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Friday, June 24, 2016

Chicago's Startup Accelerators, Incubators & Co-Working Spaces

Posted By: George Deeb - 6/24/2016

I have previously written about Chicago's exploding startup ecosystem .  And, startup activi...

I have previously written about Chicago's exploding startup ecosystem.  And, startup activity is organizing around certain startup accelerators, incubators, startup studios and shared offices in town. A few entrepreneurs asked me to compile a list of the key players in this space, so here you go.

Chicago Accelerators

Accelerators have a formal education curriculum and program.

Founder Institute

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses

Platform Venture

Sunshine Enterprise (for Woodlawn area companies)


Chicago Incubators--Generalist

Incubators are lead by one organization, who co-locate many startups in one place.

Blue 1647





Venture Shot

Chicago Incubators--Specific

These incubators have a specific focus for startups they work with.

Arts Incubator in Washington Park (art)

Bunker Labs (veteran run)

Catalyze (manufactured products)

Chicago Fashion Incubator (fashion at Macy's)

Cisco EIR (internet of things at CIE)

Coalition: Energy (energy)

Coalition: Impact (social impact)

DMDII (manufacturing)

DVX Labs (education by DeVry)

Elmspring (real estate)

Fulton Street Collective (art)

Good Food (food)

Healthbox (health care)

IHCC (hispanic run)

Insight Accelerator Labs (healthcare)

Impact Engine (social impact)

Indie City Co-op (video games)

Leap Innovations (education)

Maker Lab (at Chicago Public Library

Matter (health care)

NAR Reach (real estate)

Panzanzee (social impact)

Pearson Catalyst (education by Pearson)

Propel (life sciences)

2112 (music/film/creative)

Windy City Harvest Farm (agriculture with Chicago Botanic Garden)

WiSTEM (female run)

Chicago Incubators--University Related

These incubators are affiliated with startups at specific universities.

Chicago Innovation Exchange (U-Chicago)

Coleman Entrepreneurship Center (DePaul)

HCB Incubator (Roosevelt)

Innovate (UIC)

LUC @ 1871 (Loyola)

The Garage (Northwestern)

UI Labs (Illinois)

University Tech Park (IIT)

Chicago Incubators--Venture Fund Related

These incubators are run by venture funds who co-locate their portfolio companies


Moderne Ventures (real estate)

New Coast Ventures

Ringleader Ventures

Sandbox Industries

Chicago Startup Studios

Startup studios or venture labs, build startups for third party companies or themselves.

Digital Intent

L Street Collaborative


Startup Foundry

Treehouse Adventures

Wavetable Labs

Chicago Co-Working Spaces

Co-working spaces simply allow many startups to rent smaller spaces or cubicles, with shared services, at affordable rates.  But, it is typically only a real estate play.



Be Office

Building Blocks

Carr Workplaces

coLab (in Evanston)

CoWorkers (in Wilmette)

Creative Coworking


Desklabs (in Lakeview)

813 Launch Pad


Englewood Accelerator


Free Range Office (in Wicker Park)

Fulton Carroll Center



Inspire Business Center


Logan Share

Next Door (by State Farm)

Next Space

Office Port


Onward Coworking

Platform Coworking (in Wicker Park and Ravenswood)


Serendipity Labs

Space by Doejo

Spirtle Space

Suite Spotte (in LaGrange)

The Beta at BKB

The Shift

The Study

The Warehouse (at Lightbank)


Work Better



These are everyone that I am aware of as of the date of this post.  I am sure there may be others I missed or that are in development.  So, please add others that you know in the comments section.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Provide Multiple Wins Throughout the Customer Lifecycle

Posted By: George Deeb - 6/23/2016

If loyal, long-term customers are your goal, you need to romance them right from the start, and ...

If loyal, long-term customers are your goal, you need to romance them right from the start, and continue to wow them along the way with unexpected wins along the full customer lifecycle.  At the end of the day, the earlier you understand it is less about you and your business or success, and more about your customer and their business or success, the sooner you are on the way scalable long term growth.

Rest the rest of this post in Forbes, which I guest authored this week.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

[VIDEO] Red Rocket's New Explainer Video

Posted By: George Deeb - 6/21/2016

People are more visual in the way they consume content.  That is why all the content marketers...

People are more visual in the way they consume content.  That is why all the content marketers are adding photos and videos to their pieces, to help promote conversions and social sharing.  So, with that in mind, I am excited to share Red Rocket's new explainer video, to help you better understand exactly what we do.  If anything strikes a chord, don't hesitate to reach out to us at the contact form at the bottom of this page.  Hope you like it!!

Red Rocket Ventures Overview from Red Rocket Ventures on Vimeo.

For future posts, please follow us on Twitter at: @RedRocketVC.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

[NEWS] 2016 Moxie Award Winners in Chicago Tech

Posted By: George Deeb - 6/16/2016

Congratulations to Maria Katris, Matt Moog and the Built In Chicago team for putting on yet ano...

Congratulations to Maria Katris, Matt Moog and the Built In Chicago team for putting on yet another great Moxie Awards event tonight, celebrating the best in Chicago's digital tech community in 2016.  Here is a shout-out to all of the winners:

Best Consumer Web Startup:  BucketFeet

Best B2B Startup:  Strike Social

Best New Startup:  DRIVIN

Most Disruptive Startup:  VISANOW

Best Social Impact Startup:  Zero Percent

Startup of the Year:  Uptake

Digital Agency of the Year:  Rise Interactive

Best Consumer Web Company:  Avant

Best B2B Company:  Yello

Best Office Space:  SAP Fieldglass

Best Company Culture: kCura

Breakthrough Digital Company:  Uptake

Woman in Tech:  Amanda Lannert, CEO of Jellyvision

CEO of the Year:  Rishi Shah, CEO of Context Media

Congrats again to all of you, for doing terrific things in Chicago's tech ecosystem.  Keep up the great work!!

For future posts, please follow us on Twitter: @RedRocketVC

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Lesson #238: Continue to Innovate Your Products . . . or, Die a Slow Death!!

Posted By: George Deeb - 6/14/2016

Your core products or services are your lifeblood.  They are what attract customers, drive reve...

Your core products or services are your lifeblood.  They are what attract customers, drive revenues and enable a company to thrive.  And, the better your products are, the more customers want it, the faster you grow and the further you distance yourself from your competitors.  But, a common mistake I see with many entrepreneurs is a mindset that once the product is built, they can change their focus to other areas of the business, like sales or marketing.  That mindset is their first flawed step right towards their grave.

Your Competition Never Sleeps

Just because you may have a competitive advantage in the market today, does not mean you will keep a competitive advantage in the future.  Competition is an entirely fluid ecosystem.  Your existing competitors are always watching your moves, and the smart ones will be quick to follow and exceed your efforts.  And, new startups are popping up all the time.  If you lift your foot off the accelerator for one moment, you are providing your racing competitors the opportunity to drive right by you.

Your Customers Always Demand More

Your customers are looking for you to help them innovate over time.  Yes, they may love your product today, but that product may become obsolete over time, and they are expecting their best vendors to step up their game with new features and functionality over time.  The minute you sit back and rest on your laurels of past success, is the same minute you should start to feel the noose tightening around your neck. 

Build a Three Year Product Roadmap

To solve this problem, you need to have a continually evolving and developing product roadmap.  Lay out your product vision for the long term, and tackle one major product upgrade per year (e.g., Version 1.0 evolves to Version 2.0 after a year).  That makes it much harder for your competitors to chase a moving target, and will establish yourself as a trusted thought leader and innovator with your customers looking to take their game to the next level. 

Gather Ideas From All Stakeholders

In order to build an effective product roadmap, you need to gather inputs from all places.  You need to continually keep an eye on new innovations of your competitors.  You need to be in constant contact with your customers, asking them for suggested improvements they would like to see from your business.  And, you need to listen to your own product team, for their own innovation ideas.  So, gather inputs from all three channels, prioritize them based on which ones will have biggest positive economic impact on your business, and stage them into your three your product plan over time.

Case Study—Invest Over Time or Pay the Price Later

I had a Red Rocket client that was feeling pretty good.  Their business was spitting out healthy profits for several years in a row and didn’t really feel the need to materially upgrade their products.  The business was paying dividends out to the shareholders, and all was good.  Until they woke up one day and realized several new competitors had launched with cheaper, faster products and their customers were complaining that the company had gone stale and was overcharging them for what they were selling.  They started losing clients, were forced to lower their prices (which materially impacted margins and profitability) and had to start paying refunds for the product that was breaking more than ever.  Needless to say, they were not happy to learn they were staring at a multi-million dollar project to get their products back into a leadership position in the industry—an unaffordable amount hitting all in one year, that should have been slowly invested over time.

Closing Thoughts

The point here is: innovate or eventually die.  It won’t be a fast death, it will be a long drawn-out death, and you most likely won’t even see it coming, until it is way too late or too expensive to fix.  Emulate the innovative spirit of Steve Jobs during his tenure at Apple, and all will be good.  And, if you find yourself having to make a choice between investing in your product or investing in other areas of your business (like sales and marketing), it is most likely time to consider raising capital to afford both.  Because, as I have written about in the past, your proof-of-concept (driven by sales and marketing) is just as important as your product, and you need to invest in both.

For future posts, please follow me on Twitter at: @georgedeeb.

[NEWS] Red Rocket Seeking Equity Stake in Your Business

Posted By: George Deeb - 6/14/2016

Red Rocket has been fortunate to have been very busy with paid client work over the last ...

Red Rocket has been fortunate to have been very busy with paid client work over the last few years. But, most of those projects are 3-6 month "fixer upper" projects where we build the business plan, and the current management team executes the plan from there.  For a team of seasoned entrepreneurs, that is the equivalent of handing "our baby" off to another set of parents to raise.  And, often times, the devil is in the details in terms of execution, and a good plan can fall short if poorly executed.

We are on the hunt to get a material equity stake in a few companies that we can actually help grow over the years (not months).  If you run a small business that needs help scaling revenues to the next level, we want to talk to you.  Perhaps you are profitable (over $100,000) with some free cash resources to invest in new sales and marketing activities, but don't know how.  Or, maybe you are open to growing through mergers or acquisitions activity, and are willing to use your equity to buy desired targets in your industry, but don't know how.  We will consider opportunities in both the B2C and B2B space.  Your business can be a digital technology company, or any other business we have experience with (e.g., retail, restaurant, consumer product, media), provided we think we can materially move the needle in terms of growing your business.

We will not take cash fees for services in these companies, but instead we will contribute our time, experience and relationships in exchange for a mutually acceptable ownership interest in your business: one that is material enough to get us to want to "dig in" with an active hands-on role for the long haul.  I guess you could think of this like adding a later-stage co-founder to your business.  We will want to have a significant voice within your management team and board room, to truly control our collective destiny to building a really big business together.  No entrenched ideas or sacred cows, if there is a better way to building long term success.

So, if you are a flexible and open-minded entrepreneur with an exciting business looking for fresh ideas, new leadership or an experienced team to help take your revenues to the next level (or beyond simply being your lifestyle business), look no further than Red Rocket.  If interested in learning more, please contact us here and tell us more about your business and financials for our consideration.  We will only be selecting a few companies to focus on here, ones we think we can accelerate their growth the most, so we apologize ahead of time if we are not able to work with you under this model.

For future posts, please follow us on Twitter at: @RedRocketVC.


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