Why Startup Institute Chicago

by Aaron O’Hearn, CEO and Co-founder


I’m really happy to share that we’re building Startup Institute Chicago this Fall. Here’s why.

It’s clear that Chicago is a special place for startups, and we’d like to make it a special place for the people wanting to join them, finding careers that they enjoy waking up for.

When you boil it down, it really comes to the community and the pillars that make it strong. In addition to the amount of activity, there’s an understanding of togetherness, and a general feeling of support. It’s like a 'We know we're battling the odds, so we might as well work together to beat them' type feeling. People immediately pay it forward - which is something I’ve experienced first hand since the very first conversation I had with someone about opening Chicago.

There’s macro-level support making it okay to lead others into a life like this. Mayor Emanuel and key folks in his office like Tom Alexander are incredibly active and regularly involved. For those in Chicago you already know this, but for everyone else - Mayor Emanuel has said Chicago will be ‘Startup City’ three years from now. Personally, I’m excited for us to work together and help facilitate that and build on the already $400MM that was invested in 197 early-stage startups last year alone.

There are amazing hubs within the community providing a platform to make Chicago great. 1871 and TechStars Chicago (which joined forces with Excelerate Labs) are two that not only provide a safe haven for entrepreneurs, but also push them to be something game changing.

With all of that support, it’s important to have channels like Technori and BuiltInChicago talking about the action, and providing an outlet to share great things with people across the ecosystem.

What is the community without people and companies to look up to? Chicago is home to some amazing individuals, as well as bigger tech companies (like Groupon, Threadless, Orbitz, and GrubHub) that are paying attention and blazing a trail for the hundreds of early-stage companies based in Chicago.

Then of course you have investors like Lightbank and Hyde Park Angels that make it their business to facilitate so much of this activity. Just like some of the firms across other key ecosystems, many investors in Chicago are providing much more than simply capital.  

But what feeds all of this? Chicago is home to several great universities that graduate thousands of people each year; some ready for the workforce, others not yet prepared for startup combat. It’s also home to a new wave of technical education. The Starter League has shown that it’s possible to become a technical entrepreneur without a degree in computer science. We love that.

So what does this mean for us: Chicago has all of the best ingredients. What’s most exciting about our job (and will soon be for our graduates) is that we get to work with and help people from each of these key pillars, then start connecting them. We’re assembling a new layer of talent on the already bustling community in Chicago. A layer comprised of people who are ready to turn a corner in their career, and are ready to make an impact on the world in a job that the love.

If you’d like to get involved and support our program in Chicago, we’d love your help. I’d personally love to meet you (yes, you) and anyone who is ready to make a dent on the world and join a startup.

The application for Chicago is now open and classes start October 21st.

- Aaron