The Rapidly Growing Chicago and LA Startup Communities

I’m not a big city guy, so one of my favorite things to do when I find myself in a big city is get up early, before the city wakes up, and go for a run. There’s something about the silence echoing throughout a vast developed physical space such as LA that calms me down and builds up some reserves for me for the day.

I was in LA all day yesterday – starting with a Fireside Chat organized by David C Murphy. It was a full room of entrepreneurs and what I hope was a stimulating and useful conversation for them. I got in an Uber and traveled across town to Nix Hydra, a company run by two remarkable young women that we recently invested in. I got in another Uber and returned to Santa Monica where I attended the Innovators Collective Dinner, hung out with some old friends, and met a few new ones. Today I’m at the Disney Accelerator and tomorrow I’m at Oblong.

At dinner, I sat with my long time friend Matt McCall. Matt and I were on the FeedBurner board together and he’s got a powerful connection between LA and Chicago – another city with an incredibly thriving startup community. Matt’s part of Pritzker Group Venture Capital which has offices in Chicago and LA as a result of where JB Pritzker and Tony Pritzker call home (Chicago and LA respectively). While they invest nationally, they have deep roots in both cities and are key players in the respective startup communities, along with the cities at large.

As I was talking to Matt, it rolled around in my head that there are a lot of similarities in the growth of both the Chicago and LA startup communities. Our engagement with each is similar – we have Techstars programs in each (Techstars Chicago and Disney Accelerator), we’ve made investments in each over the years, and they are each cities that I have personal affinity for and have spent a lot of time in, even though I’m not a big city kid.

I came back to an email in my inbox from Troy Henikoff, the Managing Director of Techstars Chicago, which closed the loop on this thought for me. Troy has been a key part of the development of the Chicago startup community and we’ve been good friends from the moment he first reached out to me about developing an accelerator in Chicago.

Troy reminded me about the Chicago Venture Summit, which is coming up on 10/14 and 10/15. The lineup looks incredible and includes keynotes from folks like Travis Kalanick (Uber), Padmasree Warrior (Cisco Chief Technology & Strategy Officer), Ted Leonsis (Revolution Partners and previous AOL CEO), and Peter Thiel. Not surprising, JB Pritzker is one of the leaders of the event. In the note that Troy sent me, there are confirmed attendees from VC firms such as Founders Fund, DFJ, NEA, GE Ventures, Motorola Ventures, Accel, Revolution, First Round Capital and Andreessen Horowitz. Yes, it’s a serious event worth attending if you can.

Since I started thinking about Startup Communities in 2010, a few years before I wrote the book Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, I believed the discussion about entrepreneurship would spread far and wide. If we could have the amazing things going on in Boulder that we were experiencing at the time, there was no reason every major city in the world couldn’t have a vibrant startup community. It’s a joy to see this developing fast, and in a powerful and sustainable way, in cities like Chicago and LA. Sure, there’s always been significant entrepreneurial activities in both cities, but the essence of the startup community in both places feels different – and more powerful – this time around.

  • Rick

    People are loving the start up game!

  • LA Startup Week is happening soon! Oct 20-24 (http://startupweek.la) We’re inspired by the Boulder startup community. 🙂

  • Guest

    I suspect that a lot of this “different” feeling is due to your influence, Brad. In the San Diego, where I live, the startup community has blossomed and matured quite a bit since your book Startup Communities came out, and your ideas and ethos receive a lot of credit from the people working hard to build a great startup community here. I hope you hear this all the time: Thank you so much for your thought leadership, your openness, and your giving nature. Your visit to San Diego in April 2013 had a big impact and influence on the community builders here.

  • Shawn Bridgeman

    I suspect that a lot of this “different” feeling is due to your influence, Brad. In the San Diego, where I live, the startup community has blossomed and matured quite a bit since your book Startup Communities came out, and your ideas and ethos receive a lot of credit from the people working hard to build a great startup community here. I hope you hear this all the time: Thank you so much for your thought leadership, your openness, and your giving nature. Your visit to San Diego in April 2013 had a big impact and influence on the community builders here.

    • Thx Shawn for the kind words.

  • There is however an enormous difference between the LA and Chicago scenes – the weather!
    🙂

  • Thanks for writing this. In 2007 when we co-founded HydeParkAngels.com there wasn’t much happening in Chicago. Troy and Excelerate Labs/TechStars have made a difference. In 2007, we did one deal. In 2008, we did a deal or two. In 2012, JB helped get 1871.com started. Last year, HPA did 22 deals; both initial and follow on. Chicago is really percolating. If you aren’t here, you are missing out.

  • Mary Juetten

    Thanks for the inspiring and informative fireside chat (and for signing my book when I thought you were the checkin guy! Phoenix is our home and we read Startup Communities to use as a roadmap there. We have the LA weather but still need more obsession.

    • It’s an author’s great pleasure to sign his book! Glad you enjoyed the event.