In 2012, Ryan Leavitt and Vishal Shah (Co-Founders of LearnCore) were looking for something that didn’t exist to take their startup to the next level. Their business had already begun generating revenue and they were ready to seriously scale their company but at the time, Chicago only offered support for early concept companies and later stage ventures seeking big funding. The idea for a new type of coworking emerged: Get the best people in Chicago with the best companies in the same place, and amazing things will happen. With that in mind, Leavitt and Shah teamed up with colleagues Chris Cain and Galen Mason of Foley & Lardner LLP and opened Catapult Chicago.
Over the last 8 years, Catapult has run with the same peer-selected model to foster a community that focuses on collaboration. Catapult looks for digital tech startups with proven traction - which often means they've gone through a round or funding, and are generating users and/or revenue. Catapult is industry agnostic, but all startups are at similar stages of growth and therefore experiencing the same growing pains that come with scaling. Upon meeting these requirements, companies then pitch to all current founders, some alumni and members of the Catapult board. Once accepted, companies are able to stay for up to two years, and Catapult provides a variety of events, programming and mentorship to help companies scale.
Catapult’s success can be contributed to the community cultivated through founder empowerment and experience sharing. Today, 86% of Catapult’s startups are operational or have been acquired. Catapult’s peer selection process can be described as the “secret-sauce” in Catapult’s success. On average, companies who incubate in Catapult scale their company 187% and have an average annual revenue of $2.9 Million. Since 2012, Catapult has incubated over 52 companies with 90+ founders who have raised over $309 Million. Each year, Catapult’s community grows with successful alumni, mentors and sponsors who give back to the next wave of Chicago tech startups.