You see, we started as an informal gathering place for technologists from a variety of industries and company types. These were the days before many workspaces existed to facilitate such get-togethers; we did it because we were entrepreneurs ourselves, and it just made sense to help people get together for a few beers, and share their ideas about fixing problems and grabbing opportunities.
Over time, the conversations got more serious, as folks started trading jobs, or quitting them outright so they could start new companies. People wanted someplace to work, so we rented more space across from Willis Tower. As word spread of the opportunity we offered to folks who wanted to incubate their business ideas with the help and mentorship of others, more people rented offices, or bought a “key” to what we called our “clubhouse.”
Eventually, 178 companies were born or grew there, raising $225 million while on the floor and creating thousands of paying jobs. A new industry of tech-focused companies emerged in our state, so we created an association to represent them — the Illinois Technology Association — which now boasts 700 members (one of our founders runs it).
“Shopping” for innovation rarely works. Entrepreneurs don’t often have visibility into the real problems businesses need to fix. Established companies’ concerns about IP, investment and project management make it hard for them to be agile enough to succeed. The likelihood that an incubator or accelerator can “sell” a truly strategic and successful solution within this context is low, at best. The process of shopping their offerings is downright medieval.
And, all the while, technology disruption comes faster, easier and at a lower cost than ever before, and entire industries are being redefined by entrepreneurs and engineers operating “outside” the Innovation Status Quo. There are endless players in the space now — especially incubators and accelerators dependent on government funding or integrated into academic institutions — and yet the innovation challenge for most American businesses remains unmet.
Our approach to solving this challenge is distinctly private sector, because that’s where we’ve always worked and lived. We offer proven approaches and tools for established companies and entrepreneurs to align on shared goals and outcomes. Then, we use the latest technologies and resources to deliver on an old idea: Generate revenue. We don’t make money unless our clients make money by selling things better, faster, more often, and more profitably.