Catapult Chicago Where Startups Come to Scale Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:51:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Every Picture Has Been Taken Tue, 15 Apr 2014 17:51:17 +0000 Is your story just the same old tale told a thousand times? Read Josh Inglis’ blog post Every Picture Has Been Taken on why you might want to think about the uniqueness of your startup story before calling a reporter…

Josh Inglis is from Catapult sponsor, Propllr, a PR and content marketing firm that specializes in fast-growing, entrepreneurial organizations.

]]> 0
Bucketfeet featured in Blue Sky Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:28:14 +0000 Catapult alums, Bucketfeet, were featured in the Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky section. Check out the video to see their new office, new shoe styles, and learn about how they have connected with 1300 artists with consumers. Click here for the video.

]]> 0
Complexity in Social Networks, guest post by alum Matt Hartman Thu, 03 Apr 2014 16:39:29 +0000 Catapult alum, Matt Hartman, penned a great blog post for that we wanted to share. He provides great insights into how to apply the academic notion of network structures to building social networks that stick with consumers. It’s an interesting read that will help anyone with technology platform. Click on the link below for the entire post…

Complexity in Social Networks: How network structure impacts consumer experience

By: Matt Hartman, Founder at Referboost and Director of Seed Investments at Betaworks


]]> 0
Bootstrapping with Mike Shannon of Packback Thu, 03 Apr 2014 16:36:39 +0000 Don’t miss Mike Shannon, Co-Founder of Packback, on Bootstrapping In America.

Mike talks about the textbook industry, the Packback model, the Chicago startup scene and, of course, his recent Shark Tank win with co-founder Kasey Gandham.

Mike joins the ever growing list of Catapult Residents and Alumni who have been featured on the show. Check them out:

Bootstrapping with Brian Cody of Scholastica.

Bootstrapping with Piysh Kedia of Symbiosis Health.

Bootstrapping with Ryan Leavitt of Catapult Chicago.

Bootstrapping with Andrew Cronk and Justin DeLay of TempoDB

Bootstrapping with Eddie Lou of Shiftgig

Bootstrapping with Tyler Spalding of StyleSeek

Bootstrapping with Raaja Nemani and Aaron Firestein of BucketFeet

Bootstrapping with Vince Leung of MentorMob

Bootstrapping with Erin Hopmann of Dabble

]]> 0
Announcing Catapult’s Accelerator – Nuclear Cannon! Tue, 01 Apr 2014 17:34:50 +0000 Announcing Catapult’s Accelerator – “Nuclear Cannon!”

“It was time.” Said April Lane, Catapult’s Executive Director. We were sitting around thinking “We’ve raised some Series A rounds. How do we bilk, I mean milk, er…, I mean help other startups to get to that same point?”  An accelerator immediately came to mind.

Like Catapult, Nuclear Cannon! has a unique design. Admission is determined through peer selection but it also incorporates an even more unusual feature – physical exercise.  Catapult has hired a Marine drill sergeant to also work with the companies.  ”We need to whip these yellow bellies in to shape!” barked Sgt. Linville while doing push ups himself.

Though techies may be thought of as fatties eating Twinkies in to the wee hours, “we’re going to change that” proffered Lane.  Thus far, the physical exercise hasn’t seemed to stop young tech startups from showing interest in the program. “It’s good for my top line and my bottom” urged Vishal Shah as he struggled with sit ups in preparation for the program.  Even the 45% equity requirement hasn’t been a deterrent.

The name Nuclear Cannon! was conceived by Catapult’s PR sponsor, Propllr founder Josh Inglis.  ”We wanted a name that mirrored the meaning of the word Catapult.  And when a nuclear bomb goes off debris gets flung everywhere. It sort of Catapults that stuff. Plus, there’s exercise in there which is new. So, boom!”

Look for program participants to be marching around 321 N Clark after Midnight.  And, if you think you have what it takes to join the program, drop an e-mail to

]]> 0
Moving into Your First Office Space? What You Should Know, guest post by Corey Siegrist of JLL Tue, 25 Mar 2014 19:10:15 +0000 Great advice for scaling startups ready to venture out on their own, leaving the comforts of the co-working space nest for the first time.

What You Should Know: The Pitfalls and Successes of Moving Into Your First Office Space

by Corey Siegrist, VP Tenant Representation, JLL Chicago

Ready to move into your own office space but unsure of how to get started? It’s more than just a space search. We often find that tenants new to the office sector fail to realize the associated costs and requirements necessary to make the jump.

Prioritize Needs Versus Wants 

You should set expectations – caviar taste on a beer budget won’t work, unfortunately.

Here are some key questions that new office users should consider:

  • Where are your employees commuting from?
  • How much space do you need? (Typically we recommend 150 sf per person in a benching environment and 250 sf per person in a private office / workstation environment)
  • Would the chosen space enable growth?
  • What is the minimum lease term? How flexible will the landlord be?
  • Building capabilities? Chilled water, condenser water, fiber, redundancy, power capacity, etc.?
  • Do you want to be in a 24/7 neighborhood?
  • What amenities are offered (bike room, dogs allowed, etc.)?

Be Aware of Hidden Costs

Below are additional expenses that tenants should be aware of when budgeting.

  • Security deposit – typically landlords require 2-6 months rent depending on the company’s financial stability.
  • Furniture – unless you’re lucky enough to find a fully furnished sublease or spec suite that fits your needs, you need to decorate! Typically furnishings cost $10-$15 per sf to purchase (rental is also an option and can be less expensive).
  • Wiring – conservatively this could cost up to $3 per sf and is usually the responsibility of the tenant.
  • Attorney fees – a lease is a legal document and tenants should obtain the advice of a lawyer that specializes in real estate leases. This can range from $1,500 – $3,000 and is a flat fee.

The bottom line: more goes into choosing office space than the location and dollar per square foot!

Thank you to Corey Siegrist, VP Tenant Representation at JLL Chicago, a Catapult corporate sponsor, for this guest post. JLL’s team provides expertise in successfully moving high-growth companies into their first offices.

To contact Corey:


]]> 0
Packback Wins on Shark Tank Mon, 24 Mar 2014 00:45:26 +0000 We had to wait until the end of the Shark Tank episode on Friday, March 21 to finally see co-founders Kasey Gandham and Mike Shannon pitch Packback. It was worth the wait, though, as Kasey and Mike left with a $250,000 investment from Mark Cuban in exchange for 20% equity (and a few good laughs, after Kasey tried to counter with a lower offer of $200,000! Oops!).

The Chicago startup community rallied around the local celebreties, with a packed viewing party at 1871. Check out the article in Chicago Tribune’s Blue Sky Innovation that captured the scene perfectly with photographs of the excitement and a video of the final moments of the show.

If you missed it, watch the episode here.

Congratulations to the entire Packback team!

]]> 0
Procured Health Raises $4M in Funding Mon, 24 Mar 2014 00:17:32 +0000 Catapult Chicago resident Procured Health recently announced it has raised $4 Million in Series A funding from health care-focused firm FCA Venture Partners.

Procured Health is a leading developer of web-based solutions to improve evaluation and purchasing of medical products by healthcare providers. Its innovative services enable members to understand industry dynamics, identify competition, discover opportunities, and accelerate decision making and implementation.

Read about it in Venture Beat.

Read about it Southern Alpha.

]]> 0
VLinks Media Featured in Built In Chicago Fri, 21 Mar 2014 09:00:27 +0000 VLinks Media was featured in the Built In Chicago article “VLinks Media Enters Corporate Market with LearnCore.” Co-founders Vishal Shah and Ethan Linkner discuss the start of VLinks Media and where they are headed with LearnCore, the new platform designed to enable enterprise clients to create and deploy training in their departments and teams.

Earlier this year, VLinks Media won “Start-Up Learning Provider of the Year” at the 2014 Learning Awards held in London.

]]> 0
Keys for Building a Strong Workforce, guest post by Patrick Cerone, EmpowerHR Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:03:35 +0000 The following guest post is derived from, Keys to Building a Strong Workforce, a summary of a panel discussion led by EmpowerHR at TechWeek 2013. Thank you to Catapult sponsor EmpowerHR for sharing this insight with our community.

Keys for Building a Strong Workforce

by Patrick Cerone, Marketing Manager, EmpowerHR

Every company wants to be known as a great employer but identifying the best areas to focus your limited time and resources can be a huge challenge. If this sounds familiar, consider taking a step backwards to look at the bigger picture. Sometimes seeing the whole process can help you hone in on how to better invest in your strongest asset: your people. Let’s take a quick look at the four keys that can help you build a stronger workforce.


People are the strongest element of any company. Not surprisingly, this makes the hiring process incredibly important! Many companies make the mistake of focusing on their business plan to the exclusion of their company culture, employee communications and consistent company policies. Truly great organizations ensure that their hiring process evolves with the company – this means hiring people who are more than just a skills match. Great hires fit the culture, understand policies and can grow with the job – making them a great match today and 18 months down the road.


Once you’ve successfully connected with the right talent, it’s important to create an onboarding process that anticipates growth, engages existing staff, and stays true to the company’s culture.  At the very least, your new employees’ onboarding experience should match everything they were told or experienced in the interview process. First impressions only happen once!


Building a successful workforce does not end with hiring and integrating talent – it flourishes with the professional development of established employees. Burn-out is the enemy and it can be avoided! Embrace the responsibility to survey, train and develop your workforce – your employees will be more engaged and productive and your business will be more successful. If you invest in your people, they will invest in you.


We’ve all heard the cliche that “timing is everything.” In business, it’s true. Leaders often need to make decisions that are best for the group but aren’t popular to implement. Communication can even be uncomfortable (think: letting an employee go); but when managed appropriately, company morale can be maintained and even boosted. Small businesses particularly struggle with this – they are often quick to hire and slow to let go. But holding on to an under-performing teammate can be more damaging to the business and your other employees than just letting them go. While a strong workforce can be a company’s best asset, a poor functioning workforce may be the demise.

Now that you’ve got a taste of the big picture - download a complimentary copy of the white paper, Keys to Growing a Strong Workforce, for the full story.



]]> 0