Founder Institute today operates in more than 180 cities around the globe, but before we achieved that milestone several pioneers helped build the foundation. Among the first 20 was the Chicago chapter, launched by local leader and community builder Jason Jacobsohn.
With 7+ years experience working directly with FI companies, and plenty more startup experience going farther back, Jacobsohn has an established track record of helping founders to connect with the resources, advisors, and funding opportunities that serious entrepreneurs seek out. Recalling back to launching FI Chicago, Jacobsohn says,
We only had one main accelerator at the time. Eventually, that became TechStars Chicago, but at the time I saw a gap in the marketplace. I’ve built the relationships over the years and felt this was the right program to take it to the next level. It’s a good program that advocates for entrepreneurs and supports the local system. A lot of things have resulted out of it, but it’s all been good. Entrepreneurs need much more than just capital.
Prior to launching the FI Chicago chapter, Jacobsohn graduated from the University of Wisconsin, then made his way to Chicago where he worked in real estate. Shortly thereafter, Jacobsohn was caught up in the tail end of the dot com boom, and pivoted from real estate to working with entrepreneurs and investors.
I found myself really getting involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chicago. I managed several community building programs, assisted entrepreneurs in raising capital, and provided general advice. One thing led to another, and I found out about Founder Institute.
Jacobsohn has a passion for connecting people with one another, so it was only natural that he’d formalize the process. As a Director of FI Chicago, he’s able to help build bridges between pre-seed founders and investors, but even more importantly, connect earlier stage founders to local mentors in the Chicago startup ecosystem.
When asked why an entrepreneur may want to choose Chicago to launch their business (besides obviously the best hot dogs and pizza in the world), Jacobsohn focused on how much affordability and how many resources the city of Chicago has to offer.
Many organizations relocate for that. Chicago has a world-class talent pool and a high concentration of universities. There is a lot of talent here. We also have a lot of fortune 500 companies, and startups to sell into large enterprises. We have a diverse economy here. With lots of different industries. Manufacturing, food, we have all that here.
Jason Jacobsohn has an established history of pulling together some of the best minds in the Chicago area, and this year’s mentor list is no different. Previous FI Chicago mentors have included the likes of Bill Furlong (Bizo), Eric Broughton (Expedia Group), Ashish Rangnekar (BenchPrep), Aaron Dallek (MD Metals), Cory Warfield (ShedWool), and Katie Hench (Infiniteach).
If you could benefit from Jason Jacobsohn’s startup expertise rooted in the Chicago ecosystem, apply for the Founder Institute today!
See a sampling of a few of the fast-growing companies that Jacobsohn has helped launch through the Founder Institute below.
Better Weekdays: Better Weekdays is a mobile job matching platform that helps universities improve and measure job placement outcomes of their graduates. The team found early success, raising capital only a couple of months after graduation while quickly pulling in beta customers.
Gamerjiber: Founded by Joe Lee, Gamerjibe connects like-minded video gamers and brands through virtual communities. Gamers can find and chat with like-minded peers, stay-up-to-date with community announcements and events, and discover promotions.
DigitalGroundUp: Created by graduate Reva Minkoff, DigitalGroundUp is an interactive technology platform that teaches digital marketing through experiential online courses. Since launch, Reva pulled in a significant number of users and solidified a partnership with Facebook so that small and mid-sized businesses can learn digital marketing.
Datenight: Created by graduate Elizabeth Adams, Datenight is an online marketplace where Chicago couples can find and book great dates, customized to their own interests, budget, and schedule. DateNight helps couples spend quality time together to build stronger relationships.
With other local success stories like 37signals (BaseCamp), CareerBuilder, comScore, GrubHub, and RedBox, the Chicago startup ecosystem offers fertile ground to plant the seeds for more global companies yet to come.
For those interested in joining Jason Jacobsohn's next 2019 Chicago spring cohort, you have until April 14 to apply - early application deadline is March 17.
Learn more and connect with FI Chicago's Jason Jacobsohn on his LinkedIn page or on Twitter.
The Founder Institute is the world's premier pre-seed accelerator, with chapters across 180+ cities and Graduate companies that have raised over $800M in funding. The company's mission is to “Globalize Silicon Valley” and empower communities of talented and motivated people to build impactful technology-enabled companies worldwide.
Learn more about running an FI program at FI.co/lead, or apply to build a business with the Founder Institute at FI.co/join.