Terry Howerton, Founding Chairman of ITA started his first company when he was 15 and knows the ups and downs of being an entrepreneur. In this video interview Terry shares how he co-founded ITA 10 years ago to create a place where people could self-identify as a tech community in Chicago. Two years later he started a “clubhouse” for this community, TechNexus, which was just named in Forbes as one of the Top 10 Incubators in America. While the 25,000 square foot space downtown was originally built as a collaboration center, TechNexus has morphed into an incubator where all types of people from stakeholders and investors to executives, engineers and IT buyers can gather together.
Since TechNexus opened in 2007, it has hosted 137 companies that have raised $80M and employ 450 people. Open Kernel Labs, a company that creates a virtual machine that sits inside a mobile phone, has been at TechNexus four years and has grown to one billion mobile devices worldwide. You can walk the halls and run into someone from, say, the Advanced Research Team at Motorola Mobility, or a 22 year-old hotshot building a mobile app. This is a tech ecosystem.
Recently we coached two college sophomores with a great idea, who were intent on heading home for the summer to work on product launch. My approach when starting a company is to surround myself with good people. There’s an even larger set of smart, giving, great minds who want to help. So our best piece of advice for the sophomores? Find a great incubator to take you in. It could lead to good things even if you don’t know upfront what’s possible.