Chicago Startups Could Use A Guy Like Hillel Fuld

Chicago Startups Could Use A Guy Like Hillel Fuld

By Diane Israel

If you’re anywhere within the orbit of the Israeli startup scene, you already know the name Hillel Fuld. A serial entrepreneur, Fuld has been advising Israeli startups for decades and is rightly what you would call a guru. His passion for Israeli startups is without question, helping incubate early-stage ideas into products, services, and a real revenue stream, what the rest of us know as being in business.

Like the anonymous source that has been dropping real silver dollars into an unsuspecting Salvation Army bell ringer at Christmas season — whoever this person is has been doing it for over twenty years — Fuld may lack the anonymity only for his extraordinary success in Israeli startup nation is pure gratis. Like the anonymous good samaritan in Chicago, Fuld’s motives are suspect of that often talked about but rarely scene ideal. The altruist.

Here in Chicago, fledgling startup communities have sprouted up near the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) campus, and a few hamlets here and there in the newly rehabilitated West Loop/Fulton Market, nestled closely to the aspiring new digs of Google. All of this has forged two new industries to accommodate startup nations. The coworking concept of creating very flexible floor plans to expand and shrink to the needs of various startups and former startups who share common services and space with their contemporaries. And the latest trend, one that is its own form of disruption in real estate. Co-living housing.

The two innovations converge in one building in the West Loop, with coworking pioneer Industrious sharing space with Medici Living Group’s Quarters brand for co-living housing. Imagine that lucky employee who works in Industrious’ space and then has that long commute home to Quarters. Perhaps a Guinness record for shortest commute depending on whether they take the stairs or an elevator.

Yet the grandfather of startup hubs, the one that’s been around for over ten years now, is 1871 located on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart. Like Industrious, 1871 offers coworking space for hundreds of startups along with free legal, accounting, and marketing mentorship programs and various free seminar sponsored by the corporate establishment. And it doesn’t stop there. On the very same floor, coworking service provider Regus competes directly against 1871 to woo startups. It’s all very strange. All this competition for startup dollars who by definition don’t have much to spend. Sure. Some of them will get funded which will change their fate overnight, but how many? 1 percent? Maybe.

All things considered, Chicago’s startup community is thriving, and that’s a good thing by any measure. But let’s face it. One of these startups needs to hit the bigtime. And then just maybe, from its success may emerge its own Hillel Fuld. One can only hope.