A suite space for Loyola
By Anna Gaynor
A creative space for young startups? Check.
Networking opportunities with programmers, marketers, and even venture capitalists? Check.
The chance for Loyola students to participate in all of it? Check, check, and check.
Learn more about Loyola’s partnership with 1871 (including how to reserve the University’s suite) at LUC.edu/1871.
As Loyola settles into its new partnership with 1871, a digital hub for tech startups in the city’s Merchandise Mart, students and faculty at the University are finding countless ways to get involved. And at 1871—often called “the Silicon Valley of Chicago”—those opportunities are everywhere.
“You walk in there, and the energy is palpable,” said Janet Deatherage, PhD, executive director of the Office of Corporate Engagement at Loyola. “There’s a common space with people working and there are conversations going on all around you. Over here someone is talking to an investor, and over there someone else is talking to a mentor.
“They have pitch sessions and ways to help you learn code. Just about anything you can think of to get your ideas off the ground and get them running is there for you.”
In April, the space at 1871 was filled with eager, entrepreneurial-minded college students from across the Chicago area.
Starting on a Friday night and running through Sunday, students at the second annual Campus 1871 competition broke into teams to develop and pitch a new app. This year’s ideas ranged from developing a more social way to learn a language, creating seamless access to WiFi networks, and even building a new investment platform.
The prize? A full-year membership to 1871 for the winning team and a six-month membership for the runners-up.
“I walked into the 1871 competition wanting to meet other students who are interested in the entrepreneurial community,” said Loyola sophomore Jessica Chitkuer, a marketing and finance major who was part of a team of eight students (not all from Loyola) that took first place with their Languallama app. “I’ve actually developed really great relationships working with my team members as well as the people who were also involved in the competition.”
Over the course of the long weekend, Chitkuer and her peers heard speeches on crafting the perfect pitch and the challenges of building a startup—plus they got some words of advice from Howard Tullman, the CEO of 1871. Besides meeting other students, Chitkuer came to the competition to learn more about the venture capital industry. She hopes to use her year membership to do exactly that.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “1871 has a ton of incredible opportunities for students as well as its members. Just having access to those opportunities and to meet the entrepreneurs, residents, and the venture capitalists who also work out of the space is kind of cool.”
Innovation, outside the box
Campus 1871 is not the only way Loyola students are getting involved with the tech world.
A few weeks after Chitkuer and her teammates left victorious, two other teams of Loyola students and alumni came to the 1871 space to compete. This time, they were there for INTXHACK, a 24-hour hackathon that challenges teams to develop an app, idea, or hack from scratch using the latest technology.
Both Loyola teams made the finals, with one taking home the third-place prize of $3,000 for its VShare idea, which allows users to watch videos while video conferencing with friends.
“It’s opening our students up to a whole new technology business community,” Deatherage said. “I’ve been amazed by the amount of resources and people who are interested in this and are looking for new ideas and new technology. It’s this incredible other world, basically.”
Deatherage is quick to point out that 1871 isn’t just for business or computer science majors. The space is open to anyone with an idea: from those in the Health Sciences Division to students like Marina Peric of the School of Communication. Peric said she participated in Campus 1871 because it sounded like a great opportunity.
“To me it doesn’t matter what your major is,” said Peric, who graduated in May. “I’m always trying to learn anything that interests me. And 1871, which I hadn’t heard of before, sounded interesting.”
Once there, however, she realized she was the only communications student in the competition. While she might not have been able to code, she proved to be an asset in developing her team’s three-minute pitch and bringing in social media, public relations, and customer engagement angles.
“We think about the technology, and we think about people building the actual app,” Deatherage said. “But they all need public relations and communications and marketing. They need all of that.
“And then you look at the business: How do you create a profit/loss statement? How do you work a spreadsheet? Where’s the marketing data to tell you that this is a great idea? All of that comes into play.”
A suite space for Loyola
Thanks to the University’s new partnership, students, faculty, and staff at Loyola will now have access to a small space at 1871. Loyola’s new suite will allow six student-entrepreneurs to work alongside one another in a collaborative environment, either as part of a group or on completely different projects—making it an ideal place for creativity and networking.
After going through an approval process, students will be able to reserve a space at the table to work on their ideas—and, just as importantly, to sit in on classes and attend events. It’s that opportunity to be around like-minded entrepreneurs that appeals to many students.
“It’s a place you can go and dream about something,” said Fernando Russo, whose team took home second place at Campus 1871. “It’s great, but they also tell you that dreams without work mean nothing.”
Russo, who recently graduated with an MBA from the Quinlan School of Business, already considers himself an entrepreneur. A few years ago he joined Mobile Bigfoot, a company that develops WiFi networks for music festivals, including Lollapalooza Chile.
Beyond the networking and the educational opportunities, the 1871 environment holds another draw for Russo, too.
“Everybody that you see there working either at the community tables or in their private tables, you know what they’re doing,” Russo said. “You don’t know exactly what they’re doing, but you know what they’re after. So if they’re believing it and they’re doing it, I can do it with my team and my people.”
Making a name in the tech world
While faculty and staff at Loyola will have access to the new 1871 space, some have already jumped into the tech world—from mentoring startups to joining in on the action.
Five members of the Stritch School of Medicine are working with a new company, 30Second Mom, based out of 1871. Created by Elisa All, an award-winning media entrepreneur, the free website and app are designed to give mothers quick, informative, and accurate tips from professionals and regular moms.
“We are doing the medical portion of it,” said Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach, a medical internist and pediatrician as well as an assistant professor at Loyola. “There’s a few physician moms at Loyola, and we were asked to participate. If we came across ideas with patients during the day or even our own kids and we thought we could provide some good medical tips, we would write about them.”
Gach and the other faculty members—who are all mothers—have become a part of the community that’s grown around the app and website, even doing a Q&A over Twitter. At this point, Gach has covered everything from frostbite to sunburns, iPad usage to picky eaters.
Gach is excited to put her knowledge and expertise to use in new ways, but she’s also proud to be a part of a female-owned company. And she’s not the only one at Loyola playing a hand in transforming the look of the entrepreneurial field.
Mentoring a new field
Ugur Uygur, PhD, an assistant professor at the Quinlan School of Business, has used 1871 companies for real-world exercises in his marketing classes. But this spring, he helped create a mentoring program for non-Loyola 1871 businesses.
He and five other faculty members from the Quinlan School of Business and the Business Law Clinic spent six weeks advising four startups. The mentorship is in tandem with 1871’s diversity scholarship to promote more inclusiveness in the tech world.
Each week, Uygur and his fellow mentors would spend an hour with a company to discuss its business and any issues it was facing.
“The first hour, the very first time you meet, is always spent on, ‘Well, tell me about your business,’ ” Uygur said. “After the second or third time, we can go into details of their business and what challenges they are having, so I can offer solutions. We have much more fruitful and productive conversations.”
Each company is in a different stage of development—some have been running for a few years while others are just beginning. They range from an online training course for commercial driving instructors to a nonprofit focused on finding jobs for the long-term unemployed.
For these entrepreneurs, 1871 provides resources to help launch their startups. Now with the University’s new partnership, Loyola students will have access to those same benefits.
“Entrepreneurs have to wear a lot of hats,” Uygur said. “Our partnership with 1871 provides a great opportunity for our students to learn how to wear all those hats, increase their knowledge across all disciplines, and connect with some of the brightest minds in Chicago.”