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1871 business incubator acquires Illinois Technology Association

The deal puts help for startups and established tech firms under one roof.

Betsy Ziegler, CEO of 1871
Betsy Ziegler, CEO of 1871
Provided by 1871

The operator of the 1871 technology hub said Tuesday it has taken over most assets and programs of the Illinois Technology Association, a move that unites two nonprofits that nurture economic growth in Chicago.

Betsy Ziegler, CEO of 1871, said the acquisition will result in one organization that serves both as an incubator for startups and as a resource for more established companies. The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, owner of 1871, has traditionally focused on startups while ITA worked with larger enterprises.

“It’s a complement to what we currently do,” Ziegler said of the acquisition. “It completes the end-to-end support stack for our services.”

She said that with other resources for entrepreneurs being available, such as the product-focused mHub and the healthcare-focused Matter, the 1871-ITA combination should provide “more clarity and cohesion” in how Chicago is supporting young companies.

Ziegler said all seven ITA staffers will join 1871, bringing its head count to 33. She said the acquisition involved no cash payment and does not include a political advocacy fund that ITA maintained.

Ziegler said that as a 501(c)3, organization, 1871 is forbidden from lobbying or other political activity. The ITA fund could be taken over by another group that wants to promote tech jobs in Chicago, she said.

“When we started ITA in 2005, our goal was to bring together the tech entrepreneurs and leaders of Chicago, to support and lift each other in building better companies,” said Terry Howerton, who founded ITA, and is CEO of TechNexus Venture Collaborative. He said ITA helped create “the vibrant, inter-connected tech community that Chicago now enjoys. Today there are dozens of organizations expanding that mission. I expect this 1871-ITA combination to better amplify all of Chicago.”

Founded in 2005, ITA has supported more than 400 companies. The Merchandise Mart-based 1871 said it is home to 450 startups and small ventures. Launched in 2012, 1871 said 650 companies have relocated from its space to create more than 11,250 jobs.

ITA will move from the Civic Opera Building at 20 N. Wacker Dr. to the Merchandise Mart. Ziegler said 1871’s lease at the Merchandise Mart continues through February 2024.