Howard Tullman’s role as CEO of 1871 — a co-working space on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart — projects himself as a tough-minded curator. He has several plans for improving 1871, including adding a 3D printing studio and a video lab, and opening an office at 1871 for Indigogo, a crowd funding platform.
He also plans to trim the number of member companies, saying it is better to have 50 sucessful companies than 250 with unmotivated leaders. It’s all about revenue and traction, says Tullman, and whether a company is going to be a source of job growth and new opportunities. The best way to make money? Get customers, says Tullman. This isn’t the first time he’s been involved with 1871. Tullman has spoken at events since the co-working space launched in 2012 and was involved in it’s planning and inception. Tullman is also managing partner at G2T3V, an investment firm for ‘disruptive innovators’. At 1871, he wants venture capitalists to find a curated selection of companies when they visit 1871, and companies relevant to their industry. Pitch events will continue, but Tullman wants venture capitalists to be brought in for five to ten companies within their industry.
One of the changes here is that the companies coming out of 1871 are going to be more curated. We’re going to focus on making them more substantial in terms of revenues and the realities of business, says Tullman.
Considering Tullman’s vision for the space, one trend to watch during 2014 will be 1871 balancing retention of members against toughed standards for maintaining membership. Already, there is talk of 1871 becoming less of a place to rent office space and get a leg up and more of a digital hub for select companies. At Founders’ Stories this December, Tullman proposed increasing the number of enclosed office suites at 1871 to keep mature companies within the space. Tullman regularly publishes articles on leadership at Inc.com — Inc. is an idea driven magazine on growing companies, at http://www.inc.com/author/howard-a-tullman. He’s got a tough-minded outlook on business. This fall, he posted a video on Inc. about education and entrepreneurship stating that the economy is moving towards a more independent workplace with a mandate to innovate oneself and create one’s own career that doesn’t involve as much management of employees. According to Tullman, talent is attracted by the size of the problem to be solved, not by bringing snacks, for example. Detractors might argue that leadership is more than challenging yourself to grab the highest ring. One of the hallmarks of a good leader is the ability to nurture a sense of community.
I don’t like the hyper-competitiveness of the coasts, in terms of finding talent, says Tullman.
There are 240 member companies at 1871 as of December, 2013 (although there are 328 listed on their website). Some are incubating, like the companies within TechStars, others are sharing office space for the events and mentorship opportunities. 1871 is the flagship project of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to make a positive impact on Chicago by supporting, promoting, and growing the startup community. Tullman reports to the CEC Board of Directors, led by co-chairmen Jim O’Connor and Bryant Keil.
As CEO, Tullman brings his experience building and selling companies, his work ethic, and his own set of rules for finding and retaining good talent. This is startup engineering, says Tullman. The long term goal for the project: jobs. ❒
[Top Photo: Howard Tullman before speaking at Founders’ Stories at 1871. Photo by Dabney Lyles. © Blackline Review]