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The Next Big Thing, feat. College Startups

Facebook, Snapchat, Dell, WordPress, and Google. These now world-famous companies all started from college dorm rooms on the campuses of various universities across America.

1871, one Chicago’s most prominent startup incubators, recently partnered with the City of Chicago and ThinkChicago to organize the first Chicago College Startup Challenge. This competition presents itself as a unique opportunity that represents Northwestern’s own growing startup culture, as noted by student groups such as EPIC, NSH, and other various student initiatives that encourage aspiring Mark Zuckerbergs and Larry Pages to thrive and achieve success.

The Chicago College Startup Challenge functions as a long-term competition where college startups pitch themselves to win the free opportunity to be a full-fledged member of 1871 for a year. As CEO Howard Tullman said, “startups are judged by how much progress has been made, what is the upside potential, and other various business metrics” to determine a winner. Unlike a hackathon, the startup challenge represents a startup’s long-term success: by having free access into 1871, college startups will now have a way to easily network with other entrepreneurs and receive the resources that are critical to a startup’s success.

These resources are plentiful: the winner would receive up to 10 full-time desks and mentorship services for free at 1871’s massive entrepreneurial hub in Merchandise Mart, home to many of Chicago’s most notable startups. Training would also be given to the winning startup to help them take advantage of 1871’s incubator program.

After all, this program offers much more than financing, advising, or office space. 1871 includes mentorship services dedicated to seeing fledging startups succeed, and this is especially critical for college students new to the world of business. By providing evaluation of startups, college students can work to improve their businesses in an environment that seeks to foster their startup’s growth.

The reason behind the CCSC is simple: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and ThinkChicago have an interest in enticing local college graduates to stay in the area, and so by promoting 1871’s challenge, they’re keeping at least 10 businesses in the Chicago area. Tullman echos Mayor Emanuel in saying that “there is an interest for college graduates to stay [in Chicago].” As a high-publicity initiative, the winning startup will be announced at this year’s Lollapalooza, arguably one of Chicago’s most high profile annual events.

Ultimately, the startup challenge reflects Chicago’s desire to be seen as a future to Silicon Valley and New York City’s Silicon Alley – a place where startups can thrive and transform the local economy. This hope begins here locally at Northwestern’s own campus, in our own college culture – for all we know, the next Facebook might start up here in Evanston.

Photo via Flickr Common

Toby Lee

About Toby Lee

Toby Lee is a sophomore from Palo Alto, CA who focuses on NBR's Technology and Innovation section. He is currently majoring in Economics and Communication Studies with a focus on Digital Media, and is mainly interested in finding how improving communication in the business world can help organizations run more efficiently, as well as how to effectively market products in an increasingly digital-based world.

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