When Terry Howerton co-founded TechNexus in 2007, the Illinois Tech Association founder was placing a bet that old companies would need new ideas, and that new companies would need meaningful workspace. Moving the burgeoning accelerator for mid-size companies into the Civic Opera House’s 12th floor only underscored the incubator’s position at a metaphorical crossroads:
TechNexus is at the junction of high tech and art deco, where established corporate citizens meet upstart new startups.
Their website shows confidence in their market position: “Where startups go to grow up,” it reads.
Part incubator, part business-to-business office space, part matchmaker to legacy corporations seeking partnership with startups before being disrupted by them, TechNexus sees 3,000 members a month, is expanding its office space and is strengthening its in-roads into a B-to-B pipeline that includes 750 local companies.
The new space includes private offices, shared space and conference rooms, a video studio, glass walls and chic industrial lights. There are hardwood floors for a touch of nostalgia, and a sleek kitchen that could double as a cocktail lounge after sunset.
“Our business model here is not so much to say we’re trying to accelerate, though we also do: Some come in and out in three or four months. But it’s also part of having the right ecosystem,” said Howerton, sitting in the space’s new kitchen area and naming a handful of tenants, each with decades of corporate experience, chugging small businesses and multi-million-dollar exits on their resumes. “Those are the people you want sitting in your kitchen.”
People like that have done frequent business with big business, he said. When a younger, scaling company wants to know how to find the fast decision stream inside a local corporation’s apparently still waters, likely someone in TechNexus knows the person to call. Howerton and his cofounders stack the deck that way.
They’ve also made their location convenient for the members they want to attract — midway between Metra stations and CTA stations, with nice views of the Chicago River and city skyline, and within walking distance to many of the downtown clients its tenants partner with.
The further you get from the beginning of the entrepreneurial pipeline, the less coworking tenants voice enthusiasm for amenities like kismet and serendipity, and the more critical ingredients for building startups matter — someone who can code, a designer, a finance person. At a certain point, it’s assumed those skills are already on the team.
Things like connections into large companies matter more than mind-blowing ideas. Things like access to train lines for mid-career suburban teammates matter, as do private offices for small teams and shared space for big ones. (Amenities like coffee on demand always matter.)
For the active small tech business or a scaling startup, TechNexus thinks it has the answer. Its founders have positioned themselves to capitalize on it.
12th Floor, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Upper Wacker Dr.
Taylor Kinsella, Clubhouse Coordinator
Hours: 24/7 for members
Amenities: Wifi and high-speed internet, private and shared space, video studio, dedicated desks, conference center, kitchen, in-building gym membership, convenient to city and suburban transportation, parking garages, restaurants.
Daily packages: Drop-in privileges for Illinois Tech Association members, and for prospective monthly tenants during trial.
Monthly member: $250/month for shared space, $600/person/month for dedicated desks with hardwired amenities. Larger office arrangements available.
Read the full article here.
By: Margaret Valtierra