Apr 27 2017

Chicago’s Startup Ecosystem: Some Reading

I’m going to Chicago tomorrow to attend the wedding of an old friend over the weekend. Chicago has always been a special place for me—I lived there for a few years after college and received a first-rate education on the city’s south side. Chicago is awesome.

A lot has changed in the city since then, including the development of a booming tech and startup scene. Some of this I’ve learned about through conversations with active participants in the startup community there, and some has been through a series of research that has been published in the last few months.

As such, I’ll use this opportunity to share some of these items with readers who might be interested. The collection of readings—which span academic working papers, analytical blog posts, and business case studies—are all great. They are informative, well-written, and resourceful. And please, if you know of others, add them to this thread in the comments section. Enjoy.

. . .

The Mattermark Series, (2016). Last December, Mattermark published a four-part series of research commentaries by Chicago-based tech journalist Jason Rowley. The series documents the historical roots of the Chicago startup and tech ecosystem, it’s development into what it has become today, and an outlook on its future. I found the series to be well-researched and honest—you’re not going to get an overly-sunny, hometown sales pitch here, but a fair assessment and a call to action.

Rising From the Ashes: The Emergence of Chicago’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, (2017). This Harvard Business School case was written by Lynda Applegate—along with co-authors Alexander Meyer and Talia Varley—who has co-authored some great HBS case studies on startups and ecosystems before, including one on the Startup Chile program. The title is motivated by the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, as is what many would describe as the heart of the Chicago startup ecosystem—the innovation hub and incubator 1871. The content is comprehensive and accessible. It captures the breadth of key issues about startup ecosystems using Chicago as an example (which is why I used it last semester for the final course project for a class I teach on startup cities).

The Campus as Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: The University of Chicago, (2017). This academic working paper, published just last month by entrepreneurship professor Zoltan Acs and his co-author David Miller, contains a lengthy description and assessment of the startup ecosystem at the University of Chicago specifically, and how it ties into the local and global startup communities more broadly. The first half of the paper presents a framework for thinking about university-based startup ecosystems generally—using the metaphor of American frontierism, and its reliance available assets, liberty, and diversity—which readers who are purely interested in the UChicago case study can easily skip over. I found that part thought provoking, but those who want to dive right into the case will find that portion of the paper self-contained.