ML - Michigan Avenue

2013 - Issue 3 - May/June

Michigan Avenue - Niche Media - Michigan Avenue magazine is a luxury lifestyle magazine centered around Chicago’s finest people, events, fashion, health & beauty, fine dining & more!

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Digital agency Doejo was born from a series of coffee shops. Maria Christopoulos Katris, Built In Chicago CEO "Chicago is finally at a point where enough entrepreneurs are investing both time and money in the next generation." —MARIA CHRISTOPOULOS KATRIS experience back then has made him something of a sage, a trailblazer for the next generation, with a valuable perspective on the future of the local industry and its young leaders. "I've always been a proponent of 'co-opetition,' the culture of collaboration when possible," he says. "And I think there will be even more cooperation over the next three to five years." There's another piece in this puzzle, and that's the city itself. Chicago has reliable L and bus systems and imminent bike-lane developments. The city is evaluating how much of its miles of dark (unused) fiber could be lit for Mayor Emanuel's ambitious "Internet Essentials" plan, the "next" next wave—offering high-speed Internet to low-income families for approximately $10 a month. This town, with its history of smelly stockyards and rumbling train cars, has a legacy of making and carrying. And if this tech generation is to thrive, both the infrastructure and the reputation must be leveraged. "It's an attempt to MAKERS & THINKERS In the year since it opened, creative co-working space 1871 has garnered significant attention as an idea hub. Founded by ex-Googler Kevin Willer and the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, the facility nods to the fast-paced innovation and development that occurred in the wake of the city's Great Fire. Based in the Merchandise Mart and home to 160-plus startups, 1871 is widely acknowledged as a prototype for "thinker" spaces. But what about "maker" spaces? "We're a focal point nationally for hardware hacking and digital fabrication," says John Tolva, the city's chief technology officer. Technology like 3-D printing has digital roots, he adds, "but it's also very disruptive to supply chains." change the perception of Chicago," says John Tolva, the city's first chief technology officer, appointed in 2011. "We're not flinging pork bellies anymore." But the question remains: Why now? Why, after so many false starts and failed attempts, are people so optimistic? "I think it's a maturation of our local venture capitalists," Tolva says. "They lived through the bubble and the burst, which was not kind to Chicago, and there's a level of pragmatism that was born of that failure in the '90s. Now, they're making the right bets." The growing presence of young operators like Spartz, Tadros, Moceri, and Kravitz—combined with the mayor's push to make digital innovation a cornerstone of his administration—signals that Chicago has a real shot in the race to raise its flag. "There are a lot of people working very hard behind the scenes on a 10-year plan to make this the top destination in the world for a B2B startup," Kravitz says. "I'm pretty bullish on Chicago over the next decade." MA Hardware, software, and the ideas that drive them are made in Chicago. A prime example is Pumping Station: One, a 4,000-square-foot warehouse in Avondale whose 130-plus members have access to tools and work spaces in a variety of disciplines, from textiles to metalworking to electronics. This version of "hacking" is the logical progression of the DIY movement, fueled by the belief that anything can be taken apart and improved. (Even the walls at PS:1 can be hacked; art-focused members paint on them at will.) Similar spaces have been popping up across the country, many governed by the ethos of "be excellent to each other." PS:1's members have created everything from a printed remote control car to a HAL computer system that can unlock your apartment via smartphone à la 2001: A Space Odyssey. "It's a do-ocracy: If you like something, do it," explains Adam Dzak, PS:1's media liaison. "If someone doesn't like what you did, they can do it differently." All the hubbub has inspired spin-offs. After catching the bug at PS:1, Matt Campbell started South Side Hackerspace for a community of makers near Bridgeport. Though it's still searching for a permanent home, the group has held workshops on how to hack Nerf guns to launch the foam darts farther, and some members have completed a working synthesizer from scratch. "Once you learn how something works, you can make it better," Campbell says. "The goal of hacking is to get people excited about what they can do and to expand their worlds." MICHIGANAVEMAG.COM 118-121_MA_FEAT_Reportage_Sum_Fall_13.indd 121 121 4/16/13 3:24 PM

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