Why a Tech Association Merged With a Tech Incubator

The Illinois Technology Association will join forces with 1871, a Chicago-area tech incubator that focuses on small companies. Together, the groups say, they create a full package to support the state's tech sector.

It’s not unheard of for technology incubators to work directly with associations to help build out new ideas. The Washington, DC-based 1776 has done this on repeated occasions with a variety of trade groups.

But in Chicago, a similar organization took a different kind of leap entirely. The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, a nonprofit best known for running the technology accelerator 1871, recently acquired the Illinois Technology Association. Betsy Ziegler, the incubator’s CEO, noted to Crain’s Chicago Business that the idea was to bring 1871’s focus on small and large companies together with ITA’s emphasis on established tech firms.

“It’s a direct complement,” said Ziegler, who will lead the combined organization. “We have incubation at our core, and we’re doing more on corporate innovation. But we don’t do anything in the middle. This expands the range of programs and completes the stack.”

The merger will bring ITA and 1871 employees under the same roof, and fundraising events run by the two organizations will now be run jointly. However, ITA’s political advocacy fund will not come along in the merger: As the Chicago Sun-Times notes, 1871’s 501(c)(3) status does not allow it to take part in political activities. The fund will be made available for another group that wants to take on such work.

ITA founder Terry Howerton, CEO of TechNexus Venture Collaborative, told the Sun-Times that the merger nonetheless helps fulfill the original mission of the association.

“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,” Howerton said.

The incubator has a prominent pedigree. Current Illinois governor and former venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker helped launch 1871 in 2012 in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart building.

(turbodesign777/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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