5 Overlooked Startup Hot Spots in Chicago

As Chicago’s startup community grows, there is an interesting dichotomy. More people who want to interact in real life, with less of a draw to do so in traditional ways. Forget that stuffy hotel board room, or that new restaurant that is still trying to compel you with bacon-infused whatever, and start taking advantage of spots that allow creativity to flourish. Whether it’s via launch parties, meetings, networking events or simple creative brainstorming sessions, these are the 5 overlooked startup hot spots you need to check out in Chicago.

1. Catalyst Ranch: If one were to marry the backstage of a Cirque de Soleil show with an epic set of board rooms they might begin to have an idea of the creativity infused into doing business at the catalyst Ranch in Chicago’s West Loop. Packing multiple rooms across two floors there is something for every type of business conversation. From small creative drawing rooms, to large floor space for presentations, a corner with southern themed patio furniture, to a room evocative of a Moroccan sultan’s personal quarters with floor pillows to boot. This is the place for anyone launching a new creative concept, anyone looking to wow some investors and shake them out of their comfort zone, or at the least a retreat for a day to rev up the creative engines.

2. The Martini Yacht: Refined without being over the top, affordable without sacrificing all the things that make a yacht a yacht, this boat allows Chicagoans to take advantage of those rare occasions where business can be conducted outdoors. While boats are nothing new where client entertainment is concerned, Chicago has a rare few that are not mega-sized and incredibly cheesy. The Martini Yacht is where you can personalize a more intimate experience for those you want to entertain, whether that be investors, clients or new partners.

networking, introverts

3.Free-Range Office: FREO has a space with a story, an open floor plan that doesn’t look like cubicle city and offers some truly unique party/networking space. Converted from a funky and incredibly historic bucktown loft, the space’s massive open kitchen sits in the middle of the main room. This means you can start hosting your events in intriguing new ways. Rent out the space for a company cooking class? Bring in a chef to wow your investors? Why not, happy networking bon-petit?

4. Humboldt Park’s Boat House: Located in a neighborhood that is finally on the rise, Humboldt park is severely overlooked as one of the most gorgeous spots in the entire city of Chicago. From rose fields, hills, lakes to biking paths, jibarito sandwiches to slack lines, the park blooms in the summer. Central to its perks, is a boat house overlooking a relaxing lagoon, that offers beauty, nature and some quiet in the city of big shoulders. The space is rentable for your events that require larger venues, but will be a fraction of the cost of say stuffier spots and ballrooms (I’m talking to “The Drake”) as well as less infused with those concerned more with scene than substance.

5. The IVY Room at Tree Studios: The Tree Studios were built after Chicago hosted The World Fair to entice European artists to come to the Windy city. It worked and since that time the Tree Studios have been central to Chicago’s arts scenes. Vaguely reminiscent of an English Garden in the exterior, the interior IVY room hosts everything from weddings to conferences, but with a flair. This is not where you come to be surrounded by cutting edge, state of the art surround sound, but instead bask in a spot that is haunted with creativity from its beginnings. Whether hip and techy or creative and unique, the space alone is enough to shake up even the most square of programmers.

Find out more about these overlooked Chicago hot spots.

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Written by:
Zachary Weiner is the CEO of Emerging Insider, a PR, content relations and communications agency for Emerging Media and technology organizations and startups. He is a frequent universty lecturer and has acted as thought leader across publications from INC and the Guardian to AdWeek and ImediaConnection.
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