Reasons to Celebrate: The Success of a Hypothesis

321 N. Clark

It’s no secret that entrepreneurs who work together, thrive together — just ask one of Catapult Chicago's 5 founders: LearnCore's Ryan Leavitt and Vishal Shah, MentorMob's Kris Chinosorn, and Foley & Lardner LLP attorneys Chris Cain and Galen Mason. As March 2015 marks the third anniversary of Catapult’s induction into the Chicago tech scene, it’s a satisfying reminder that what was once just a hypothesis to create a community for the next wave of prominent tech startups, quite simply, worked. Reflecting upon the past three years, Cain describes the serendipity of the timing and luck that lead to Catapult’s creation. “Galen and I had all these tools and resources and were looking to get into the market that Ryan and Vishal were inside,” said Cain. “So they provided us with the transparency and connections into the entrepreneurial world where we wanted to use our resources but didn’t know how.”

“We {the founders} were all trying to do the exact same thing – work with startups,” added Leavitt. “Fortunately, we realized that together we could do it more effectively and efficiently.”

To now describe Catapult’s role as “working with startups” would be an understatement. Although Catapult began as a small community, the role it fills within Chicago’s entrepreneurial community is significant. “Our alumni network has grown by leaps and bounds, similar to our reputation as a nonprofit,” said Cain. “We’re now a space where the best companies in Chicago want to be located.”

Today, that space can best be described as a unique cross between an incubator and a co-working space with a peer selection component that’s attracted a community of talented, ambitious and like-minded entrepreneurs. Instead of asking analysts, investors and committees to deem which startups have the potential to scale, Catapult empowers its current in-house founders to decide which companies will make innovative additions to the Catapult community.

After three years of successfully accelerating, scaling and mentoring more than 20 startups, it’s clear that Catapult’s method of democratizing the entrepreneurial process has lead to incredible results where businesses haven’t just scaled – they’ve flourished.

“Sure, we’re smaller than 1871 and Matter,” said Cain. “But that makes it easier to build an environment that’s not only rewarding and enriching, but also easier to provide the mentorship and sponsorship to ensure the success of our companies.”

Entrepreneurs understand they can’t change the world without the risk of failure. However, the startup founders joining Catapult realize that the Catapult community is there to make sure they’re taking the right risks– not just repeating the same old start-up mistakes.

Just ask one of the alumni companies like Scholastica, Shiftgig, TempoIQ, BucketFeet, ProcuredHealth - or the Packback founders who say:

Catapult is an amazing place to build a team and work as a young startup. The culture at Catapult provides a wonderful environment for focus and productivity, while still making it easy to step outside our office and interact with other founders and startup employees to share knowledge, collaborate and support one another. The Catapult community is incredibly tight-knit and supportive of its members who are facing any of the common challenges of running a startup, from recruiting to fundraising and more. Even once a company has graduated from Catapult, they remain a part of the Catapult community.

It’s that notion of community that repeatedly comes up in conversations regarding Catapult’s success. The founders of Catapult knew that a successful company culture couldn’t be built overnight. Instead it took three years of small victories, local contributions and a reputation of selectivity to create an incredible community of entrepreneurs where market execution is a prerequisite, collaborative mentality a given, and the desire to scale unprecedented.