Five reasons Chicago is a great place for entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship is thriving in Chicago.

That is a tremendous sign of progress for our local financial outlook and beyond. The impact of entrepreneurship cannot be overstated; it’s the backbone of a strong economy that leads to more jobs and better prospects for individuals and the community.

I’m inspired by five trends that demonstrate the city of Chicago is becoming a globally recognized hub for young businesses and new ideas.

One of the pillars of entrepreneurship is innovation. And there’s no doubt that Chicago’s business community encourages new ideas. CNNMoney recently named Chicago as one of the most innovative cities in America, and 2014 marks the fourth year of Chicago Ideas Week, a great example of the citywide emphasis placed on innovation and idea generation.

When starting a business, it’s invaluable to have a community of peers to use as a sounding board, to gain contacts and potential partnerships, to celebrate successes and to help overcome challenges. There are many such communities in the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Chicago, including 1871, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, ChicagoNEXT and ThinkChicago.

Financing is, of course, a key component for companies — particularly tech companies — to get started and grow. Chicago is becoming an investor hotbed. Companies large and small are eager to invest time, money and resources in Chicago-area companies.

Venture capital investment, for instance, is on a major upswing, particularly for digital startups. Built In Chicago’s recent report found that, for this group, over $1 billion was raised in 2013, a 169 percent increase over 2012. And a new event this year, the Chicago Venture Summit, gave Chicago entrepreneurs the chance to pitch ideas to the top VC firms in the country.

The word is spreading about the viability and desirability of Chicago as both an innovation and investment destination.

Companies are looking to capitalize on the exciting entrepreneurial activities and our vibrant business community. Major groups and events such as TechWeek, the Chicago Venture Summit and Built In Chicago allow innovators to showcase their work. And it’s encouraging to see that news organizations are investing in resources devoted to covering Chicago’s entrepreneurial advances.

The city itself, and other organizations within it, recognize, support and value entrepreneurs and the economic vitality they bring.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is a major proponent and advocate for entrepreneurship, and has launched programs such as Step Up Chicago to help connect entrepreneurs with successful industry leaders. Other awards, including Innovation Chicago and the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Award, recognize and celebrate the best-of-the-best Chicago-area entrepreneurs.

Let’s help fuel this momentum and do our part to continue to cultivate entrepreneurship in Chicago. Together, we can make this a city where new, forward-thinking companies want to operate, a place where new ideas are born, where diverse perspectives are welcomed and encouraged, and where there is no limit on the success we can achieve. ●