Get to Know Our New Community Coordinator!

We're happy to welcome Elyse Dawson as Catapult Chicago's Community Coordinator!

5 Things To Know About Elyse

1. Originally from Beavercreek, Ohio, she moved to Chicago in 2010.

2. When she's not rocking the office, she's an actor and stage combatant. She is Co-Artistic Director of Babes With Blades Theatre Company

3. She's a big horror buff and has a podcast, called The Girls Next Gore where she and her co host review movies.

4. She <3s video games and grew up as a SEGA kid. Her favorite console is the Dreamcast and some of her favorite games are Shenmue, Dragon's Lair, and Red Dead Redemption.

5. She is convinced that peanut butter will be the best nutritional supply in an emergency state.

Our new(ish) company has us smiling

Our new(ish) company brings innovation to market research. Founded by Michele Smyth, this unique platform enables photo-based surveys that help researchers better understand consumer lifestyles. The idea is to go deeper than surveys and broader than focus groups. This new method gives insight to consumer lifestyles.

As an app user, you take selfies with instructions. For each task you can earn anywhere between 20 cents and a dollar. Plus, a dollar on Selfie Saturdays. When you’ve accumulated 20 dollars in your piggy bank, you cash out and receive a check. Easy.

On the brand side, you can sponsor a selfie and put your brand on the assignment and offer a discount to those that completed your assignment. And all of that is on top of gaining a better understanding of consumers and what they want.

A number of things make Pay Your Selfie unique, the blend of computer vision and human intelligence, the general idea, being woman founded, and the idea itself.

You can find them here: or Twitter: @Pay_Your_Selfie or IG: PayYourSelfie




Chicago Inno Feature: How Catapult Turns the '90% of Startups Fail' Stat Upside Down

Every entrepreneur knows the statistic. Somewhere around 90% of startups are going to fail, and even the best ideas with the best execution can succumb to the risky nature of starting a new business.

But at Chicago incubator and co-working space Catapult, the numbers look a little different. In fact, since the space launched five years ago, 90% of the startups that’ve come through its doors have been acquired or are still active today.

Catapult isn’t as big and flashy as some of the competing co-working spaces around town—it’s just 10,000 square feet—but it boasts an enviable startup hit rate that you’d be hard pressed to find at any other space in Chicago.

Its member companies have included some of the hottest startups Chicago’s seen in the last half decade, including Shiftgig, Opternative, Bucketfeet, Rippleshot and Jiobit, along with Shark Tank standouts Packback and Rent Like a Champion.

Since it launched in 2012, Catapult members have raised $150 million in venture funding, hosting 43 companies that have employed 800 people. Five of Catapult’s members have been acquired, including Plantlink (acquired by Scotts Miracle-Gro), TempoIQ (acquired by Avant) and Tastebud (acquired by Raise). Among the few failures Catapult has seen is wearable tech startup Rithmio, which raised $3.6 million and shut down at the end of 2016.

So, what sets Catapult apart? Not just any startup can come in and rent desk space. Companies interested in joining Catapult must pitch their businesses to Catapult’s members, who then decide whether or not to admit the company into the space. Startups have to be beyond the idea stage, have proven business traction, product-market fit, around 10 or less employees, and generate revenue, Catapult General Manager Caitlin McAllister said.

Not every startup gets in (Catapult turned down two companies last month), and it’s a model that helps the small co-working space punch above its weight, she said.

“We’re small, but mighty,” McAllister said. “We’re looking for the best of the best. That’s why we have such a good success rate.”

Catapult, which is industry agnostic and doesn’t take equity in startups, also fosters a spirit of collaboration between its member companies and the alumni network of startups that have since moved out, McAllister said.

“People come to Catapult because they want to learn from others and receive help from others,” she said. “Businesses here are at the same stage and see the same problems that come with scale. It’s a help-me-help-you environment.”

And Catapult’s newest members have the potential to keep the co-working space’s batting average high:, an Application Delivery Network that makes a company’s apps run faster, is co-founded by Kurt Mackey, who previously founded Y Combinator-backed Compose, which sold to IBM in 2015; Rhabit, founded by two former NCAA tennis players, gives aspiring athletes access to top tennis coaches and professionals through instructional videos and online lessons; and Pay Your Selfie lets users get paid for, you guessed it, taking selfies while providing custom data to brands. Its clients include Crest toothpaste and Goose Island beer.

Catapult has also gone through a space renovation and a website overhaul to give its members even more resources to build their businesses, McAllister said.

“Companies that have graduated five years ago are still coming back for founder forums and events,” she said. “The model continues to work.”

New Companies (yes, plural)

Catapult is excited to welcome UrbanStat and Rhabit to the community. They are different faces of innovation and both a lot to bring to the table. 

UrbanStat is a quick and complicated tool that was first founded by Anil and Nilgun Celik in Turkey. It helps insurers better predict the likelihood of “make or break” claims at the time of underwriting. Its fully automated underwriting API utilizes a unique ensemble of geographic and statistical modeling, machine learning, and human intelligence. UrbanStat offers an end-to-end analytic product which enables underwriters, risk engineers, reinsurance and C-level managers to prepare and access visual and spatial reports for their millions of customers within seconds.

Founded by brothers Connor and Jeff, Rhabit is set to officially launch their online sports coaching platform very soon. Rhabit, which stands for repeated habit, allows subscribers to access coaching from current & retired professional players, college coaches, and top developmental coaches through on-demand videos and one-to-one interactive lessons all online. To help users reach their full potential, the online sports education platform features instruction and perspectives from the world’s top coaches and players.

Fun Times at Catapult Startup Field Day 2017

April 8 was a gorgeous spring day in Chicago, and the perfect backdrop for our second annual Catapult Startup Field Day. Over 200 people from the Chicago startup community gathered at the Windy City Field House for basketball, bags, and bocce tournaments. 

It was an amazing day, full of bag tossing, beer drinking, layup making, lobster mac & cheese eating, shop talking, bocce ball throwing, pizza devouring, and trash talking.

Occasion Graduates Catapult

Occasion is now in the alumni column! Congratulations to Occasion, the first company to move out (or should we say grow out?) of Catapult in 2017. Occasion is a scheduling-based e-commerce platform founded in 2013 by Aksh Gupta, Pelle ten Cate and Kieran Klaasen (we love their “met through Airbnb” founding story). The Occasion online calendar solution helps small businesses seamlessly take bookings, promote their business, and manage operations across all channels.

Catapult Hosts WorldChicago Fellow

Catapult is privileged to host a Fellow as part of the WorldChicago Professional Fellows Program. Andrea Cordas, Managing Director at startup accelerator SPARK Business Park in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is spending her Fellowship in Chicago working at Catapult this month. SPARK is a privately funded accelerator with the mission to boost innovation, increase technology, and develop entrepreneurship in the region. 

3PM Marketplace Solutions Joins Catapult

We are excited to welcome 3PM Marketplace Solutions to the Catapult community.

Marketplace websites are the future of online retail. Amazon is the leader, while Alibaba, Walmart, Target, and others are rapidly expanding. There are billions of listings and millions of third party sellers, creating a massive problem for brands. It is a never ending challenge to know who is selling your products and how they are being sold. Enter 3PM Marketplace Solutions.

The Black Sheep Graduates Catapult

Congratulations to The Black Sheep, joining the Catapult graduating class of 2016!

The Black Sheep is a collegiate media and marketing company focused on the millennial audience. Through an integrated, multi-platform approach (including on campus, digital, social, email and print), local and national brands can more authentically and effectively reach the collegiate demographic. The core of The Black Sheep brand is humorous, engaging content written by students, for students, at their own school, thereby building an audience base for clients to reach through the various channels.

Catapult Welcomes Rippleshot

We are proud to announce that Rippleshot has moved into Catapult. 

Rippleshot uses predictive technology to provide a cutting-edge breach detection solution to financial institutions, processors and merchants. Using cloud-based, big data analytics to detect compromises of payment card information dramatically faster than current approaches, Rippleshot allows its users to proactively monitor for suspicious activities and take action when the breach (and the financial risk) is still small. When compromises occur, Rippleshot helps banks and credit unions implement smarter fraud risk management strategies, whether that’s to re-issue a card at high risk, or write smarter decline rules to keep fraud losses and customer disturbances to a minimum.