Startup Illinois: Questions Abound

July 26, 2011 | By | Add a Comment

[in lieu of Governor Quinn signing legislation at Techweek, I need to update this story. In the meantime, I’d like to add, amongst all the rejoicing about “funding for startups”, that it’s actually funding for venture capital companies, and only in hopes that they pass it on to local startups. And wait, aren’t venture capital firms often owned and run by some of the wealthiest investors in the city? Anyway, I trust the Illinois state government’s judgment,  it’s not like Quinn gave over $3 million to Groupon right before Google paid them a visit… ]

Kathryn Born

Startup Illinois, a regional version of Startup America, was launched on May 20th to aid entrepreneurs in growing their startups. It’s also connected to the Illinois Innovation Network.

The mission of this non-profit can be summed up in the following statement:

“The Startup America Partnership will not provide direct assistance to entrepreneurs, but it will “serve as a force that expands the availability and effectiveness of resources.”

The other half of Startup Illinois is The Illinois Innovation Network (IIN). The IIN is a part of Governor Pat Quinn’s Illinois Science and Research Coalition (ISRC). The mission of the IIN is to “identify and advance strategies to foster and accelerate the innovation and economic growth that will create the jobs of today and tomorrow.” Pat Quinn formed the council to recognize that Illinois needs to improve its standing if we (Illinois) are to stay on the leading edge of innovation and to remain globally competitive.

In the site’s current state, now months after its launch, it essentially provides visitors with thirty links to other websites that may potentially help a young company. The most concrete help, at the current time, is pressure for large companies, like IBM and Microsoft, to give discounts to entrepreneurs. However, no actual discounts or specific programs are in place.

Questions abound. Is the current state of the website just the initial vision? If so, when will additional information be added? Has something gone awry, and plans to update the site at a steady pace have been derailed? The disproportionate fanfare of the launch, which included a speech of from Govenor Quinn and some of the biggest names in the startup scene, is contrasted with a site that currently contains less

Screen capture from the Startup Illinois website

information than the sidebar of Built in Chicago, (a $20/mo Ning website with 3,000 users).

We requested an interview via Allyson Burns, the person listed as the contact, and received a form letter in reply, so we don’t have additional insights at this time.

Does the emptiness of the site symbolize the emptiness of the promises by state government? Is the site –in contrast to a $20 community site launched by a sole entrepreneur– a symbol that the private startup sector, can, in it’s very clever, creative, resourceful, shoestring nature, survive on its own just fine?

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