Chicago 1871 Incubator
Chicago's 1871 business incubator has matured from a vital, exciting endeavor into a self-entitled, monolithic, class-based business.
On a recent tour of Chicago’s 1871 Incubator it was clear that it has become a legend in its own mind. In the past 1871 was an inspiring place to visit and work, to observe great minds collaborating on a sea of ideas. Today 1871 is overcrowded and uncomfortable, and devoid of humility and humanity.
What it’s like to visit there
At Rage Agency, we make a concerted effort to monitor the environment and introduce our staff and clients to those business vectors destined to foster growth and change. 1871 was one such vehicle, an organization to recommend to both startups and established businesses from which to learn and adopt ideas and practices. Sadly it is no longer on our bucket list of must-experience for our clients.
“Taking the tour, it’s really just a big ass coffee shop with a bunch of private rooms”
Taking the tour, it’s really just a big ass coffee shop with a bunch of private rooms. Throw in the funky seating, sound isolation booths, free seminars, and wine mixers and it falls somewhere between a cool startup company and a college union hall.
It was glaringly obvious that it can get very crowded, where you may not be even to find a decent seat. It felt like it was over capacity when we visited and we learned that it is in the process of building out even further.
What it’s like to work there
Chatting to people who work there, we learned that the three things most desirable in a tech situation are lacking: ergonomic seating, good internet access and quiet. That, and be prepared to pay handsomely for parking and battling the downtown traffic if you’re not getting dropped off. On the other hand, access to bright, committed young talent is in abundance.
“I’ve found myself leaving 1871 many times just because I couldn’t stand sitting there anymore cause it’s so uncomfortable and full of distractions”.
The collective IQ at 1871 is obviously astronomical. Many great ideas are generated and more importantly, brought to market aided by the collective forces at work there. But high intelligence has its downsides too. High intelligence tends to foster arrogance. Rare is the leader who has great intelligence, and the humility to realize the limits of his/her competence.
In the end, the takeaway from 1871 was one of overwhelming arrogance. Arrogance is sometimes a cover for insecurity. But in business, it’s often driven by the combination of early success, being one of the smartest kids in the room, and having been rewarded for cleverness. And that’s the way it feels at 1871 – they’re the brightest kids in the class and feel grandiose and entitled.
“In the end, the takeaway from 1871 was one of overwhelming arrogance.”
1871 is home to over 350 companies. The 75,000-square-foot facility provides Chicago startups with programming, access to mentors, educational resources, potential investors and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs that help them on their path to building successful businesses. Approximately 1,000 people a day visit the space with membership options ranging from just nights and weekends to shared space and reserved desks.