When HPA was founded in April 2007, there was not a lot in Chicago as far as start up activity was concerned. There were bits and pieces every where, but no organized central place for interested parties to go. Some angels were in fact acting like investment bankers and trying to earn a fee from helping start ups. Others were just interested in keeping good companies to themselves, and not interested in co-investing or sharing with the community.
Chicago’s Start Up Community
HPA’s founders identified several gaps in the Chicago ecosystem. First, companies were fleeing to the coasts for capital. We changed that by creating a centralized efficient marketplace for companies to raise money. Second, VC’s weren’t investing in seed stage companies. They wanted a lot of traction, and would only invest down to certain valuations. HPA began making investment in seed stage companies. We wrote a lot of checks. Third, we decided we wanted to co-invest and share deals with everyone. Since our founding, we have co-invested with almost all of the Chicago VC’s, and at least collaborated with everyone on a deal in one aspect or another. Fourth, we saw a massive gap in education. HPA hired students to work for us, hosts office hours for free, and many of the angels have been active mentoring and lecturing at both private and public schools, forums, clubs and anywhere else that we could be of service.
When Excelerate Labs began, we were one of the first supporters. Our angels have been very involved with their program, and we held an Angel education day before each Excelerate presentation day. Last year, Brad Feld of TechStars participated via Skype.
Brad recently penned a blogpost about the Chicago Ecosystem. While most of it dealt with Excelerate and some more recent developments, we are happy that HPA was an integral cog in the ignition of the ecosystem back in April of 2007.
If you are an engineer that is sick of paying for a high cost of living on the coasts, come to the midwest. It’s cheaper. There are resources. There are great cities to live in. If you have a family, the school systems are great. Plenty of open space to let your kids run. We have pro sports and culture, world class museums, great restaurants and great stuff to do. Besides, if you need to get away we are a shorter flight to anywhere-and you can do it from one of the best airports in the world, O’ Hare.
Stuff is happening here. Lots of it.
What did they say before the Chicago Bulls went on an NBA Championship tear? All the pieces are in place. All it takes is you.