Our Story

The story of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 isn’t really about the fire. It’s about what happened next: A remarkable moment when the most brilliant engineers, architects and inventors came together to build a new city. Their innovations – born of passion and practical ingenuity – shaped not just Chicago, but the modern world. What started 140 years ago continues to this day.

Founded in 2012, 1871 was created to support Chicago’s digital startup community. Since that time, it has become the hub for the city’s thriving technology and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Today 1871 is the home of more than 400 early-stage, high-growth digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, this 120,000 square foot facility is also the headquarters of nationally recognized accelerators, industry-specific incubators, tech talent schools, the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition — the state’s leading technology advocate, a number of Chicago-based VCs, and satellite offices for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, DeVry University, and DePaul University.

Chicago’s brightest digital designers, engineers and entrepreneurs are shaping new technologies, disrupting old business models, and resetting the boundaries of what’s possible. If that sounds like you, join us.

Come to a place where you can share ideas, make mistakes, work hard, build your business and, with a little luck, change the world.

Welcome to 1871.

Our Values

Innovation and Technology

We’re here to prove that the entrepreneurs of Chicago are making a real impact on the world’s technological landscape. 1871 is home to 1000+ inventors, designers, creators, and do-ers that are building better, faster, cleaner solutions to everyday problems, and we’re committed to supporting them as they innovate for the future.

Education and Inspiration

Building and learning go hand in hand. Tenants and members of 1871 have priority access to hundreds of classes, lectures, seminars and other programs designed to educate and inspire. From classes specifically designed to empower entrepreneurs, to talks from leading business-builders, technologists and designers, to inspirational sessions from artists and others, 1871 offers a full range of content and programming.

Inclusion and Diversity

The absence of exclusion is not enough; at 1871, we believe that we must be actively inclusive in order to build a more diverse community, and that responsibility lies with not just 1871 as an organization, but with every single person who walks through our door. These efforts are promulgated through all aspects of our organization, from our membership, to the way we hire, to our events program, and more. But there’s always more to be done, and we will continue to work on making 1871 truly reflective of the diversity of Chicago.

Job Creation and Economic Growth

The mission of 1871 is to grow the number of technology jobs in Chicago by providing diverse, digitally-enabled startups with access to space and connectivity, education and training resources, early-stage and venture capital and customers.  Our driving value comes from our CEO, Howard Tullman: You Get What You Work for, Not What You Wish for.


Our Brand

In the summer of 2011, when 1871 was still just an aspiration, the Chicago Entrepreneurial Center convened Chicago’s most distinguished entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, educators, and government officials to participate in a Brand Summit and define the purpose of our city’s new tech center. Amidst the flurry of inspired thinking and heightened passion, there arose a very simple idea: WE ARE A CITY OF BUILDERS.

And from this seed of an idea came the inspiration for the name 1871. Like the Great Chicago Fire of that year, 1871 would also serve as a catalytic and transformative part of our city’s history. Our space would be a place that would enable Chicago to emerge as a major center of technology, not just in the U.S., but the world – with 1871 at the core.

 The Logo

1871_plate_logo_1in_trans1871 utilizes two types of logos in perpetuating the brand: The Plate and The Stencil.
The Plate is a symbol of exploring, getting your hands dirty, and making it happen. It’s not a vision. It’s a tool. It’s a blank slate – ready for action.

The Stencil, however, can take many forms. The Stencil reflects 1871’s ability to adapt as a continuously evolving digital technology hub for entrepreneurs. We don’t know what the future will hold, but we will create it, and we will adapt; 1871’s logo will always be relevant as it evolves alongside the course of history.

There are hundreds of versions of the 1871 logo, which are variations of the Stencil. Stencil logos take form through hand made treatments, photographic underlays, and textual patterns that act as a window showing our vision for 1871 and Chicago.

Honorary Logos

Beginning on 1871’s second anniversary on May 2, 2014, the organization began debuting commemorative new logos in honor of landmark events or special guests. We’ve displayed these logos on our Honorary Logos page for the community’s viewing. In creating and presenting these logos, we have an opportunity to mark our history and important moments as an organization and create lasting memories of these special events, all of which are designed for the purpose of the organization – to foster technology growth and opportunity throughout Chicago.

 Logo Gallery

While the plate logo is timeless and stands on its own, we’ve curated a sample collection of 1871’s ever-transforming logos in our Logo Gallery. Feel free to peruse them and pick out your favorites – if you can.


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