Monday, April 29, 2013

Meet Cíbola: South Side Chicago's Innovation Center Fueling Diversity in Tech Innovation

Fresh off 54 hours of startup ideation via Startup Weekend Santa Maria, the excitement and energy still remains. Questions arise as to how we can keep the momentum going in the area of moving viable ideas forward. Enter Cíbola, a prime example of a focused collective effort aimed at helping drive the number of everyday innovators. The Rainforest by Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt identifies several important aspects of the 'Innovation Funnel' including:
  • Ideas
  • People
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Organizations
  • Coordinating Infrastructure
Cíbola, founded by Mahrinah von Schlegel and Emile Cambry, Jr., is an interesting example of coordinating infrastructure focused on launching new ideas and lasting companies of all kinds in South Side Chicago.

Cíbola is a hub for startups innovation, collaboration and creativity in Pilsen. Our mission is to help Chicagoans become everyday innovators, solve complex challenges, promote diversity and create a community of support for all of us to build our dreams. Cíbola is dedicated to building companies of all kinds, with a focus on tech entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and growing both Pilsen and Chicago's entrepreneur communities.

About Pilsen
Just three miles from downtown, Pilsen has been a port-of-entry community for more than 130 years. The eastern section of Pilsen has attracted been home to artists and galleries for more than 20 years. This arts district, along with the expansion of the nearby University of Illinois at Chicago and is less than five minutes from the Illinois Institute of Technology and Depaul University’s downtown campus.

Why Now?
The Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) reports that less than one percent of venture capital dollars invested annually has been directed to the country’s 5.8 million minority business owners, who represent 29 percent of all businesses in America. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of minority-owned firms increased 46 percent, compared to 18 percent for all U.S. firms. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2002 and 2007, the number of people employed at minority-owned businesses jumped 27 percent, while job growth for non-minority-owned firms increased less than one percent. The MBDA asserts that closing the funding gap between minority-and non-minority-owned startups, based on the share of the adult minority population, would add $2.5 trillion to the economic output of the U.S. and create 11.8 million new jobs.

Cíbola, a coworking space, aims to create an intimate, engaging environment for entrepreneurs to learn actual lessons from actual experiences. It’s hard to do that with 3,000 people spread out in a giant auditorium at a keynote full of theory and fluff. What we need is an environment of accelerated and directed effort towards product and idea development.

Starting in the mid to late 2000s, hackathons became significantly more widespread, and began to be increasingly viewed by companies and venture capitalists as a way to quickly develop new software technologies, and to locate new areas for innovation and funding. Some major companies were born from these hackathons, such as GroupMe, which began as a project at a hackathon at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2010 conference; in 2011 it was acquired by Skype for $85 million. The software PhoneGap began as a project at the iPhoneDevCamp (later renamed iOSDevCamp) in 2008; the company whose engineers developed PhoneGap, Nitobi, refocused itself around PhoneGap, and Nitobi was bought by Adobe in 2011 for an undisclosed amount.

We need more spaces like Cíbola and innovators to help set the tone for ongoing ideation and exciting entrepreneurship.

Learn more by supporting Cíbola on Facebook and Twitter.