This lovely morning I schlepped myself across Chicago to meet with several people who are building something that is hard to quantify. It’s not a quite an incubator, although the companies that it houses are relatively young. It’s not a coworking space either, but some individual people who are deemed excellent will be allowed to work from there. It’s also not a normal office space, as it’s designed to let companies share resources, and grow by helping each other out.
There’s not really a name for it, in other words. It’s creators just call it Catapult.
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The idea was hatched when two of its three founders were vamping over the issues that they had, and how it would be great to have space where they could work nearby, but not on top of one another. Later, law firm Foley & Lardner offered up a massive tract of office space for the project. And thus Catapult was born.
Currently six companies reside in Catapult, but more are coming. Roughly forty people work in the space, but that will be ramped up to 100. I asked what sort of demand they were seeing, and they said point-blank that it was very high. ‘I’ve toured over 100 companies,’ co-founder Ryan Leavitt told me.
Catapult is selectively screening companies for cultural fit. The idea is to foster an ‘open door’ work ethic, allowing companies to work on their own, and together. This requires that only firms that can play well with others, are a chock full of big brains that others might want to pick, can be let in.
The space itself is bachelor-barren at the moment, as most of the furniture has yet to be moved in. I was given an in-depth tour, complete with diagrams of what was soon to be installed. If what is on paper translates directly to reality, Catapult is going to quickly become the single best place to work in Chicago that I’ve been to.
Happily, while Catapult is getting up to cruising altitude, other spaces such as the massive 1871 are coming online as well. 1871 is a more traditional coworking location, and is in fact only blocks from Catapult. Both are in the very heart of Chicago’s downtown. The city’s startup scene is about to have two bright lights added to its constellation.
I’ll be heading back out to Catapult in the next few months, to check in on the progress that the team is making. For now, here’s who is in the space: VLinks Media, MentorMob, Style Seek, Tech.li, Afiniate, and 5Degrees. I’ll be curious to see who makes the cut next. And if you end up working at Catapult, you might just spot your local, friendly tech blogger from time to time.