A conversation with EPIC prize winner, mHUB:
OTT: Congratulations on receiving $50,000 as part of OTT’s EPIC prize! First, please tell us a little more about your company/who you are.
mHUB: Based in Chicago, mHUB is the nation’s largest innovation center focused on physical product development and manufacturing. mHUB's members include early-stage startup companies, engineers, designers, established corporations, and universities.
mHUB's 63,000 sq. ft. facility is at the center of product innovation, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship for the Midwest region. Recognized as a new national model, mHUB provides access to workspace, $6 million dollars of prototyping equipment, 10 labs, a robust mentorship program, a business and technical course curriculum, Hardtech Development consulting services, investors and industry leaders, and more.
mHUB's members create breakthrough products in robotics, connected devices, sensors, energy tech, medical devices, smart buildings and cities, unmanned vehicles, smart manufacturing and much more. By providing the right resources and hands-on access to manufacturing equipment and industry, mHUB helps early-stage innovators go from prototype to product to sustainable business, driving a greater likelihood of success.
Since mHUB’s inception in 2017, mHUB’s member startups have generated $430M+ in revenue, launched 1,256+ products, hired 2,153+ employees, and raised $770M+ in capital.
OTT: Will you give us a brief description of your winning program plan?
Since our inception in 2017, mHUB primarily has supported energy-tech innovation in two ways: (1) by incubating energy-tech startups at our innovation center and (2) by providing outsourced R&D from mHUB members to energy-focused corporations.
In May 2021, the first nine teams arrived at mHUB for the first cohort of our Accelerated Incubation accelerator program. This program provides accepted companies with the following benefits, among others:
- Cash investment from mHUB’s Product Impact Fund I and participation in pitch events to mHUB’s investor network
- Mentorship & pilot opportunities from incentivized industry-leading corporations and individuals
- Product design and engineering projects from mHUB Hardtech Development Services
- Development of marketing materials and branding inclusion at mHUB, in newsletters, etc.
- Potential for additional investment from corporate partners and Product Impact Fund I Limited Partners
- Workspace and shop membership for 2 years
The Accelerated Incubation program will take place over three years and will consist of six cohorts, several of which incorporating energy technologies. The first cohort, focused on Advanced Manufacturing & Industrial Internet of Things solutions, arrived to mHUB in May 2021. Subsequent cohorts are slated to focus on Medical Devices, Climate & Energy Tech, Smart Mobility & Smart City, Smart Building & Home, and Communications Technologies.
OTT: How has this program impacted your region/local community?
mHUB: We have convened an ecosystem of investors passionate about supporting early stage hardtech startups in the Midwest. The Limited Partner base for our venture fund, which invests exclusively in the accelerator companies, is comprised of 80-85 individuals who are leaders in manufacturing, business, and finance. They are passionate about our mission and eager to engage with the portfolio companies.
The program has brought startup founders to Chicagoland from outside the region. Additionally, it has connected Chicago more with other cities through some of the startups’ existing engagement in other cities.
OTT: When it comes to lessons learned with building out your regional innovation ecosystem, what is one thing that has worked and one thing that has not?
mHUB: We experienced tremendous success getting the word out about our accelerator program, especially considering we launched the program during the pandemic. The amount of applications we received from startups greatly exceeded our projections. mHUB actively reviewed and considered almost 70 of the 489 total applicants for acceptance into the program.
Additionally, over 25% of the applications we received were from teams outside the United States, which pleasantly surprised us as we had only marketed the program nationally.
OTT: What does it mean to be an accelerator/incubator during the coronavirus pandemic? What is one lesson learned from this virtual experience?
mHUB: We are excited to show our cohort companies Chicago, but we need to be creative about how we go about it when many of the usual spots are closed. Luckily there are so many great things here, that there are limitless opportunities.
We also had to negotiate and be open with teams when it came to navigating opening, getting people here, and ensuring people were safe as they traveled from other countries. Being an accelerator during the coronavirus epidemic has meant being creative, communicative, and open to opportunity.
OTT: How can we stay up to date on the latest news or events with your company?
Thank you mHUB! Congrats again on being selected as an EPIC prize winner!
To head back to the EPIC blog series homepage, click here.