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Startup ecosystems can be fragmented, competitive, and hidden to newcomers, which is detrimental for local startups and community growth. The Startup Ecosystem Canvas seeks to provide local entrepreneurs with a clear list of resources for every stage of their startup journey, and outline a basic framework for communities to map their ecosystem.

With applications for the Chicago Founder Institute now open, we are excited to release the Chicago Startup Ecosystem Canvas, which is currently in Draft v4 below! It was developed by the Chicago Founder Institute and local leader Jason Jacobsohn.

This is just a DRAFT, and more input is needed, so please leave your comments on this collaborative Google document to help us complete the list. There are definitely omissions on this current version.

Are you looking to build a startup in Chicago? Then apply to the Chicago Founder Institute today!

Startup Stages


There is no one right way to build a technology company, but for the sake of simplicity we have outlined a basic, common, sequential framework.

1. Idea Stage

This is where new entrepreneurs get inspired, learn best practices, develop skills, validate ideas, and begin to build their team and product.

A. Inspire

    • Startup Media: Centralized local information, listings, and news. (i.e. startup blogs/ publications/ lists/ FB groups/ newsletters)
      1. Built In Chicago
      2. ChicagoInno
      3. Midwest Startups
      4. Startup Digest Chicago
      5. Techli
      6. Technori
    • Inspirational Events: Open, inclusive, beginner startup events (i.e. Startup Weekend, idea fairs, and inspirational meetups)
      1. Chicago Financial Industry Entrepreneurs and Startups
      2. Chicago Legal Innovation and Technology Meetup
      3. Chicago Startup Community
      4. Chicago Tech Happy Hour
      5. Queer Tech Club
      6. Chicago Startup Week
      7. Talking About Tech Chicago
      8. Trailblazers, Entrepreneurs & Innovators
      9. Women Tech Founders

B. Educate

    • Best Practices: Beginner knowledge-sharing events. (i.e. beginner events that serve to educate more than inspire, like Startup Founder 101, etc).
      1. 1 Million Cups
      2. Startup Founder 101 Chicago
      3. Startup Grind Chicago
      4. Startup Leadership
      5. Women Tech Founders Startup Lessons
      6. GOTO Nights Chicago
      7. GOTO Chicago
    • Training & Feedback: Skill & Idea development. (Ex. bootcamps and comprehensive training programs, like Founder Institute, etc)
      1. Anyone Can Learn to Code
      2. Chicago Lean Startup Circle
      3. Coding Dojo
      4. Code Fellows
      5. Flatiron School
      6. Founder Institute Chicago
      7. FullStack Academy
      8. Future Founders
      9. General Assembly

C. Validate

    • Team Formation: Resources for teaming up. (i.e. events or other resources that facilitate early-stage recruitment and cofounder matching)
      1. Chicago Founder Night Out
      2. CoFoundersLab Chicago
      3. Founders Network
    • Build First Product: Hackathons & resources to build. (i.e. hackathons and other builder-focused events and resources)
      1. Chi Hack Night
      2. Internet of Things World Forum Hackathon

2. Launch Stage

In this stage, entrepreneurs establish and formalize the company, develop the product, get feedback from customers, and prepare for the next step.

A. Start

    • Establish: Law firms & banks for startups
      1. AEGIS Professional Services
      2. BMO Harris Bank
      3. Bridgeview Bank
      4. Chase Bank
      5. Cole Sadkin LLC
      6. Fieldman Law Group
      7. Fizz Law
      8. Foley & Lardner
      9. Hershman Cohen
      10. Holland & Knight
      11. Horwood Marcus & Berk
      12. Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC
      13. Katten Muchin Rosenman
      14. MB Financial Bank
      15. McGuire Woods
      16. Meyer Law
      17. Michael Best & Friedrich LLP
      18. Much Shelist
      19. Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg
      20. The Private Bank
      21. Silicon Valley Bank
      22. Square 1 Bank
      23. Synergy Law Group
      24. U.S. Bank
      25. Zeller Law
      26. Zulkie Partners LLC
    • Workspace: Co-working and flexible workspaces (note: “official” office space goes in 3.1.a. Infrastructure)
      1. 1871
      2. 2112
      3. Colab Evanston
      4. Creative Coworking
      5. ENCLAVE for Entrepreneurs at O’Hare
      6. Industriou
      7. MakeOffices
      8. MATTER
      9. mHUB
      10. Novel Coworking
      11. Platform Coworking
      12. TechNexus
      13. The Incubator
      14. WeWork Chicago
      15. Workbox
      16. Workspace at Brooklyn Boulders Chicago

B. Develop

    • Formalize: Accounting, development and HR for early-stage startups.
      1. 1st Chicago Accounting
      2. 20spokes
      3. Adage Technologies
      4. AppDevy
      5. BUILTByBacksspace 
      6. Caxy Code Creative
      7. Del Real Tax Group
      8. Doejo
      9. Early Growth Financial Services
      10. Eight Bit Studios
      11. Kohactive
      12. LaunchPad Lab
      13. Lauzen Accounting
      14. Marengo Hampshire Partners
      15. MWC Accounting
      16. O'Neal Consulting Chicago
      17. Ora Interactive
      18. Pasquesi Partners
      19. Sydcon
      20. Steel Croissant
      21. The Startup Accountant
      22. Vokal
    • Prepare for Seed: Incubators and advanced mentorship. (i.e. advanced knowledge sharing, later stage events and resources)
      1. 1871
      2. Matter
      3. Panzanzee
      4. TechNexu

C. Launch

    • Seed Accelerators: Seed funding mentor programs (Techstars-style programs that provide funding)
      1. Food Foundry
      2. Good Food Business Accelerator
      3. Platform Venture
      4. Polsky Center Accelerator
      5. TechStars Chicago
      6. VentureSHOT
    • Pitch & Demo: Show local startups for investment (i.e. demo days for companies seeking seed investment)
      1. BNC Venture Forum
      2. Fund Conference

3. Growth Stage

Here, a startup proves their utility, receives recognition, and scales up. This usually requires funding, angels, VCs, and ways to connect them to startups.

A. Recognition

    • Investor Networking: Connect professional investors with founders. (i.e. events or groups that facilitate connections with professional investors )
      1. Association of Corporate Growth Chicago
      2. CAIA
      3. Chicago Creative Investors Association
      4. Chicago Innovation Awards  
      5. Chicago Investors Forum
      6. Ellevate Chicago
      7. Illinois Innovation Network
      8. Invest for Kids Chicago
      9. Momentum Awards 
      10. Moxie Awards  
      11. Women Investment Professionals
    • Major Media: Mainstream local business press. (i.e. major local or regional publications that frequently champion local businesses)
      1. CBS Chicago
      2. Chicago Business
      3. Chicago Business News
      4. Chicago Tonight
      5. Chicago Tribune
      6. Crain’s Chicago Business
      7. Daily Herald
      8. Daily Herald Business Ledger
      9. FOX Chicago
      10. NBC Chicago

B. Funding

    • Micro-VCs: Seed-Stage Investors
      1. Barrel Ventures
      2. Chingona Ventures
      3. Dipalo Ventures
      4. Lightbank
      5. Long Jump
      6. M25
      7. Moderne Ventures
      8. Network Ventures
      9. New Stack Ventures
      10. Propellant Ventures
      11. Sandalphon Capital
      12. Starting Line
    • Venture Capitalists: Series A and beyond
      1. Adams Street Partners
      2. Alpha Capital Partners
      3. Apex Venture Partners
      4. Arch Venture Partners
      5. Baird Capital
      6. Batterson Venture Capital
      7. Chicago Ventures
      8. Edgewater Funds
      9. Essex Woodlands Health Ventures
      10. First Analysis Venture Capital
      11. Foundation Capital
      12. Founder Equity
      13. High Street Capital
      14. Hyde Park Venture Partners
      15. JK & B Capital
      16. Jump Capital
      17. MATH Venture Partners
      18. MK Capital
      19. OCA Ventures
      20. Origin Ventures
      21. Pritzker Group Venture Capital
      22. Trident Capital
      23. Waud Capital Partners
      24. Willis Stein and Partners
      25. Wind Point Partners
      26. Wynnchurch Capital

C. Growth

    • Infrastructure: Office space, HR, local business insurance. (i.e. office space/ HR/ insurance providers for capital-rich companies to grow and scale)
      1. 42 Floors
      2. Anchor Advisors
      3. Argyle Search Partners
      4. Chicagoland Recruiters
      5. Deskpass
      6. Handzel & Associates
      7. Hiscox
      8. IMC Solutions
      9. Insureon
      10. iLink Resources
      11. LoopNet
      12. Northwest Insurance Brokers
      13. OfficeFinder
      14. OfficeSpace
      15. Regus
      16. Rofo
      17. Snyder Insurance
    • Startup Scaling: Growth accelerators/consultants. (i.e. programs and business consultants for capital-rich companies to grow and scale)
      1. Cayenne Consulting Chicago
      2. EY
      3. Freshwater Advisors
      4. KPMG
      5. Midwest Business Consulting
      6. PwC
      7. SCORE Chicago
      8. The Junto Institute

4. Success Stories

Successful homegrown companies that have raised significant institutional funding, employ a large workforce, or have achieved liquidity.

  1. Avant
  2. Basecamp
  3. BenchPrep
  4. Blinkfire Analytics
  5. Braintree
  6. Cameo
  7. CareerBuilder
  8. Cars.com
  9. Classkick
  10. comScore
  11. Dose
  12. Fooda
  13. FourKites
  14. Groupon
  15. GrubHub
  16. Gogo
  17. InContext Solutions
  18. Inventables
  19. Morningstar
  20. Ocient
  21. ParkWhiz
  22. Power Reviews
  23. project44
  24. Raise
  25. Redbox
  26. Retrofit
  27. Risk I/O
  28. Rocketmiles
  29. Scout
  30. Snapsheet
  31. SpotHero
  32. SproutSocial
  33. Stats LLC
  34. TempoIQ
  35. Trunk Club
  36. Uptake
  37. YCharts
  38. Yello



Supporters

To facilitate the steps, every ecosystem needs strong supporters.

1. Evangelists

Successful local founders who lead the ecosystem & frequently mentor newbies. (i.e. Local leaders who have taken a leadership position, speak at a lot of startup events, mentor all the programs, etc)

  1. Adam Siegel
  2. Ajay Patel
  3. Alex Campbell
  4. Ashish Rangnekar
  5. Bart Carlson
  6. Brian Busche
  7. Carlo Navarro
  8. Charles Kwon
  9. Colleen Egan
  10. Cory Warfield
  11. David Culver
  12. David Douglas
  13. Desiree Vargas Wrigley
  14. Donata Kalnenaite, Esq.
  15. Elly Deutch
  16. Emerson Spartz
  17. Eric Broughton
  18. Ethan Austin
  19. Gary Silverman
  20. George Deeb
  21. Hala Hemayssi
  22. James Michelson
  23. Jason Fried
  24. Jason Green
  25. Jason Jacobsohn 
  26. Jason Rubinstein
  27. Jason Weingarten
  28. J.B. Pritzker
  29. Jeff Hoffman
  30. Jeff Hyman
  31. Jeff Judge
  32. Jeff Lyons
  33. Jeff Maier
  34. Jeff Weber
  35. Jessica Zweig
  36. Joe Abraham
  37. Joe Born
  38. Joe Dwyer
  39. John R Dallas Jr
  40. Kelly Fitzsimmons
  41. Kevin Taylor
  42. Lauren Katzberg
  43. Lina Pakrosnyte
  44. Louis Morales
  45. Mark Achler
  46. Mark Lawrence
  47. Mark Pickett
  48. Matt Moog
  49. Michael Carruth
  50. Michael Kramer
  51. Michael McCoy
  52. Neil Kane
  53. Pam Krengel
  54. Patricia Riskind
  55. Patrick Tannous
  56. Peter Tapling
  57. Rajesh Voddiraju
  58. Reva Minkoff
  59. Ronald Franczyk
  60. Ross Kimbarovsky
  61. Seth Kravitz
  62. Steven Jones
  63. Tom Denison
  64. Troy Henikoff
  65. Tyler Travitz
  66. William Furlong

2. Government

Public organizations that facilitate local economic development

  1. Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology
  1. Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce
  2. Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce
  3. Illinois Chamber of Commerce
  4. Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity
  5. MBDA Business Centers
  6. Oak Park Economic Development Corporation
  7. World Business Chicago
  8. WorldChicago Tech Fellowship Program

3. Talent

Major local business or tech universities and employers that attract and retain local talent.

  • Local Universities (universities with prominent technical or business programs)

    1. Chicago State University
    2. DePaul University
    3. Illinois Institute of Technology
    4. Loyola University Chicago
    5. Northwestern University
    6. Robert Morris University
    7. University of Chicago
    8. University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Local Employers (Major technical employers with large local offices)
    1. Allscripts
    2. Allstate
    3. Apple
    4. Boeing
    5. Bose
    6. CDW
    7. CME Group Inc. 
    8. Devry
    9. Discover Financial Services Inc.
    10. Facebook
    11. Google
    12. HP
    13. LG Electronics
    14. LinkedIn
    15. McDonalds
    16. Microsoft
    17. Motorola
    18. Orbitz
    19. Northern Trust Corporation
    20. Sears
    21. Shure
    22. SproutSocial
    23. Twitter
    24. SMS Assist
    25. United Airlines
    26. US Cellular
    27. Walgreens


Learn more about theStartup Ecosystem Canvas here, and leave us your thoughts on the Chicago Canvas on this collaborative Google document (This is just a DRAFT, and more input is needed!)

Are you looking to build a startup in Chicago? Then apply to the Chicago Founder Institute today

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