Meet Catapult's new Community Coordinator

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5 things about Kelly

 

1. She grew up in Lindenhurst, IL before moving to Chicago for college in 2012. 

2. She has the most photogenic cat -and maybe the largest at 23lbs.

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3. She has a twin fraternal sister, but they look exactly alike! 

4. She can teach group fitness classes from yoga to pound (cardio drumming), and almost everything in between!

5. In her spare time, she likes to sketch, but due to her childhood fascination of horses, they are the only animal that she can draw.

LearnCore Founders Built Catapult Chicago with Fellow Founders in Mind

(CHICAGO, IL) Chicago startup LearnCore recently made headlines for their $50 million acquisition by Showpad but many may not know that Co-Founders Ryan Leavitt and Vishal Shah are also responsible for the creation of Catapult Chicago, the only peer-selected coworking community for later stage startups.

In 2012, Leavitt and Shah were looking for something that didn’t exist to take LearnCore (then VLinks) to the next level. Their business had already begun generating revenue and they were ready to seriously scale their company but at the time, Chicago only offered support for early concept companies and later stage ventures seeking big funding. “We decided to build a community that was completely peer-driven.” says Leavitt. “Our thought was, if we get the best people in Chicago with the best companies in the same place, amazing things are going to happen.” With that in mind, Leavitt and Shah teamed up with colleagues Chris Cain and Galen Mason of Foley & Lardner LLP and opened Catapult Chicago.

Leveraging their network of like-minded entrepreneurs, they invited fellow founders to join in this new community built on experience-sharing. Early Catapult companies include Chicago heavy hitters Shiftgig, Bucketfeet, Opternative, Lumere (formerly Procured Health) and Scholastica. Raaja Namani, founder of Bucketfeet which was acquired by Threadless and is now a founder of Rogue Advising,  was drawn to the unique model. “What’s different about Catapult than other co-working or ‘incubator’ spaces in the city is that it is for entrepreneurs selected by entrepreneurs. This ensures a strong cultural fit between founders.”

Making community a priority is exemplified in Catapult’s Founder Forum, a bi-weekly meeting of current and alumni founders. “I used to call it ‘entrepreneurial therapy’.” Leavitt says. “It’s a place to be with other founders looking to grow, learn, solve challenges, and figure out how to build a sustainable high growth company.” The Catapult communal experience continues even after a company leaves the space.  “Upon graduating, founders have the opportunity to continue their journey as alumni members.” Catapult’s Executive Director, Caitlin McAllister explains. “Founders are able to contribute in either a mentorship or sponsorship capacity, either giving time to current founders and the community, or by helping Catapult through event sponsorship or facility perks.”

Six years later, Catapult continues to be the only non-profit working space for Chicago tech startups with business traction using a peer-selection model. Since inception, 90% of Catapult companies are still in business or have been acquired. Ryan Leavitt remains an active member of Catapult Chicago’s board of directors, while Shah continues as an active contributor to founder forums and the Catapult network.

About Catapult Chicago

Catapult Chicago is the first collaborative community aimed to support growing later-stage

tech startups. Our peer-selection model creates a community of Chicago’s best and brightest, working together to grow the next generation of successful startups. As a non-profit entity, we are supported by the generosity of corporate sponsors that provide professional services, people and mentorship.

For more information visit catapultchicago.com.

New Catapult Sponsors In 2018 (So Far!)

Catapult thrives on community and building meaningful connections. We have been fortunate to expand our community this year with three new sponsors that offer expertise in their respective fields that help our startups scale as efficiently as possible. Their support means everything to us, and we're happy to introduce them!

Started in 2013, Liquid Iron is a full-service Marketing and Advertising communications company. Their focus on building powerful, actionable brands makes them a natural fit for Catapult! “As entrepreneurs ourselves, Kathy and I are all too familiar with the blood, sweat, and tears involved in bringing a business from ideation to fruition,” said Eduardo Dehesa Conde, Co-Founder & President of Liquid Iron. 

They recently celebrated their fifth year of success by adding Iowa State University's Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business to their list of notable clients. The Ivy College of Business was newly named after receiving a generous gift of $50 million dollars from Debbie and Jerry Ivy. Liquid Iron was selected from 14 competing agencies to build the brand and share the impact of this great monetary gift.

With Liquid Iron on board, our companies have an opportunity to power up their brand and increase their market footprint!

Paro helps to take the headache out of bookkeeping so entrepreneurs can focus on scaling. Their mission aligns with Catapult's goal to provide an environment for startups to get the most out of their time.

In their own words: "Paro is an exclusive marketplace of highly vetted, on-demand finance experts empowering people to do what they love. Paro's CEO, Michael Burdick, was working at Deloitte Consulting when he noticed the margins that Big 4 firms were making, simply because of their brand—a cost inaccessible by many. By providing an alternative model of employment and income predictability, Paro challenges the accounting and finance industry to evolve towards the future of work. Since launching in 2015, Paro has helped nearly a thousand companies connect with the top 2% of finance experts. Recently, Paro has received a $5M series A round to support its rapid growth, which will be primarily utilized to spread the gospel of Paro to businesses and talent alike!"

Every Catapult company eventually has to leave the nest and find their own space. Opening an office isn't just about real estate, it's about making the space unique to your company and its culture. That's where Ware Malcomb comes in.  

Established in 1972, Ware Malcomb is an international design firm providing planning, architecture, interior design, branding and civil engineering services to commercial real estate and corporate clients. With office locations throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Panama, the firm specializes in the design of commercial office, corporate, industrial, science & technology, healthcare, retail, auto, public/educational facilities and renovation projects. Ware Malcomb is among the top 20 architecture/engineering firms in Engineering News-Record’s Top 500 Design Firms ranking and the top 30 interior design firms in Interior Design magazine’s Top 100 Giants. For more information, visit waremalcomb.com/news and view Ware Malcomb’s videos at youtube.com/waremalcomb.

Welcome International Tech Fellow, Ana!

Ana Trpovska from Macedonia has joined Catapult’s office this week as an international fellow in the Tech Innovation and Entrepreneurship Professional Fellows Program administered by WorldChicago, sponsored by U.S. Department of State. Sixteen fellows from the Balkans region arrived in Chicago last week to participate in the one-month program that offers opportunities to fellows from around the world to experience the tech, innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chicago, work with some of the organizations that are involved in this field, and exchange knowledge and experiences. She is part of the very first group from Macedonia, as the program has just opened to this small European country.

In Macedonia, Ana works as a Project Manager for one of the biggest business support organizations in the country – CEED Macedonia. CEED is part of a global network of entrepreneurial centers which are located across different countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.

We asked Ana several question to get to know her better.


What is CEED?

CEED Macedonia (Center for Entrepreneurship and Executive Development) is one of the biggest business support organizations in Macedonia. It was established in 2007 in the capital of Skopje as the fifth center in the global network of entrepreneurial and managerial centers. CEED has been providing different forms of business support services through its three main business units: CEED Business and Educational Club, Project’s Department, and CEED Hub Skopje. In its business support activities to Macedonian companies, CEED puts a special emphasis on capacity building and learning programs that focus on practical knowledge, complemented with experience sharing and mentoring by successful local business leaders. Facilitating companies’ access to finance, a strong regional and international network, and new markets is also part of what we do. CEED Macedonia has managed to position itself on the Macedonian market as a unique and innovative business support center that offers (designs and delivers) management, leadership and personal development programs as well as business consulting services.

We are continuously working on improving the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country by addressing the changing needs of the entrepreneurs and businesses, offering to the entrepreneurs a combination of services that will help them further develop and grow their companies. 

I work as a Project Manager at the Project Department, more specifically on projects’ design and development, fundraising and management, and coordination of project implementation.
 

How did you first get involved in innovation/entrepreneurship? 

My first contact with this sector was little bit over 8 and a half years ago, when I first started working for CEED Macedonia. I had a background in project design and development as well as managing project implementation, though before CEED I was working in different fields.  
 

What's your favorite food? 

I would say – posna sarma is my favourite dish which is actually - cabbage rolls stuffed with rice and leek. It’s a regional specialty and a non-meat version of the regular sarma (stuffed cabbage leaves with minced meat and rice). Otherwise, I like Italian cuisine, and I’m more of a savoury kind of person rather than being into sweets. I generally enjoy eating and trying out different food.

What are you most excited to do/see in Chicago? 

It is difficult to decide. I’m most excited that I will meet a lot of interesting new people from different countries and that I will have the opportunity to work in a different setting, but I’m also excited to explore the city. I love jazz music and live gigs in general, so I am super excited that I’m in a place where there is so much to see and hear.


Welcome, Ana! We are very excited to exchange knowledge about supporting entrepreneurs across the globe!

New in 2018: Enrichment Membership!

WHAT IS IT? 

The Catapult Enrichment Membership connects you to over 90 founders, 43
companies, 800 employees in the Catapult network and access to trusted service
providers in verticals designed to help startups scale.

WHO IS IT FOR? 

The program is designed for companies in a similar stage of development as Catapult residents who are settled in their own space, or have more than 15 people on their team. This is also a way to get integrated into the Catapult community if you are on our waitlist for office space.

BENEFITS?

Hecks yes. 

  • Catapult co-working space & amenities 1 day per week
  • 5 hours of conference & phone booth access per month
  • Educational programming specifically tailored to growth stage companies
  • Individual mentoring through our Entrepreneur in Residence program
  • Catapult's cultivated service provider network and unique discounts
  • Community, including tech partners and discounts
  • Printing/Scanning/Wifi
  • Insider Newsletter & Communication

HOW DO I JOIN?

Since Catapult residents are peer-selected, interested companies must pitch to a small group of current founders in order to join.  

PRICING

$100/month
Individual

$150/month
Team (up to 3)

If you are interested, please contact Caitlin McAllister at caitlin@catapultchicago.com.

New Year, New Residents!

Outside, the temperature is sub-zero, but our hearts are warm at Catapult as we welcome four new companies: MonumentPrecognitive, Printavo, and mRelief.

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Monument has created an Artificial Intelligence-powered device to help folks keep their memories stored and organized in one place. Instead of carrying multiple USBs and logging into multiple clouds, their product stores all of your photos and videos, organizing them by date, location, person and more. The company, co-founded by Ercan Erciyes and Semih Hazar, launched in 2016 with one of the most funded Kickstarter projects in the technology category worldwide. Since then, they've gained customers in 94 countries and on-shelf presence at Best Buy. Not only are they startup superstars, they're some of the nicest guys around the Catapult office. 

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Founded in 2016, Precognitive uses a multi-layered approach to proactively identifying fraud before a transaction takes place. CEO Sam Bouso has brought together a team of fraud and risk management professionals to assist ecommerce merchants and financial institutionsin staying ahead of tech-savvy fraudsters. After a $1.25M seed funding round in May of 2017, Precognitive is on track for a great year of growth and we're happy to call them part of the family!

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Also joining the Catapult house is the B2B SaaS company, Printavo! Printavo is a cloud-based online software designed for artisan shops specializing in prints, signage & promotional materials, embroidery and more. Founder Bruce Ackerman was running a printing business on a college campus himself when he discovered the need for a platform to help organize the backend of image based shops. This firsthand experience ensures clients that Printavo understands their needs and are committed to increasing a shop's efficiency and productivity. Printavo is especially cool because they are a startup that encourages other startups with a blog chock-full of tips and strategies on how to develop a small business. We're eager to learn more from Bruce and his team!

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The fourth company to join the Catapult community is mRelief. mRelief is a nonprofit created to address the $13 billion in unclaimed food stamps in America. To this end mRelief has built an easy-to-use platform on web and text messaging for low-income Americans to find out if they qualify and enroll for food stamps. Co-founders Rose Afriyie (who has worked at Google’s Community Partnerships Program and interned with the White House during the passage of healthcare reform) and Genevieve Nielsen (one of Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs) have developed a platform that simplifies the process for low-income Americans to find out if they qualify and apply for food stamps. Already live in 42 states, mRelief has helped over 235,000 families connect to social services. Catapult is proud to have this female-founded, community-driven company in the house.

You thought your house was full over the holidays? You should see ours! No seriously, come on by and say hello to these amazing companies before you read about them on all of the "Best of 2018" lists. Head here to schedule a tour and learn more about how to join our one-of-a-kind community.

Graduation Caps for 3PM Solutions, Junto, and Rent like a champion!

We're proud to announce our three recent Catapult graduates!

3PM SOLUTIONS

 We'll miss seeing these smiling faces every day!

We'll miss seeing these smiling faces every day!

3PM Solutions is a global analytics provider focused on eCommerce marketplace websites like Amazon, eBay and Walmart. 3PMs cloud-based platform provides users with the best in class dataset and solutions to increase eCommerce revenue. From never before seen insights to metrics that measure eCommerce performance, 3PM is trusted by the most recognized Fortune 500 brands.

3PM joined Catapult in August 2016.  They began 2017 with an annual recurring revenue (ARR) below one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and passed the one million dollar milestone prior to exiting Catapult. During their tenure, the team tripled and clients increased fifteenfold.

“Passing this milestone for a SaaS company is a big accomplishment, said Rob Dunkel, Founder. “Catapult was a great experience and I look forward to continuing the relationship.” They’ve left the Catapult nest and moved into their own office space. Best of luck to Rob and the 3PM Solutions team! Stay in touch with them at 3pm.ai.

THe junto institute

The Junto Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership is an accelerator for growth-stage startups with a unique focus on emotional intelligence, education, and mentoring. Founder Raman Chadha began setting Junto's course in 2010 and was later joined by Catherine Jelinek. The company launched its pilot program and first cohort in 2013. Inspired by Benjamin Franklin's model of uniting entrepreneurs of his time, Junto creates an educational space that brings mentors, instructors, and entrepreneurs together to unleash their own growing power. 

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While they were residents of Catapult, Junto did some growing of their own. Junto bootstrapped and brought on 5 new hires, bringing their team to 7. Now, with 20 graduate companies, they are expanding to LA. We are so proud to have gotten to know a company with so many similar values and aspirations for the field of entrepreneurship. Follow them on Twitter: @JuntoInst and learn more at thejuntoinstitute.com.

Rent Like a Champion

Rent Like A Champion started out as a Notre Dame student housing rental company that happened to list a vacant apartment as a weekend rental for a football game and it turned out so well that the company was able to pivot into their current space. "Many college towns lack the infrastructure to support the tens of thousands of football fans who flock to town on game weekends," says Mike Doyle, CEO of Rent Like A Champion. "We're all college football fans so we had experienced first hand the difficulty in finding lodging in these situations. Rent Like A Champion gives traveling fans the option to stay in a home close to campus, and keep their friends and family under one roof."

 Behold, as they lunch like champions!

Behold, as they lunch like champions!

The Company joined Catapult in 2015 and during their tenure the company appeared on Shark Tank twice and were able to raise $200K from those appearances. They have also expanded their reach by partnering with 10 PGA Tour events which include hosting golfers, tournament sponsors, and tournament vendors.  Along the way they also increased their revenue twofold on an annual basis and added 2,500 new homes to their platform.

We’re sad to see Rent Like A Champion leave but, we’re excited to see what comes next for them. Follow them on Twitter: @RentLikeAChampion and learn more at rentlikeachampion.com.

While parting is such sweet sorrow, we are excited to cheer on our graduating alumni as they continue on their journey!

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: http://www.payyourselfie.com/ 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: Fly.io, 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.