According to Chicago Tribune writer, James Jenega, “Chicago-based innovations have been changing the world since 1833.” From the invention of the telephone to the creation of Mickey Mouse, Chicago has long since been the place where the future is always a positive working carousel of progress.
As such, with a little bit of help from friends such as the Chicago Inventors Organization and organizations such as Bunker Labs, innovators all across Chicago continue to hold onto that legacy.
So who exactly are these “friends” and how they can help fellow Chicago startups such as yourselves thrive in today’s competitive market?
To answer that question, let’s take a look at this list of 23 essential resources for entrepreneurs and inventors in Chicago courtesy of the bold and brave folks at Bold Patents Chicago Law Firm.
Are you ready to begin?
Founded in 1890 by The American Baptist Education Society and oil tycoon John D. Rockafeller, the University of Chicago has long since been a testament to Chicago’s innovative history.
Ranked #3 by US News for best National University as of 2019, The University of Chicago is home to America’s #1 accelerator, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Every year, the center, along with UChicago Careers in Entrepreneurship, offers The College New Venture Challenge (CNVC) as a class during the Winter quarter. This challenge is regarded as, “one of the top startup accelerator programs in the nation.” As such, it is one of the university’s most competitive classes to get into.
With a longstanding history of helping companies such as GrubHub and LuminAID stand out from the crowd, The University of Chicago has long since been considered the place for companies to thrive in and outside of the academic environment.
Phone #: 773-702-1234
With a long-standing history of teaching its students to combine textbook theories with real-life applications, the University of Illinois in Chicago has since been considered the place where medical students can change and save lives for generations to come.
Open since 1859, the Largest Medical School in America has helped its students put their innovative skills to the test by offering them resources such as the Innovation Center.
For those wishing to study engineering at the university in 2019, the Engineering Innovation Building is expected to open on November 17th. This building will include the university’s first high-bay structural research lab, as well as many other resources that would help students and professors study large-scale structural components.
Phone: (312) 996-7000
Offices for Small Businesses
From hosting free business workshops to providing local businesses with licenses, The Chicago Small Business Center is considered one of the best places for budding entrepreneurs to learn more about the fundamentals of starting a business from scratch.
Other than the fact that the center is owned by the Chicago government, it also hosts small business expos for innovators of all different backgrounds to get together and network with one another every two to three months.
According to the website, “The next ‘Small Business Center on the Road Expo’ of 2019 is scheduled to take place on Thursday, June 27th from [5:00] – 9:00 p.m central. at 1871 the-Mart (222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, #1212).”
Phone: 312-74-GOBIZ (744-6249)
From providing women with financial assistance to explaining to them the differences between trademarks and trade secrets, the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) has long since helped women-led businesses learn how to succeed in America’s highly competitive market.
Originally, it started off as a two-person operation according to its Facebook About page. However, since then, it grew to a staff of 24 full-time employees and consultants, a roster of expert trainers, industry-specific advisory boards, and a powerful Board of Directors comprised of Chicago women considered leaders in their fields.”
In addition to teaching women how to become self-starting business women, what makes the WBDC stand out is that they teach women to use the skills that they have in order to help out other underserved communities and veterans across America.
As such, it continues to stand as, “the oldest, largest, most comprehensive, and successful women’s business assistance center in the United States.”
Phone #: 312-853-3477
The Chicago Inventors Organization’s (CIO) is a non-profit (501c3) organization that provides its members with affordable, credible, inventor resources.
Rather than targeting a specific group of inventors, the organization caters its resources to all types of inventors, including, but not limited to those focused on marketing digital apps and household items.
For those who want to get a head-start on combining their interests in business and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects, students as young as 10 years old can participate in the CIO’s Young Inventors and Entrepreneurs Program (YiEP).
Email: Contact Form
Phone #: (312) 850-4710
Founded in 2010 by a group of passionate Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, Startup Grind Chicago is an independent startup group geared to actively educating, inspiring, and connecting entrepreneurs all across the world.
To do so, they host monthly fireside chat interviews, startup mixers and annual conferences. That way, entrepreneurs would have a better chance of thriving in today’s competitive environment.
For those looking to figure out how to start a business from the comfort of their own home, Startup Grind will be hosting another fireside chat session on June 27th, 2019 starring Ariel DeNey Rainey, Founder & CEO of Hustle Mommies.
Email: Contact Form
Phone #: N/A
Founded on January 1, 2000, the eWomen Network is a non-profit organization known for hosting the #1 women’s entrepreneur Conference in North America annually and for awarding cash grants and scholarships to “deserving non-profits” and emerging female entrepreneurs.
According to their website, since the group’s founding, they have awarded cash grants to 108 non-profits and scholarships to 161 emerging female leaders. As such, CNN recognizes the eWomenNetwork Foundation as an “American Hero.”
At this time, the organization is accepting applications for those who are interested in becoming a member.
Phone #: 972-620-9995
FemCity Chicago is a group of empowering female entrepreneurs and other innovators looking to help other female entrepreneurs make the most out of their current business lives.
Founded on March 1, 2011, by Violette de Ayala, members can partake in a multitude of business workshops and social events each month, depending on which option they choose.
At this time, the group offers three types of membership: Global, Business and Community [free]. .
The Chicago Latino Networking (CLN) group is a top-notch Latino networking group geared to helping those of Latino descent stand out in their respective fields and communities.
Founded in 2000, the CLN has since then reached over 75,000 Chicagoland Latinx professionals and entrepreneurs. As of now, it is regarded as the largest network of Hispanic entrepreneurs in the United States.
On June 20th, 2019, the group will be hosting a talk titled, “The Truth About Diversity,” followed by a Latin Jazz Kick-Off celebration, which will take place on July 10th, 2019.
Phone #: 312-547-9121
Looking for a place to network with other entrepreneurs after a hard day of work in the office? In that case, Network After Five may be your best bet.
Other than that their networking events happen after 5 pm on Thursdays, the group is also a part of Meet People Chicago, Chicago’s largest social group. This makes it easier to find and network with other entrepreneurs who are of different work backgrounds, including those who live outside of Chicago.
For those who wish to take part in Meet People Chicago beyond going to networking events, potential members can apply for as little as $9.99 a month.
Phone #: 773-951-5132
Doejo is an agency that has a long history of helping start ups launch and grow so the co-working business for us was a natural fit. They helped design and launch Industrious with the first 17,000 sq ft location as well as SPACE and Rent24 in the Chicago-land market. They believe that co-working isn’t competing with each other, Co-working is reshaping the traditional office business. It’s just getting started.
Serving Chicago’s communities since 1964, SCORE is a volunteer, non-profit organization geared to providing local businesses free to low-cost resources such as free one-on-one Skype counseling and on-site daily services.
It is affiliated with the Small Business Administration and has partnered with Wintrust, a financial holding company, since 1991 in order to help local businesses figure out how to handle finances.
At this time, SCORE is found in over 19 locations in Cook and part of Will County.
Phone #: (312) 353-7724
Bunker Labs is a national nonprofit network of veteran entrepreneurs dedicated to helping new veteran entrepreneurs start their own businesses by providing them with the resources that they need in order to do so.
In addition to offering gamified online courses, Bunker Labs also provides its members with programs such as the CEO Circle program and The WeWork Veterans in Residence program.
While the WeWork Veterans in Residence program offers 6 months of free co-working space to 10 veteran companies in 14 cities (currently), the CEO Circle program is for veteran-led businesses that have surpassed the beginning phase.
Phone #: N/A
Combining today’s competitive business tactics with tomorrow’s financial technology, the Chicago Blockchain Center is an accelerator focused on helping blockchain-technology based startups better market themselves in a world where people constantly associate blockchain technology with cryptocurrency.
To do so, the accelerator offers its members coworking opportunities similar to those found in WeWork Kinzie and hosts talks and lectures from industry leaders.
It was founded by Matthew Roszak in partnership with the State of Illinois and has since been located next to Currency, FinTEx’s innovation center.
Phone #: (773) 245-6410
Designed for women-led tech startups to succeed in the Windy City’s competitive environment, WiSTEM is 12-week curriculum-based program hosted by 1871 to connect these businesses to, “capital, community, and technology resources” that fit their exact needs.
Here, members such as Green Nyle and Storyboard Studio have access to 1871’s office space, mentors, media connections, venture capitalist connections, and University partnerships such as the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago.
According to 1871, while the program itself is challenging, it is also flexible.
Phone #: N/A
Named after the street founders Don and Liz Thompson grew up in, Cleveland Avenue is a food and beverage based accelerator geared to helping those in that industry thrive in Chicago’s ever-changing business environment.
To do so, they provide companies such as Somrus and Farmer’s Fridge with, “expertise, educational tools, and capital,” including, but not limited to a Food Experience laboratory.
This laboratory consists of a 30,000sq ft space in downtown Chicago, which makes it perfect for companies to test and validate ideas.
Phone #: 312–383-6700
Implemented by the City of Chicago and initially funded by the State of Illinois, MATTER Chicago Health Incubator is a not-for-profit health and wellness based incubator geared to providing companies such as NowPow and PEAR Therapeutics with a plethora of programs and partners since February 2015.
Rather than using an equity model, MATTER uses a neutral platform so that entrepreneurs can connect with industry leaders, scientists and clinicians from across the world in order to develop the next generation of healthcare and life sciences technologies.
On June 26th, 2019, the incubator will host a workshop titled, “How 3D printing will change the medical industry forever.”
Phone #: 312-374-8243
Located on Chicago’s Northwest side, 2112 is an incubator designed to give musicians, directors, videogame designers, and many other digital artists a place to improve upon their current skills.
Here at 2112, members have access to…
- •200 amp 3 phase power with cam lockbox
- •Production office
- •In-house workshop for set design
- •In-house equipment rental
- •24 hr. security
- •Craft service kitchen
- •Private parking available
- •2 private bathrooms
- Dressing rooms
And much more!
According to Forbes magazine, “Apparently, Kent Nielsen and Dan Mahoney wanted a four-digit name, because they intended to model the enterprise in 1871. Also, it refers to the fourth studio album by the Canadian rock band Rush, a favorite of Nielsen’s,” which explains why the incubator is referred to as, “2112.”
Phone #: (312) 300-7996
Founded in 2007, TechNexus is an incubator that finds, funds and grows technology ventures 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 by blending venture incubation, capital, and corporate innovation together,
According to Forbes magazine, rather than setting time limits on companies they accept, TechNexus instead invests in companies on a case-by-case basis. This way, every company gets a fair chance of succeeding in and outside of Chicago.
Phone #: (312) 924-1026
Created by fellow entrepreneurs Cayla Weisberg and Gerri Kahnweiler, InvestHER Ventures is Chicago’s very first venture capital fund that invests in women-led early-stage tech companies.
Rather than taking startups on a whirlwind trip through endless cycles of boring pitch-drills and rudimentary customer discovery explanations, InvestHer Ventures instead prepares its startups by hosting meaningful discussions and other hands-on activities.
As of now, they are currently investing in digital marketing groups such as KnowledgeHound, coding companies such as Code Verse, and many other businesses.
Phone #: N/A
IllinoisVENTURES is a premier seed and early-stage technology investment firm that focuses on helping research-derived companies in information technologies, physical sciences, and life sciences get the funding that they need to thrive in today’s competitive market.
It was formally launched in 2002 thanks in due part to the board of trustees at the University of Illinois. Since then, it has offered three different types of funding to its clients: proof of concept (POC) grants, seed funding, and venture capital.
At this time, they are located in both Champaign, Illinois and Chicago, Illinois.
Phone #: (312) 996-9853 for West Harrison St. and (217) 300-7661 for Hazelwood Drive
Shared Coworking Spaces
Image Source: Top 17 Chicago Co-Working Spaces
From WeWork Chicago to 1871, investors and entrepreneurs can choose from a multitude of shared coworking spaces to make their innovative dreams a reality.
For more information, please read our article, Top 17 Chicago Co-working Spaces.
In the article, we provide an in-depth explanation of all the different types of co-working spaces available in Chicago!
Open since 1873, the Chicago Public Library has long since been the place for innovators of all different backgrounds to gather the resources that they need to bring their ideas and products to market.
From print sources such as The Business Plans Handbook to online resources such as ReferenceUSA, users can borrow these resources for free just by applying for a card.
Meanwhile, for those looking to take their business skills to the next level, fellow innovators can utilize the library’s database, ABI / INFORM. According to the CPL itself, “This database provides you with full-text articles from over 3,000 local and global business and industry publications, including Crain’s Chicago Business, Forbes and The Wall Street Journal.”
The best part is all online resources can be accessed for free 24/7.
Phone #: (312) 747-4300
Chicago Patent Attorneys
When it comes to bringing ideas and inventions to market, there’s no question that the patent filing process can be so confusing to navigate.
That is why here at Bold Patents, we exist to help our clients through the legal processes of intellectual property in the Windy City. This way, they too can get their innovations to market as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible.
Click here to find out more about the #1 patent firm in Chicago!
About Bold Patents:
Known for serving the bold and the brave, Bold Patents has been helping its clients get the patents that they need in order to make their business ideas (and inventions) a reality.
From helping clients figure out how to patent an idea to describing the differences between a provisional and non-provisional patent application to them, Bold Patents has been helping its clients understand how patents work.
Because they focus only on patents, they are able to find the lawyer(s) that best fit a certain company’s needs.
If you would like to know more about what a patent is and what the steps for finding the patent that’s right for your invention, then check out this article on what is a patent.
There you have it, everyone! The top 23 resources for inventors and entrepreneurs in Chicago:
- University of Chicago – Home of America’s #1 accelerator
- The University of Illinois at Chicago – The Largest Medical School in America to offer its students a chance to become their own entrepreneurs
- Offices for Small Businesses
- The Chicago Small Business Center – Great for those looking to renew their business license(s) and attend business expos
- Women’s Business Development Center – The oldest, largest, most comprehensive, and successful women’s business assistance center in the United States
- Inventor Groups
- Chicago Inventors Organization – The ultimate place for an inventor to learn how to become an inventor
- Entrepreneur Groups
- Startup Grind Chicago – A Silicon Valley group dedicated to helping fellow Chicago entrepreneurs connect with one another from monthly fireside chat interviews to annual conferences
- eWomen Network – Helping fellow female entrepreneurs while hosting the #1 women’s entrepreneur Conference in North America since January 1st, 2000
- FemCity Chicago – An empowering place for female entrepreneurs to interact with other female entrepreneurs
- Chicago Latino Networking – Hosting the largest network of Latino-owned businesses in the United States since 2000
- Network After Five – Great for those looking to take part in Chicago’s largest business network after 5 pm on the dot
- SCORE Chicago – Serving Chicago’s entrepreneurial community for free since 1964
- Bunker Labs – The go-to place for veterans to learn how to become self-starting entrepreneurs
- Chicago Blockchain Center – Combining today’s competitive business tactics with tomorrow’s financial blockchain technology
- WiSTEM – Designed for women-led tech startups to succeed in the Windy City’s competitive environment
- Cleveland Avenue – One of the only food and beverage based accelerators in Chicago
- MATTER Chicago Health Incubator – A not-for-profit organization geared to helping Chicago healthcare businesses stand out from the crowd
- 2112 – Chicago’s very first incubator for digital artists of all different backgrounds
- TechNexus – Great for tech businesses in need of a place that combines venture incubation, capital, and corporate innovation together
- Seed Funding
- InvestHER Ventures – Chicago’s very first venture capital fund that invests in women-led early-stage tech companies
- Illinois VENTURES – A premier seed and early-stage technology investment firm that focuses on helping research-derived companies in information technologies, physical sciences, and life sciences succeed
- Shared Coworking Spaces
- Library/ Libraries
- Chicago Public Library – Great for those looking for free business resources
- Chicago Patent Attorneys
- Bold Patents – Your future go-to place for protecting your invention for years to come courtesy of the brave and the bold
In the meantime, tell us, what other resources would you recommend to your fellow entrepreneurs and inventors in Chicago? Please let us know in the comments below!