19 Tech Accelerators & Incubators Taking Chicago To New Heights

Creating change in any city is the result of many people pushing forward all in their own special way.

Chicago has a massive entrepreneurial ecosystem with it's share of incubators & accelerators, but today at Dare Mighty Things, we'll highlight just a few.

Learn about 19 that are helping to move Chicago tech towards a better future.

Cleveland Avenue

Photo Credit: Cleveland Avenue

The mission of Cleveland Avenue as an accelerator is to help 'foster growth for a 'new generation of remarkable restaurant, food tech and beverage companies.

They strategically invest in innovative food industry concepts by providing expertise, educational tools, and capital.

Aside from capital and acceleration, Cleveland Avenue has a Food Experience laboratory which consists of a 30,000sq ft space in downtown Chicago. Here, new ideas can be developed, tested and validated.

Follow Cleveland Avenue on Twitter

Chicago Blockchain Center

image credit: Chicago Blockchain

Newly launched this summer, The Chicago Blockchain Center is an accelerator focused on blockchain-enabled technologies.

In collaboration with the State of Illinois, the Chicago Blockchain Center provides a platform for education, innovation and development with help from top Chicago companies & entrepreneurs.

Follow Chicago Blockchain Center on Twitter


Photo credit: 1871

As Chicago's Technology & Entrepreneurship Center, 1871 boasts more than 400 startups in it's 150,000 square foot facility.

It is also the headquarters of world class accelerators, incubators, coding schools and VC firms.

1871 supports its members though resources like access to hundreds of mentors, investors and industry experts to help startups grow. They also provide educational workshops, panels as well as networking events to connect the community & create new collaboration opportunities.

Follow 1871 on Twitter


Photo credit: Techstars

Techstars Chicago gives access to funding, resources, and office space to companies accepted into it's prestigious program.

These startups in the windy city also get mentorship from an impressive array of 150+ entrepreneurs, investors and executives.

Over 40 companies have gone through the program, raising over $45m in capital.

Follow Techstars on Twitter


Photo credit: 1871/WiSTEM

WiSTEM is a 12-week accelerator program that connects women to capital, community, and technology resources.

The program, co-created by 1871 and Ms. Tech and found success since launching in 2015, helping over 50 women-founded companies who have raised almost $10 million in funding and creating hundreds of jobs.

Funding from JPMorgan Chase has led to a recent expansion of the program, which is built around peer-to-peer learning, knowledge sharing and fundraising strategy curriculum.

Follow WiSTEM Co-Facilitator Jessica Williams on Twitter

Follow WiSTEM Co-Facilitator Nicole Yeary on Twitter

Bunker Labs

Photo credit: Bunker Labs

Owned and operated by military veterans, Bunker Labs is a non-profit that helps service members start a business once they return to civilian life.

They provide educational programming designed to including EPIC, an immersive 12 week program as well as "Bunker in a Box", a free online course.

Bunker Labs also provide access to resources and a network of 11000+ to help veterans and their spouses become successful entrepreneurs.

Follow Bunker Labs on Twitter


Photo credit: 2112

As the first incubator in Chicago to work in the music, film and creative tech industry, 2112 has provided space access to capital and education for nearly 150 companies.

Originally set up to give space for bands to play music, 2112 decided to open the doors to its 160,000-square foot complex in order to help provide cheap office space and residency programs to build out fully scaled teams for musicians and other creatives.

Follow 2112 on Twitter


Photo credit: TechNexus

TechNexus is an incubator that finds, funds and grows technology ventures as a force multiplier for entrepreneurs and enterprises.

To do that, they've curated a massive global network of 2000+ partners, including investors, incubators, universities & more.

During its ten-year run, they've helped more than 450 ventures bring in a haul of $400 million in capital.

Follow TechNexus on Twitter


mHub's Ribbon cutting ceremony led by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (photo credit: mHub)

While most incubators and accelerators focus on solving problems in the digital world, mHUB is giving entrepreneurs a place to put their hands to work.

The nonprofit is Chicago’s first innovation center focused on physical product development and manufacturing.

Their purpose is "to ensure that Chicago and the Heartland’s manufacturing industry continues to accelerate, grow and thrive".

mHUB works with startups in 3D printing, electronics manufacturing and metal fabrication and collaborates with massive companies like General Electric, Chase Foundation and Marmon.

Follow mHub on Twitter


image source iBio

Born out of the iBIO Institute, PROPEL is a guiding force to increase the number and success rate of early-stage life sciences companies.

PROPEL provides connections, expertise and resources in the specialized industry, the center helps them gather capital to scale their impact in the field.

Since 2007 they've worked with 100+ companies and awarded over $1.2 million in grants and awards to early ventures. In 2016, companies involved with the program raised over $80m in capital.

Follow PROPEL on Twitter

Catapult Chicago

Taking tech startups through the tricky phase in between a viability company to a thriving one, Catapult is a non-profit providing office space to grow a peer selected group of businesses.

Once approved by current tenants and alumni, applicants get two years in the downtown offices where the well-curated environment provides all the resources they need to grow.

Follow Catapult on Twitter


Builders realized there’s plenty of great tech in the world, but not enough operational innovation to truly make startups successful.

That’s why they use a large team of operational experts to help make big, innovated ideas become sustainable and impactful.

Organizations like Bower & Wilkins, Bolt Threads and Skybox are among Builders graduates.

Follow Builders VC on Twitter


image source: MATTER

MATTER is a community that brings together entrepreneurs and industry leaders to leverage technology innovation to improve healthcare.

To do that, it incubates 200+ healthcare tech startups and helps them connect with industry partners that include hospitals, health systems, universities and industry-leading companies.

Follow MATTER on Twitter

Chicago Connectory

Born this year of a collaboration between Tech hub 1871 and Bosch, the Chicago Connectory is a co-creation space and an incubator focused on the Internet of things (IoT).

Backed by a $2 million investment from Bosch, this co-creation space boasts almost 20,000sq. feet of space in Chicago's Merchandise Mart to help foster collaboration and help drive innovation.

With this partnership between 1871 and Bosch, the Connectory is well-equipped to help usher in a new future with IoT.

Follow Chicago Connectory on Twitter


image credit Blue1647

Blue1647 is a social innovation center that makes a big impact through tech education, people development, and entrepreneurial events.

They provide educational classes, workshops and events, workforce development programs and business acceleration to build communities and fuel innovation.

Blue1647 not only helps companies grow, but they help people learn the tech skills they need today... which in turn will lead to growth in Chicago's economy.

Follow Blue1647 on Twitter


FinTank is Chicago's first fintech incubator.

Its goal to facilitate the city’s massive financial sector means the organization works with and provides coworking space for companies at all levels, from enterprise-level corporations to early-phase startups, to help foster growth in tech like blockchain, cybersecurity and big data.

Partners include tech giants like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft.

Follow FinTank on Twitter

IHCC Hispanic Tech Incubator

Photo credit: 1871

The Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC) launched a Hispanic Tech Incubator in partnership with 1871.

This program provides access to top mentors as well as educational content in order to provide customized help for the participating businesses.

So far, 25 companies have gone through this 12 week program in 2 cohorts. The third begins in Spring 2018.

Follow IHCC on Twitter

Polsky Center Accelerator Program

Through a highly-competitive application process, the Polsky Accelerator has churned out an impressive list of University of Chicago social enterprise startups ranging from apparel lines to telehealth platforms.

The program boasts access to a large team of mentors, equity investments and Hyde Park office space to support the growth of their yearly crop of companies.

Follow Polsky Center on Twitter

Incisent Labs

Incisent Labs sees a changing landscape as the world shifts from the industrial age to the information age.

That’s why the accelerator is looks to build companies that reimagine traditional business practices. To do that, it operates as a platform to create, incubate and turn new ideas into companies.

To see the success of their theory, look no further than MAX Digital, a SaaS company that's transforming the way dealerships sell cars. In 2014 it was the third fastest growing software company in the country, according to Inc. Magazine.

Follow Incisent Labs on Twitter

Chicago's Bold Thinking

These accelerators and incubators help Chicago entrepreneurs embrace the bold type of thinking it takes to Dare Mighty Things.

That's exactly type of thinking that led to Wright Brothers' first flight.

It's how NASA thought when they sent humans to the Moon.

It's also the type of thinking that led to a 2 ton rover on Mars.

That's why you need to join us this fall in Chicago at Dare Mighty Things!