mHUB, MATTER and 1871 raise $1.55M in funding to mobilize the Chicago tech community to fight COVID-19

mHUB, MATTER and 1871 announced today $1.55M in funding for Chicago Proactive Response (CPR) COVID-19, a collaborative initiative to develop and accelerate technologies to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic and provide economic relief for the region’s early stage startups. The funding comes through a $1M grant from the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust, along with additional support from the Walder Foundation and Bank of America.

“It has been incredibly inspiring to see the energy across the tech ecosystem to come together and fight the impact of this pandemic,” said Haven Allen, chief executive officer and co-founder of mHUB. “We are so thankful to the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust, the Walder Foundation and Bank of America for their generous support, which will not only enable us to continue doing this work but will also support the economic stability of our startup ecosystem.”

The grants from the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust, the Walder Foundation and Bank of America amount to more than half of the organizations’ funding goal of $3M to support innovators. The funds will help accelerate solutions relevant to the pandemic and provide financial relief to the nearly 1,000 existing members within these tech hubs as they continue to build their businesses through this challenging time.

“Promoting greater innovation, scientific discovery, and economic development in Chicago’s biomedical sector has long been a key goal of the grant making efforts of the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust,” said Karie Thomson, Searle consultant to the Chicago Community Trust. “CPR COVID-19 confirms the ability of Chicago’s biomedical and tech communities to collaborate and provide a swift, innovative response to the COVID-19 crisis.”

“While COVID-19 has presented us with unprecedented challenges, it also provides a unique opportunity for Chicago’s innovation community to come together to advance solutions to the pandemic,” said Elizabeth Walder, president and executive director of the Walder Foundation. “We are very pleased to be able to support this collaboration at a time when our world needs creative thinkers in technology, manufacturing and healthcare.”

“We’re inspired by the collaboration among mHUB, 1871 and MATTER bringing together Chicago’s community of innovators to design alternative PPE and other integral resources for our frontline workers,” said Paul Lambert, Chicago market president at Bank of America. “We are grateful to everyone involved for their tireless efforts to ensure the healthcare providers in our most vulnerable communities have the resources they need to wage the fight against COVID-19.”

In just under two months, more than 300 innovators and frontline experts have submitted challenges or technologies to fight against COVID-19. Industry challenges were prioritized into nine key areas, ranging from immediate needs in personal protective equipment (PPE), to long-term solutions to enable a physically and psychologically safe and healthy return to work. Initial efforts against these include:

  • Designed and released an open-source face shield and manufactured 6,000 of them for healthcare workers at Chicago-area health systems;
  • Facilitated dozens of hours of roundtable discussions with more than 50 innovation and analytics leaders from hospitals in Chicago and across the country;
  • Prototyped a low-cost, fast production ventilator using off-the-shelf components as well as several other personal protective equipment solutions;
  • Facilitated connections to decision makers at the state, city, and health systems for dozens of crucial digital health solutions for triaging, biometric measurement of infected patients, telehealth and return-to-work solutions aligned with problems identified by industry and front-line workers.

“The need for healthcare innovation has never been as apparent as it is now, and dozens of Chicago-area companies are building solutions directly relevant to the pandemic,” said Steven Collens, chief executive officer of MATTER. “We are in a continuous dialogue with those on the front lines and these funds will help us deliver the solutions we know are needed.”

This work comes at a time when startups, particularly early stage companies, are uniquely affected by the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent survey by the Startup Genome Project, 41 percent — up from a pre-crisis 29 percent — of global startups are threatened by the pandemic with three months or less of cash runway remaining. Additionally, 74 percent of startups have had to terminate full-time employees and 39 percent have had to lay off 20 percent or more of their staff since the beginning of the pandemic’s impact in the U.S. The funding granted to the CPR COVID-19 initiative will provide much needed and immediate support to Chicago startups so they continue to thrive while focusing on their solutions to COVID-19 and other economic and humanitarian challenges.

“This is going to be an exceedingly critical time to get people back to work; the startup engine powers the job-creation engine,” said Betsy Ziegler, chief executive officer of 1871. “Our work is only just beginning, and we are intensely grateful to the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust, the Walder Foundation and Bank of America for this opportunity to provide direct and immediate impact of economic relief to our coalition’s founders, growth-scalers, and innovators.”

The grant funding supports the first phase of the CPR COVID-19 initiative, which focuses on mitigating the immediate and near-term impact of the pandemic in Chicago. The second phase, planned to take place over the next two years, will broaden entrepreneurial training and deploy new workforce development programs to support the larger economic recovery of the region as Illinois rebuilds.

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