses-and-get-real.html.

As the bogus unicorns start to crumble into unicorpses, our more modest and meaningful metrics– focused on building viable, cash-positive businesses and creating real job growth instead of voodoo valuations and media hype– are starting to look positively prescient. Relative capital constraints (or at least capital that resists attaching to the latest shiny startup story like metal shavings on a magnet) make for stable businesses. I’m talking about businesses run by reasonable operators who understand that the race isn’t always simply to size. That’s going to be a hard lesson from some startups once the money spigot shuts off. When reality bites, it will favor companies who know that it’s at least as important to get to sustainability, which means that you’re burning less cash than you’re bringing in from contracts and customers, as opposed to new investors.

In Chicago, we’ve got a growing stable of solid businesses providing real products and services and real benefits to millions of users across the country and the world. At the same time, they’re creating concrete enterprise value for their backers and investors as well, value that isn’t likely to dry up and blow away when the first headwinds and competitors arise.  These aren’t businesses that aspire to be the first on the block–the so-called first-mover advantage is overrated. (See http://First Mover Advantage: Maybe, But Be Smart About It) They’re aiming to be the best in the business. “Does it better” always beats “did it first”. And we’re seeing similar growth and prospects in other cities throughout the Midwest as the “rise of the rest” continues unabated while the fantasy stories on both coasts continue to crumble. You can only win a race with your mouth (and your media) until you have to take your next breath. And that’s very, very tough to do if your business is under water and a long way from shore.

A while ago I wrote about one of our EDtech companies at 1871, ThinkCERCA, rolling out new programs to schools to help students learn to think about, and actively engage, in their learning instead of passively sitting back as the traditional wisdom from the “sage on the stage” washed over and then right past them. Today they’re leaning into this new tech-enabled world where they take control and responsibility for constructing arguments and building the foundations for their own education. Tell me– I might listen. Show me– I might learn. But let me do it myself and I own it for life. Watching the kids using ThinkCERCA’s tools to build their arguments step by step, starting with their Claim, then gathering the Evidence for it; then explaining their Reasoning; next, addressing the Counter Arguments;  and doing it all in language appropriate to their Audiences is an amazing experience. You can just feel the difference. They’re taking charge and ownership, and it shows in their posture and in their faces.

But the proof is always in the pudding and that’s the best news of all. The measured and validated results are starting to come in from across the country for a number of 1871 businesses, such as Options Away, Learnmetrics and Rippleshot, and the momentum and traction are continuing to build.  As for ThinkCERCA, the sheer multi-year jumps in capabilities and other material growth in reading and other skills, especially in schools that started as underperforming at grade level, is encouraging enough. But the system is also working consistently in diverse environments for learners at every level, at scale.  And, of course, with the economies of scale and some prudent restraint on willy-nilly expansion, comes profitability for the businesses right along with concrete results for all of the users. This means that differentiated learning in the classroom can be ongoing without consuming enormous (and scarce) amounts of teacher time and resources that had been spent in the past attempting to locate and provide useful materials for each student.

The technologies alone wouldn’t have succeeded without substantial preparation and without creating a cradle of culture that also supported the change initiatives. But, once in place, it became clear almost immediately that there was no turning back and that these systems were game changers for everyone involved–students, teachers and parents as well. And of course, success breeds support, adoption, and further successes as well. This is how and what it means to build a real business– Chicago-style. Real people. Real progress. Proven results.

And frankly, it’s way more important to be improving the education of the next several generations of kids than it is to be building the 14th take-out delivery service or the next nichy social network that only a nerd could love. Building a business that makes an impact and a difference is just a better way to spend your time. Technology isn’t an end in itself– it’s a tool that benefits us all but, more importantly, it permits us to build products and services that will improve the lives of others for decades to come.

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Tullman: mRelief: The Beauty of a Powerfully Simple App http://www.1871.com/tullman-mrelief-the-beauty-of-a-powerfully-simple-app/ http://www.1871.com/tullman-mrelief-the-beauty-of-a-powerfully-simple-app/#comments Wed, 30 Dec 2015 18:12:29 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=13890 By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/mrelief-the-beauty-of-a-powerfully-simple-app.html

Not every solution or app needs to set ... » Continue]]> By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/mrelief-the-beauty-of-a-powerfully-simple-app.html

Not every solution or app needs to set the entire world on fire or to be built on a platform just slightly less grand than the Taj Mahal. It’s not always “smart” to build your app to run on the hottest and newest smart phone and nowhere else. You might get some buzz and some early adopters, but being in the shiny new thing biz isn’t the path to building a big business when ready access and broad availability trump haptic feedback, VR capabilities and other gee whiz features. Mass ultimately always matters–there are millions more Fords than Ferraris– and when the real value and design of your business is to touch and impact as many people as possible, the lower the bar to use and adoption, the better.

I’m not talking about minimum viable products (MVPs) or lean anything. I think the whole lean startup spiel is way overblown. (See Busting the Lean Startup Myth )  In today’s rapid-fire economy, you rarely get two bites at the apple and it’s very hard to skinny down a complex and resource-heavy app on the fly because the market isn’t going to wait for you to get it right. The market moves on– abandonment curves are many times steeper than adoption curves. So you need to take your best and simplest shot first and then build up from there as your users tell you what else they need and what makes sense to them.

Sometimes the most creative aspect of an idea–and the key to its ultimate success– isn’t how radically different it is from the way we’ve always done things, but how much it’s the same. The slightest tweaks can make all the difference. Riding on existing track and/or piggy-backing on someone else’s pipeline is a lot less costly and quicker than trying to build your own. The truth is that the closer you can stay to “business as usual” and the more you can rely on previously learned actions, current channels and the ways that customers, users and consumers are already behaving, the easier it will be to get your new product or service adopted and incorporated into their day-to-day lives.

People only think that they always want the neatest and newest thing on the block until they remember that “new” also means changes, anxiety,  learning curves, resistance, incremental costs, discomfort, etc. Better to make things as quick and easy as possible if you want to get a lot done in a short time and make a real difference.  Start low and grow.

This topic came up recently at a meeting where everyone was bemoaning the funding cutbacks in social services in many cities and the fact that outreach efforts, awareness campaigns and other marketing initiatives were among the first things to be dropped. That translates to fewer and fewer folks even learning about the availability of support programs and other services they might desperately need.

Of course, I said that we had a startup at 1871 (mRelief.com) that was already working with the city of Chicago and state of Illinois on “an app for that,”  one that allows just about anyone to quickly and easily figure out exactly which government and/or community-based programs exist that might have benefits immediately available to them – especially in the current environment. The app was designed by three women founders to  provide information from a multitude of services and agencies in a one-step, one-stop fashion. This meant that a single promotional campaign for the mRelief app (which was supported by all the concerned agencies and city services) could get the word out at a fraction of the cost that each organization or department would have to spend– assuming they had the money to do so.

Interestingly enough, the attendees’ overwhelming response was to say that this all sounded great BUT they pooh-poohed the suggestion, believing that none of the targeted populations would have the kind of fancy phones they’d clearly need to use the mRelief service.  And that’s when the discussion got really interesting because anyone and everyone with any phone can use mRelief.  That was the beauty of the original intent and original design. They went as low technologically as you can go (SMS texting) and built a system that works at that level for all comers. The analytics and the back end are where the weight of the system is.  The front end’s as light as a feather and just as simple – you answer a few questions and you’re good to go.  It’s up, it’s operating and with any luck at all, it’ll be coming to a city near you soon and literally saving lives in the process. The founders have just released a version (https://build.mrelief.com/) that can be used by other cities to adopt the program. Pretty happy news for the holidays.

And the bottom line– an old rule of design– complexity is the enemy.  Make your solution as simple as possible, no simpler, and get started right there.

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Economy of Now (EON) Forum Launches at 1871 http://www.1871.com/economy-of-now-eon-forum-launches-at-1871/ http://www.1871.com/economy-of-now-eon-forum-launches-at-1871/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2015 19:00:33 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=13872 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 18, 2015

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Melissa Wooten
press@1871.com

ECONOMY ... » Continue]]> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 18, 2015

CONTACT
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Melissa Wooten
press@1871.com

ECONOMY OF NOW (EON) FORUM LAUNCHES AT 1871

Ongoing Council Will Bring Together Leaders in the On-Demand Business Space to Advance Economic Growth and Job Creation in Chicago; Council Kicked Off With Event On December 15; Will Include Shared Resources, Networking, and Additional Services Provided by 1871

CHICAGO (December 18, 2015) – 1871 today announced the Economy of Now (EON) Forum, the first “now economy” council to mobilize the leaders in Chicago’s on-demand economy. This council will create a collaborative environment for on-demand companies to exchange ideas, discuss industry challenges, and identify opportunities for innovation and growth. The EON Forum kicked off with its first event on December 15.

“On-demand businesses are changing the game and creating new opportunities in every industry,” said 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. “As a result, 1871 created the EON Forum to support this new, tech-driven industry and facilitate further opportunities for growth and expansion throughout the entire Chicagoland area. Time is the scarcest resource in our lives today, and these businesses are selling us time and convenience every bit as much as they are providing whatever product or service we are seeking.”

1871 created the Economy of Now Forum as a result of the increasing influx of member companies into 1871 that are operating in the on-demand space. By providing these targeted opportunities, 1871 seeks to be Chicago’s central location for the on-demand companies currently scaling throughout the city. EON Forum events will occur regularly at 1871 to create a central location where on-demand businesses in Chicago and the Midwest can meet to explore relevant industry issues. The EON Forum will also provide opportunities for smaller workshops focusing on specific business challenges, joint collaboration events, and job fairs based on the needs of the companies involved with the council.

“Urban Leash is excited to have the opportunity to meet with other players and discuss key issues around the on-demand economy,” said Urban Leash CEO Lina Pakrosnyte. “Through this council, 1871 is creating a hub where Chicago’s on-demand businesses can address common issues and concerns in their industries, thereby keeping the city at the forefront of a field that is growing rapidly and on a global scale.”

The Economy of Now Forum kicked off on December 15 with a keynote from 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman, who addressed current trends in technology and what he calls the “surplus” economy. The event also included an open forum discussion led by 1871 COO Tom Alexander to address the goals of the council, as well as an opportunity for the attending businesses to network with others in the on-demand business space.

About 1871

1871 is the home of more than 325 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, this 75,000 square foot facility is also the headquarters of nationally recognized accelerators, Techstars Chicago and Impact Engine; half a dozen industry-specific incubators in key areas such as real estate, education technology, food and financial technology; several emerging tech talent schools (Flatiron, The Fullbridge Program, Designation and the Startup Institute), and the state’s leading technology advocate, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition. It is the second home to Chicago-based VCs, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, MATH Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels, OCA Ventures, OurCrowd and Chicago Ventures, as well as satellite offices for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, and DeVry. 1871 has fast become recognized as the hub for the city’s entrepreneurial/technology ecosystem and has been featured in Inc. Magazine, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business among other top media. 1871 is the flagship project of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.

 

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Tullman: Holiday Resolution: Get Past the Past http://www.1871.com/tullman-holiday-resolution-get-past-the-past/ http://www.1871.com/tullman-holiday-resolution-get-past-the-past/#comments Tue, 15 Dec 2015 23:06:54 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=13861 By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/holiday-resolution-get-past-the-past.html

It may be the season to be ... » Continue]]> By 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. To view the original post, visit http://www.inc.com/howard-tullman/holiday-resolution-get-past-the-past.html

It may be the season to be jolly and it’s always great to celebrate our successes. As the end of the year draws near, though, it’s also a time to reflect on the things that didn’t get done, plans that somehow got away, and even the dashed dreams that turned out to be heartfelt hopes rather than high-value ventures. As frenetic and frazzled as the holidays can be, they’re also a great time to catch your breath, take stock (no pun intended) and look ahead.

Most of the year, when you’re up to your ears in alligators, it’s easy to lose sight of the long game and the real objectives of your business as well as the goals that you’ve hopefully set for yourself as well. Those personal goals are every bit as important as anything you’ve got planned for the company. Your greatest fear should never be that you might fail- there’s always another business around the bend waiting to be started – it’s the fear that you might spend a significant part of your life working on something that doesn’t really matter.

You’ve only got a certain number of “at-bats” in life and it’s important to make sure that you make each and every one count for something and that in the process you become someone to be counted on as well. (See To Succeed, Be the One Everyone Can Count On.) All of this– the ups and downs, the good news and the bad– is part of the deal every entrepreneur makes when he or she sets out to change things. Change is never easy and overcoming resistance to it is a lifetime job. But like everything else, it’s all about what you make of the situations you find yourself in and how you move forward that ultimately makes the difference. (See So You’ve Got Problems? That’s Probably Great News.)

This can be a time of rebirth, re-dedication and renewed commitment or you can waste time and energy doubting yourself, blaming your circumstances (or the folks around you), and fearing the future. Things aren’t ever as good or as bad as we imagine, and the things we imagine are always worse than the things we face up to. You can let yourself get down or you can get busy.

I expect that you know where I come out on that question.  So I’ve got three simple suggestions of things to do when you’re getting down.

(1) Get Past the Past as Soon as Possible

Looking backwards is a waste of time. There’s not much you can do to change the past, although you can certainly learn from it. Just don’t get stuck there. Because it’s almost always an invitation to spend your time navel gazing, making excuses, and bemoaning bad breaks. That’s absolutely not where you need to be focusing your energies. In addition, by this late date I’d expect that lessons learned from past triumphs and pratfalls have already been incorporated into your going-forward plans. Worrying about missed chances and blown deals won’t help you move the business ahead. You can’t build a future on regrets and “shoulda, woulda, couldas.” And finally, staring too long into the rearview mirror is distracting, making it easy to run off the road or smack into something big and ugly that could have been avoided if you had been looking ahead.

(2) Call on Your Customers While You Still Can

Get out there and talk to your customers before they find someone else who’s demonstrably more interested than you are in what matters to them. Listen carefully to what your customers are doing and saying about their own pressing needs and their current desires. Customer expectations are progressive. If you’re not on top of these needs, you’ll soon be at the bottom of their list. Business plans and strategy sessions are great, but if all that effort is taking place in a vacuum uninformed by real customer feedback, then it’s a waste. There’s a great big world outside the four walls of your business and you need to get out there because that’s where your future will be found. Remember, you’ll never get straighter answers to your questions than the ones you get directly from your customers because they’re the ultimate users of your products and services.

(3) When You’re Thinking About Quitting, Remember Why You Started

There was an important reason you started your business and a problem or problems you set out to solve because you thought you could make a difference by doing things that hadn’t been done before in new ways. When times get tough, you need to remember that it’s a marathon and not a sprint and the most critical thing you can do is to keep moving.

I’ll bet those problems haven’t disappeared although your approach to solving them may have changed– ideally for the better.  And that’s fine– as long as you’re still addressing concerns that remain important to your customers and so long as they’re still willing to pay a fair price for you to solve their problems.

And I’ll bet that there are new competitors coming at you from every direction and competing with you in a variety of ways– price, speed, access, ease of use, etc.  That’s okay, too, and totally to be expected. Your job is to make it as hard on those folks as possible; the best way to do that is to do your business better than anyone else and to do it that way every single day.

When you’re feeling as low as you can go, you need to remind yourself of a simple fact: there’s nothing in the world that a true entrepreneur would rather be doing than exactly what you’re doing every day. Working on a dream, and doing it with a group of people who are as excited and enthusiastic about what they’re doing as you are, is the greatest privilege anyone can have.  And it’s you that’s making it possible for yourself, but also for all those other folks looking to you to lead the way.

It’s okay to get down– just don’t let it show– and don’t ever let them down.

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CODE2040, Google For Entrepreneurs and 1871 Announce Opening of Application Process for Diversity Entrepreneur in Residence Program http://www.1871.com/code2040-google-for-entrepreneurs-and-1871-announce-opening-of-application-process-for-diversity-entrepreneur-in-residence-program/ http://www.1871.com/code2040-google-for-entrepreneurs-and-1871-announce-opening-of-application-process-for-diversity-entrepreneur-in-residence-program/#comments Mon, 14 Dec 2015 19:45:29 +0000 http://www.1871.com/?p=13850 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 14, 2015

CONTACT
1871
Melissa Wooten
press@1871.com

 

» Continue]]> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DECEMBER 14, 2015

CONTACT
1871
Melissa Wooten
press@1871.com

 

CODE2040, GOOGLE FOR ENTREPRENEURS AND 1871 ANNOUNCE OPENING OF APPLICATION PROCESS FOR DIVERSITY ENTREPRENEUR IN RESIDENCE PROGRAM

Following Successful Pilot of Program, EIR Program Will Be Continued and Scaled Nationally Beginning in March 2016; Applications Open Through January 11; All Interested Entrepreneurs and Community Builders Encouraged to Apply

CHICAGO (December 14, 2015) – 1871 joined CODE2040 and Google for Entrepreneurs (GFE) today to announce the opening of applications for the selection of the second CODE2040/GFE Entrepreneur in Residence at 1871, who will begin service in Chicago in March. This selection process is the culmination of a program launched last spring and successfully piloted in Chicago, Austin and Durham. The program is facilitated by Google for Entrepreneurs, which runs a nationwide network of technology hubs, of which 1871 is a part.

“The Entrepreneur in Residence program provides another important resource at 1871 to support underserved communities across Chicago,” said 1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman. “As a non-profit organization with a community focus, 1871 is well-positioned to promote greater inclusion in the technology community at large. CODE2040 and Google for Entrepreneurs have been incredible partners in this endeavor, and we look forward to continuing the EIR program at 1871.”

CODE2040 is a nonprofit organization that seeks to create access, awareness, and opportunities for underrepresented minorities. CODE2040 joined forces with Google for Entrepreneurs last year to start the CODE2040 Residency, a launchpad for Black and Latino/a entrepreneurial companies and underrepresented entrepreneurial communities. Chicago was one of the first three cities in the GFE network to host an EIR. That EIR, FoodTrace founder Riana Lynn, will complete her term as EIR at 1871 in March.

The selected Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) will receive:

  • $40,000 in seed capital to help grow their business (no equity asked for in return)
  • Work space in 1871 for themselves and their team
  • A trip to the Googleplex in Silicon Valley for training and networking with Google and CODE2040
  • Mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs in the Google for Entrepreneurs and CODE2040 networks
  • Support from CODE2040 on the creation of community impact through diversity, inclusion, and community building events throughout the year

Applications are now open at http://www.code2040.org/entrepreneurs, and will remain open until January 11, 2016. In order to be qualified for Google/CODE2040 Residency, applicants must:

  • Self-Identify as Black or Latino/a
  • Have been a resident of the Chicagoland area for at least a year and commit to remaining in Chicago through the duration of the program
  • Be a founder of an early stage tech venture
  • Be committed to improving the racial, ethnic, and gender makeup of the Chicago tech sector

The EIR opportunity is the latest element of the ongoing and vibrant partnership between Google for Entrepreneurs and 1871. Google for Entrepreneurs enables tech hubs by providing them with technical content, business tools, and infrastructure upgrades so that they can support increasing demand from developers and startups. In addition to 1871 in Chicago, GFE tech hubs are located in Minneapolis, Waterloo, Nashville, Durham, Denver, Detroit, Montreal, San Francisco, and Austin.

Google for Entrepreneurs provides a range of programming, events, and support to each of its North American Tech Hubs, as well as a number of special opportunities to startups within the hubs. Each year, startups are selected directly from the hubs to pitch their companies to an audience of Silicon Valley investors as part of the Google Demo Day. Members also have the opportunity to participate in the GFE Blackbox Connect programs that occur throughout the year. Recently, 1871 hosted the first GFE North American Tech Hub Vertical Summit, drawing tech hub partners and their startups from across North America to participate in a two-day event focused on the travel and tourism industry.

About 1871

1871 is the home of more than 325 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, this 75,000 square foot facility is also the headquarters of nationally recognized accelerators, Techstars Chicago and Impact Engine; half a dozen industry-specific incubators in key areas such as real estate, education technology, food and financial technology; several emerging tech talent schools (Flatiron, The Fullbridge Program, Designation and the Startup Institute), and the state’s leading technology advocate, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition. It is the second home to Chicago-based VCs, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, MATH Venture Partners, Hyde Park Angels, OCA Ventures, OurCrowd and Chicago Ventures, as well as satellite offices for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, and DeVry. 1871 has fast become recognized as the hub for the city’s entrepreneurial/technology ecosystem and has been featured in Inc. Magazine, TechCrunch, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Chicago Business among other top media. 1871 is the flagship project of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center.

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