The Chicago startup ecosystem is bustling with some of the most promising startups in the country. Chicago has long been a hotbed for technology and development, so it’s no surprise that there are some of the best accelerators in the world operating out of Chicagoland. If you just need a bit of help getting off the ground or need funding to get your business to its next level, these top 10 accelerators are definitely worth looking into!
Top 10 Accelerators in Chicago
1. Techstars Chicago
Techstars Chicago conducts programs for startups to connect with investors, mentors, and entrepreneurs. The company selects ten companies every spring to participate in the 13-week intensive summer program. Starting in early June, the ten companies build connections and their businesses during the program. The program culminates in an Investor Demo Day at the end of August where the companies showcase their progress and plans to more than 500 investors and mentors from around the country.
Techstars Chicago was founded in 2010 and is based in Chicago, Illinois.
Top Industries active in: Software, E-Commerce and Internet
Number of Investments: 133
Techstars Chicago's most notable exits include Sworkit Health, Jiobit, and TrueCoach.
REACH is a strategic scale-up program owned and operated by Second Century Ventures, the investment arm of the National Association of Realtors®. Founded in 2013, REACH is focused on helping technology companies connect with one of the largest industries in the world: real estate. By helping companies innovate in the industry, we help hundreds of thousands of small businesses, millions of REALTORS® and consumers and the economy as a whole.
REACH offers its member companies more than 350 mentors from top real estate companies as well as direct access to NAR's membership to become customers and partners. REACH works closely with other accelerators and incubators and welcomes graduates of Excelerate, TechStars, DreamIt, YCombinator to apply to NAR REACH for targeted outreach, ongoing coaching and support.
REACH accepts companies at all stages of investment – from an early idea to a standing company with revenues and investors. REACH is an accelerator with a focus on technology companies in the real estate and adjacent industries.
Top Industries active in: Real Estate, Software and SaaS
Number of Investments: 95
REACH's most notable exits include Trust Stamp, Updater, and Pro.com.
3. Sandbox Industries
Sandbox Industries, founded in 2003, is a Chicago-based venture capital firm with three main business lines: venture funds formed alongside strategic corporate partners, new business accelerator programs, and an innovation consulting business.
Sandbox is the exclusive partner for Blue Cross and Blue Shield Venture Partners I and II, which connects entrepreneurs innovating in the healthcare space with 25 Blue plans across the country for strategic investment and partnerships.
The Cultivian Sandbox Food & Agriculture Fund II is a leading fund in the US which invests in new technologies in the food and agriculture space.
Healthbox, founded in partnership with BCBSVP, is a healthcare accelerator with a presence in several US cities as well as in London. Sandbox is also partnered with TechStars Chicago (formerly Excelerate Labs).
The firm's innovation consulting business, Sandbox Innovation Partners, connects established corporations with emerging companies and helps them work together through pilots, partnerships, investments, or acquisitions.
Top Industries active in: Health Care, Biotechnology and Agriculture.
Number of Investments: 86
Sandbox Industries's most notable exits include Change Healthcare, Descartes Labs, and Phreesia.
4. Financial Solutions Lab
The Financial Solutions Lab was established in 2014 to cultivate, support, and scale innovative ideas that help improve financial health. We focus on solutions addressing acute and persistent financial health challenges faced by low- to moderate-income (LMI) individuals, Black and Latinx communities, and other underserved consumers.
The Financial Health Network manages the Financial Solutions Lab in collaboration with founding partner JPMorgan Chase and with support from Prudential Financial.
Top Industries active in: Financial Services, FinTech and Finance.
Number of Investments: 52
Financial Solutions Lab's most notable exits include Even.com, Prism, and Dave.
5. Cleveland Avenue
Cleveland Avenue deals with seed ventures, early-stage, and private equity deals focused on emerging restaurants, beverages, services, and technologies designed for foodservice and hospitality channels. The firm provides resources and expertise to support remarkable companies and the people behind them.
Top Industries active in: Food and Beverage, Software and Artificial Intelligence.
Number of Investments: 31
Cleveland Avenue's most notable exits include Beyond Meat and Ureeka.
6. Financial Health Network
The Financial Health Network is a trusted resource for business leaders, policymakers, and innovators united in a mission to improve the financial health of their customers, employees, and communities. They envision a future where all people, especially the most vulnerable, have the financial systems they need to be resilient and thrive.
Top Industries active in: Financial Services, FinTech and Credit.
Number of Investments: 19
Financial Health Network's most notable exits include Oportun, Tomorrow Ideas, and AccountNow.
7. Relish Works
Relish Works is an innovation hub focused on challenging the status quo and pioneering the next evolution of the food industry.
It operates as an independent innovation hub focused on user-centered solutions and explore improvements to the established company’s core business, as well as solving for unmet customer needs and developing new businesses.
Top Industries active in: Software, Food and Beverage and Marketplace.
Number of Investments: 11
8. EMERGE CoLab (Powered by TechNexus Venture
The EMERGE CoLab provides a market validation-driven program that provides entrepreneurs access to the right markets, people, and resources to accelerate the growth of their company.
EMERGE works with ventures of all different stages, and its focus is on helping the venture get market traction, and working closely with mentors and corporate partners to develop market fit.
Top Industries active in: Software, Wearables and Hardware.
Number of Investments: 11
EMERGE CoLab (Powered by TechNexus Venture Collaborative)'s most notable exits include Telesense and TRX Systems.
9. Elmspring Accelerator
The elmspring accelerator works with start-ups that offer innovative solutions for the old ways of doing business inside Real Estate. Ideal candidates for the program are pre- or early-market companies with a strong leadership team and a disruptive technology that can be applied to brokerage, housing, mapping, leasing, property management, or construction/design (to name a few).
The program is three-months long and housed inside 1871. Participants in the program receive seed funding, mentorship, complimentary office space at 1871, dedicated marketing support, and unparalleled access to Real Estate industry connections. The company accepts applications on a annual basis in advance of their scheduled sessions.
Top Industries active in: Real Estate, Marketplace and Real Time.
Number of Investments: 8
10. EVC Ventures
EVC Ventures is a Chicago-based venture capital fund focused globally on early-stage startups. They are committed to converting entrepreneurial ideas into compelling fundable propositions and viable businesses in the shortest possible period of time. Since inception, EVC Ventures has invested in a diversified portfolio of startups and has interest in EdTech, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, SaaS, Mobile Apps, Security, Drone Technology and Robotics.
EVC Ventures operates accelerators in both the United States and India, where it provides capital and mentorship support to help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into unicorns.
Top Industries active in: Education, Information Technology and E-Commerce.
Number of Investments: 7