Friday, August 29, 2014

1871 rebrands FEMtech; applications open Tuesday for WiSTEM

1871 rebrands FEMtech; applications open Tuesday for WiSTEM

A new women-focused incubator at 1871 will begin taking applications Tuesday in advance of a January 2015 opening — and to the relief of some entrepreneurs, it won’t be called FEMtech.
Instead, the initiative will be named WiSTEM 1871, a nod to women in science, technology, engineering and math, the company announced Friday.
The new branding was created pro bono by Chicago-based advertising agency Leo Burnett. And, yes, it’s meant to sound a bit like “wisdom.”

Applications for the incubator, which will include 20 to 30 women-founded startups, are expected to close around Oct. 15. That’s the date the hub’s 25,000-square-foot, $2.5 million expansion dubbed “1871 2.0” is expected to open, said 1871 CEO Howard Tullman. Programming for WiSTEM is slated to begin in early January 2015, he said.
WiSTEM, first announced in March as FEMtech, will be one of several specialty verticals launching this year at 1871, and the only one fully run by 1871, with the help of an advisory board.
The Bunker, for veterans, and the upcoming food-focused incubator are non-profits. The real estate accelerator, ElmSpring, is for-profit. All are run by independent entities, as are the Techstars and Impact Engine accelerators that call 1871 home.

Tullman said WiSTEM 1871 would offer content and mentorship tailored to women and to their schedules. He said the program would host events from noon to 2 p.m. rather than in the evening to make it easier for women who need to to return home to their families after work. But the program will also adjust to the members’ needs, Tullman said, and if they prefer evening programming or different resources, for example, organizers will try to give them that. Women entrepreneurs in other cities or those who work from home will be able to access programming virtually. 
Organizers are still determining the level of access WiSTEM members will have to 1871’s shared spaces and programs. Membership fees are also still in question as 1871 leaders figure out how to charge in-person and remote members.
WiSTEM 1871 will be placed near Impact Engine in the new 1871 space, Tullman said, because it will give member companies the opportunity to work on some of the accelerator’s socially responsible initiatives.
Early reaction to the women’s incubator was mixed when it was announced in March, with some area entrepreneurs cheering efforts to focus resources on women and others expressing concern over a move that could separate female entrepreneurs from the mainstream.
The original name, too, was divisive. Tullman said some told him “FEMtech” didn’t sound cool, while others said it sounded like a placeholder.
“We just felt that generically attaching ‘tech’ to whatever wasn’t going to be a good solution,” Tullman said.

In March, Tullman teamed up with Susan Credle, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett, to develop a new identity for the incubator. The pro bono project went to Leo Burnett’s branding division, where Alisa Wolfson, SVP director of design, and Natalia Kowaleczko, design director, created a series of prototypes.
The Leo Burnett team presented the designs to a group of 1871 leadership and entrepreneurs, plus the executive committee of 1871’s board, in mid-August. The winning concept was approved Friday.
“The one that was chosen was very modern and technological, feminine in its core but not too overt,” Wolfson said. “That felt acceptable and approachable to a lot of the women in the room.”
The resulting branding is monochrome, with curved brackets arranged alongside flower motifs and icons that Wolfson said were inspired by both women’s traditional patternmaking and modern engineering elements. Another concept, which featured a lot of pink and was “feminine in a brazen way,” lost out to the more gender-neutral design, Wolfson said.
This will not be the only use of “WiSTEM.” Harvard University has a mentorship program by the same name, while Wisconsin uses the acronym to label statewide, though not necessarily women-focused, STEM initiatives. Tullman said he does not expect confusion.
“We thought that was what was beautiful about it is that it permeates into the industry so much,” Wolfson said. “By using the ‘1871’ after it, we can make it more of our name.”
Jill Salzman, an 1871 member and founder of networking group The Founding Moms, is pleased with the new name, saying FEMtech sounded like a “bunch of bots from a really bad movie.”
When she learned of the initiative, she said, she was excited that 1871 was making efforts to be more inclusive and supportive of female entrepreneurs. But she told leadership that she’d like to see a different name. A member of Ms. Tech, Salzman said others in the group also found the name lacking, and one said it sounded like a man’s attempt to name it.
“It’s extremely exciting for me that they finally figured out something that’s a little less condescending and a lot more inclusive,” Salzman said.
Salzman said she hopes to serve as a mentor to startup founders at WiSTEM and that the program now has a name that would not embarrass her. The new identity, she said, does not segregate women from the larger 1871 community. Instead, she said, it shows that the program will focus on their needs within it.
“My biggest hope really is in the marketing of this space to other women who are not a part of this thing yet,” Salzman said.
Copyright © 2014, Chicago Tribune

1871 welcomes Israel Ambassador Ron Dermer to Speak on Innovation




Moneythink's Ted Gonder

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Introducing the 2014 BHSI Fellows: Moneythink's Ted Gonder

Moneythink started as a financial education club at the University of Chicago.  But the group of U of C underclassman—including 2014 BHSI Fellow Ted Gonder—saw greater potential in the club, especially in the wake of the 2007 recession, and they worked to build the organization into a hub of educational resources that provides mentorship and financial education to high school students across 10 states and expanded to include platforms like the recently-launched social media-based financial app.  We talked to Gonder about how he turned the financial lessons he learned as a high school student into lessons for others.

2014 BHSI Fellow Ted Gonder.
What were your goals for Moneythink at the outset?  Did you have an idea of how big it would grow?
When we first started, we had two thoughts.  One was that we really wanted to bring this program to as many kids as possible in Chicago.  Pretty early on, we also realized that because of our model that uses college volunteers, this program had the potential to spread to a lot of other communities across the country.  Our thought was always let’s try to do a really great job here in Chicago and prove impact, and along the way test how well it can scale.

It’s especially impressive that you were able to be this forward-thinking about Moneythink given that at the time you were still only a first-year student at the University of Chicago.  What aspects of your education played into that?
I had a tutor in high school that really helped me get my life on the right track.  He kind of taught me to think about my life like an entrepreneurial venture, and my decisions as if they were investment in the future.

So, is it that type of entrepreneurial thinking you teach students in Moneythink?
We used a lot of that ideology to create our curriculum and recruit mentors that fit the archetype for who we thought could be inspiring to our students.

The other thing that really set me on this path is I had an economics teacher in high school, who spent half the year showing us how even though he was a teacher with a small salary through saving on everyday things, he and his wife were able to travel to Fiji and all these cool places…. He got me really interested in personal finance.

Your teaching and approach to financial education involves two different views.  First, approach life like an entrepreneur and be willing to take risks.  Second, practice frugal saving habits. How do you reconcile those in your teachings?
We think of it like offense and defense.  Spending is like offense, and saving is like defense.  Money is ultimately a tool to express your values.  So you think first about what do I value?  And what are my goals?

Are you directly teaching some of these ideas yourself?  Do you still get into the classroom?
Being in the classroom has been a core part of how I stay in touch with the mission.  When I was helping to start the organization in college, I mentored in the classroom as a Moneythink mentor as a part of the core program in the University of Chicago chapter.  Now…I speak at a lot of schools.  After speeches, I tend to stick around and chat with students for quite a while and get to know what’s on their mind, what their struggles are.

I love it.  That’s one of my favorite parts of it. 

 Talk a little bit about the Moneythink app and the ways that it enables students to share positive financial decisions via pictures and other social media means.  How do students react to the platform?
We have students who are actively making decisions, consciously, about their money and then reporting them through technology in a way that feels very natural to them.  It doesn’t feel like homework.

What do you see as the future of Moneythink?
By 2030, we see every single young adult in the United States entering the real world with the tools, mentorship and support to navigate the most important financial decisions of their lives.  That means, by 2020, we’ll be in over 500 high schools across the country, and serving over a million users through our technology.

What do you hope to gain from your experience as a BHSI Fellow?
Mentors have always been such a core part of my life, and Chicago is a city I’m really committed to.  I’m really excited to connect with some of the mentors and really “friendtors”, as well, in the BHSI community—past winner, this year’s winner, people in the Chicago Ideas Week network.  I’m just really eager to get to know awesome people and build great, thriving relationships.

Total Pageviews


Blog Archive