The Commercial Real Estate Life Cycle Of Chicago Tech Startups
Thanks in part to several public and private initiatives, Chicago’s startup scene has begun garnering national attention. And, while it's not likely to surpass Silicon Valley anytime soon, you can’t deny the Windy City’s burgeoning track record of cultivating ideas from seed round to bona fide tech giant status...and offering some amazing office space to house these growing firms.
We’ve rounded up four tech companies in various stages of the commercial real estate life cycle. From shared incubators to award-winning, full-floor, Class-A trophy space, here’s how some of Chicago’s highest-profile tech startups are navigating the office leasing game.
Rent Like A Champion
Address: 321 N Clark St
Submarket: River North
Chicago Employees: ~10
Size: N/A (Incubator)
Bursting onto the national scene after nabbing a $200k investment on NBC’s Shark Tank, Rent Like A Champion bills itself as the Airbnb of college sporting events, helping property owners in college towns rent out their space come game day.
Since then, the company has opted to work out of Catapult Chicago, a nonprofit incubator in the tech tenant-heavy River North neighborhood. The company enjoys being part of a like-minded community of startups, citing networking opportunities, entrepreneurial advisory and relationship building.
CEO Mike Doyle tells us, even though the space is shared, there are still plenty of ways to uniquely express their culture. Since Rent Like A Champion is so college football-centric, the team decorated its room with the logos and mascots of its biggest college town markets.
And while the company is able to avoid typical direct River North rents (renting like…er…champions) or multi-year commitments, it still relishes all the amenities the neighborhood has to offer: great lunch spots, local delis, upscale restaurants and no shortage of bars for post-work refreshments.
Address: 740 N Ogden Ave
Submarket: River West
Chicago Employees: 7
Size: 1,840 SF
A full-service iOS and Android design and development firm, BlueLine Labs has been building a name for itself right along with its apps. And while the company is still young, it devotes 5% to 10% of its resources to no- or low-cost apps for social justice and nonprofit companies.
Situated off the Chicago Blue Line station in the River West neighborhood, the somewhat-off-the-radar location means reasonable rents, without sacrificing accessibility to downtown.
CEO and co-founder Reed Rawhouser tells Bisnow his company's office is “a place that you can get work done, but don’t feel like you are confined to a box…or a cubicle.”
The space, which is actually zoned for live/work, is open, laid-back and comfortable. Clients often reference the "homey" feel of the office, which boasts a full kitchen, soaring ceiling heights and luxury washrooms.
Address: 641 W Lake St
Submarket: West Loop
Chicago Employees: 40+
Size: 5,700 SF
Rocketmiles, a hotel-booking company that lets travelers earn toward their favorite loyalty programs with every stay, recently expanded and relocated from its original West Loop address.
Promoting a collaborative environment in the new space, Rocketmiles removed several walls and traded in individual desks for lengthy, shared tables. The walls they did keep section off a few conference rooms, all of which are named for memorable team experiences—such as "Winter 1904 Has Been Adjudicated," which is a tribute to their ongoing, company-wide Diplomacy matches.
For anyone looking to take a break or work away from the table, Rocketmiles also designed a library and listening lounge. New hires are able to order their favorite book and record for each room, allowing employees to learn more about each other and discover new material.
Director of partnerships Daniel Fohrman tells us location (steps away from the Fulton Market) was the driving factor behind their decision. Accessibility to CTA and Metra stations aside, he points out, “We love Cemitas Puebla, PQM and anything on Randolph in the West Loop.”
Address: 330 N Wabash Ave
Submarket: River North
Chicago Employees: 250+
Size: 65k SF
Rounding out our list is one of Chicago's highest-growth technology companies, Context Media. Revolutionizing point-of-care products for medical offices, the company offers digital room waiting screens, mobile applications and exam room tablets, all tied together by relevant, award-winning healthcare content.
Regularly featured in various “Best Places To Work” lists, the office is stocked with massage chairs, yoga classes, treadmills, ping pong tables and game rooms. As is only appropriate for a healthcare-focused firm, the company places a great deal of emphasis on the well-being of its employees.
With design help from Charlie Green Studio owner Jason Hall, the space is bright, open and modern, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering breath-taking panoramic views of the Chicago cityscape.
And while there’s no need to leave the office for a cup of coffee (thanks to a full-time barista), Context Media’s River North location is well-suited for its noticeably Millennial-heavy workforce, a cohort naturally drawn to the area's urban, live/work/play environment.