I don't know if there's a "season" for this sort of thing, but it sure seemed like over the winter, there were very few events which were "on topic" for Green Tech Chicago, but all of a sudden, they seem to be picking up again. I'd actually had the Launch Party for Coalition: Loop on my calendar for quite a while, just for the networking, but was contacted early last week seeing if we'd be interested in covering it.
You might be wondering why a co-working space like Coalition fits in here ... well, they feature an interesting mix of influences. Coalition has various other locations, in New York and Boston, and was coming into Chicago and looking for some way to differentiate themselves from the many other co-working options out there. They got hooked up with Energy Foundry (which you may recall from the post from a conference at IIT last fall), which was looking to have something themed to start-ups in their niche.
Energy Foundry is a catalyst for the energy-tech revolution in Illinois. We invest in impact venture capital and provide integrated support to forge game-changing grid and energy companies.
The combination of these two groups appears to be working out, as at the time of the official "launch" event, they were already 60% filled. Admittedly, the "CleanTech" branding is a bit different from "green tech", and I had to go a-googling to find a definition ... here's what Investopedia has to say about it: "a term used to describe an investment philosophy used by investors seeking to profit from environmentally friendly companies. Cleantech firms seek to increase performance, productivity and efficiency by minimizing negative effects on the environment.". Not exactly your uncle's corner victory garden, I guess.
Here's a bit of what the Coalition had to say about the new Loop location in their press release:
"We see the launch of Coalition as a crucial step to uniting industry leaders and innovators across Chicago," said David Rotbard, Co-Founder of Coalition. "With this community and others to come, we want to give small business owners a space they're proud to take their clients, and a community with a vibrant culture that'll promote new ideas."
"This impressive coworking community will provide a central hub for clean technology innovation," Governor Quinn said of Coalition. "Illinois is proud to be at the forefront of the clean energy revolution, and this innovative space will help drive this thriving entrepreneurial community forward."
We were provided with one of the center's small conference rooms to do interviews (although, due to the "open" lay-out, this only toned down the ambient noise from the party), and we got a chance to interview both David Rotbard, Co-Founder of Coalition, and Jason Blumberg of Energy Foundry. Here's what Mr. Rotbard had to say:
And here's the background on how the project got pulled together, by Mr. Blumberg:
The space itself is rather impressive, taking up what they describe as "the penthouse suite" on the top floor of the Gage Building, part of the historic architectural fronting along Michigan Avenue facing Grant Park. As noted, the lay-out is quite open, with areas blocked out at floor level, but open to the very high ceilings (with windows, as mentioned in one of the interviews, that provide enough light that few fixtures need to be run during daytime).
While it appears that anybody can get space at Coalition (and they have a number of plans, from something just up from a mail-drop to dedicated private offices), the focus is on having "cleantech" and energy-sector companies at this location. In the next post we'll talk to some of the current tenant whose projects will give a bit better look at the sort of businesses involved.
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