Cíbola: Incubator Looking To Host Chicago’s Underrepresented Entrepreneurs

By September 12, 2012

Slide image for Chicago startup incubator Cibola

A new kind of incubator space is set to launch in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago’s south side in the next few weeks. Cíbola is a new startup incubator that’s taking aim at the underrepresented individuals in the Chicago startup scene by offering extremely affordable working space in a diverse, growing neighborhood.

The 10,000 square foot space has 10 private offices, 2 classrooms, and a large central coworking space. Following its planned early October launch, the incubator will feature a pop up retail space that will rotate every two months, and a cafe area sometime in the future. In addition to being an affordable and diverse space for entrepreneurs to work on their next big project, the incubator will be a hotspot for community events during nights and weekends.

Cíbola is being directed by Mahrinah von Schlegel, founder of Crime Alert and Fundadora, and 21st Century Youth Project founder Emile Cambry. The pair chose the Pilsen area because it is located in the most diverse ward in Chicago and its proximity to the loop via the transit.

“One thing that is very glaring about the Chicago tech startup scene is a lack of diversity,” said von Schlegel. “That applies across a lot of different sectors — lack of diversity and ethnicity in language, background, and geography as well.”

Von Schlegel and Cambry are hoping to tap specifically into the diversity of languages in the surrounding area and encourage entrepreneurs to pursue businesses built in their native languages. The directors believe that encouraging people who might have never pursued a business without these kind of affordable resources will give the Chicago startup scene a much larger reach into the non-English speaking international market.

To attract these kind of entrepreneurs, the incubator is currently very open to new applicants, though that will likely change over time as the space begins to fill up. Its goal in the beginning is to be an extremely inclusive space for the underrepresented in Chicago’s tech community. “We’re looking for folks that are minority, LGBTQ, or women entrepreneurs,” said Cambry.

“I would very much like to encourage foreign language and Latina entrepreneurs,” added von Schlegel. “We want to see the kind of people that we don’t see when we go to these startup events.” The director sees her participation in the startup space as an extension of her studies in anthropology and her work as a real estate developer. “For me it’s a very logical connection,” said von Schlegel. “I looked at that as practical applied anthropology — creating community instead of simply studying it.”

For Cambry the space will be an extension of his successful program, The 21st Century Youth Project, which teaches high school students mobile app development and provides important business strategy tools to help them succeed beyond graduation. Cambry plans to offer internships and connect graduating students with startups working within the new space. “I want folks to actually have a space in which they can say, ‘This is where I can get started,’” Cambry concluded. “I really want it to become a trade school of opportunity.”

Into the future the directors hope that Cíbola will grow to be as diverse as the neighborhood that surrounds it, and ultimately provide entrepreneurs with a tangible opportunity they never thought they’d have in the Chicago startup community as it exists now.

“We believe that we can do more to bring Chicago’s innovation to foreign markets and to promote diversity within the tech sector here,” von Schlegel said.

Head over to buildCibola.com to reserve your spot at the soon-to-launch startup incubator.

Corey Cummings

Corey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received degrees in English and Creative Writing. He currently lives in Chicago and enjoys alternately obsessing over video games that aren't out yet and crazy gadgets he can't afford.