The year 1871 holds a special place in Chicago history...it was the year of the great fire that leveled the city. It was also the year that some of the greatest designers, architects and minds came to Chicago to rebuild the city as a beacon for the future. Daniel Burnham, chief architect of the build, said "Make no small plans as they have no magic to stir men's blood".
The city has launched another chapter with the unveiling of a major tech center, 1871, in the heart of the city at the Merchandise Mart. A recent article, Factory Floor of the Future is Here, catches the essence and importance of 1871. Definitely worth a full read.
"Named for the year Chicago recreated itself following a great fire, the new incubator is scaled big to generate energy that radiates from the bullpen of desks across to the conference rooms, where ideas are vetted and deals are done to provide financing to move an idea into a business.
What attracts 400 applications from around the world to space at 1871? Talented people, universities, capital, mentoring and daily programming that brings in successful entrepreneurs and business people — all under one roof. The Universities of Chicago and Illinois, among others; a boot camp for entrepreneurs; and a venture capital company have offices at 1871; 36 workshops and programs are scheduled for May alone."
Matt Moog wrote a terrific blog post on 1871 earlier in the year in which he wrote:
"Why is it called 1871? Historians will tell you that the story of the Great Chicago Fire isn’t really a story about a fire at all; it’s a story about what happened next. Just after the Chicago fire, the citizens of Chicago and the world came together in one of the great entrepreneurial endeavors in history, to rebuild Chicago into the model of the modern city. Today, the digital community of Chicago is coming together at a place called 1871 to build the businesses of our future. 1871 was a unique moment in history, the beginning of one of the greatest periods of innovation the world has ever known. The best engineers, designers and builders came together to revitalize Chicago using the latest technologies, and their work catalyzed decades of innovation. And that’s what 1871 is about: entrepreneurship, digital technology, and innovation in Chicago.
Chicago’s digital technology community has been growing steadily and methodically over the past decade. More than 25,000 people are employed by digital companies in Chicago. In the last 2 to 3 years, our ecosystem has hit critical mass on the most important measures: availability of private capital, number of successful serial entrepreneurs, proliferation of community organizations, and a new level of government support. We’ve had more than 40 Chicago tech exits of greater than $100 million in the last decade. Since builtinchicago.org launched a little more than a year ago, it has drawn 250,000 users and has more than 7,000 members with profiles. 2011 was a record year with digital companies raising more than 1 billion dollars. And the truth of the matter is, we are just getting started."