Q&A WITH HAVEN ALLEN
CEO and Co-founder at mHUB
This month marks two years since Chicago makerspace mHUB opened its doors. Since then, mHUB’s community of entrepreneurs, manufacturing mentors, industry experts and investors has grown exponentially. In just two years, mHUB has grown to more than 240 member companies—while helping those companies raise more than $100M in funding, generate more than $48.5M in revenue, and hire more than 600 employees.
Ahead of mHUB’s 2019 Product Showcase & Demo Day and two-year celebration, Catalyst caught up with Haven Allen, CEO and Co-founder of mHUB, to learn more about mHUB’s impressive growth and where the makerspace goes from here.
For those who may not be familiar, tell us about mHUB, its mission, and the resources it provides to entrepreneurs and larger companies in the manufacturing space.
mHUB is the nation’s largest and fastest growing innovation center for physical product development and manufacturing. It is a community of product designers and developers, entrepreneurs, engineers and manufacturers, a network of manufacturing industry mentors, subject-matter experts and investors, and a source of intellectual and economic capital. mHUB is home to ten protoyping shops and labs with more than $5 million in equipment and resources including electronics, plastic fabrication, CNC, metals and rapid prototyping as well as a microfactory for small production runs.
mHUB’s members create breakthrough products in robotics, connected devices, sensors, energy tech, medical devices, smart building / cities, unmanned vehicles, and other cutting- edge innovations. By providing the right resources, mentorship, and access to manufacturing industry insiders, mHUB helps early-stage innovators go from idea to prototype to sustainable product business, driving a greater likelihood of success.
This month marks two years since mHUB opened its doors, what have been your key successes and learnings so far?
It has been an incredible two years of growth. In this short time, mHUB has added more than 240 member companies. Those startup have collectively raised more than $100M in funding, generated more than $48.5M in revenue, invested more than $57.6M in capital and hired more than 600 employees.
Through these first few years, we’ve learned that one of the strongest values mHUB provides to members is the community. It takes a variety of skills to build a functioning prototype and turn it into a sustainable business, and this community creates invaluable opportunities for members collaborate, trade knowledge and expertise, and really help each other throughout the journey of entrepreneurship. There’s also a terrific shared sense of pride in the success of the members in the community, which is unique.
mHUB was the first innovation center in Illinois to be awarded an i6 grant through the EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies Program. How did the i6 grant help mHUB get off the ground?
The i6 grant was critical to helping mHUB get off the ground. The grant was part of early funding for the project, and supported the space buildout, which included the 10 prototyping labs and the necessary equipment for each of them along with additional infrastructure development to support the daily running of the organization. In a lot of ways, the grant is a big part of what made it possible to open the doors in March of 2017.
mHUB has made community engagement a priority, as well as being more intentional about connecting with groups typically underrepresented in manufacturing. What have been some of these highlights?
mHUB has partnerships with 14 community organization supporting entrepreneurs of minority backgrounds including the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC), National Society for Black Engineers (NSBE), Society for Hispanic Engineers, Women Tech Founders (WTF), among others. The partnerships enabled mHUB to support companies within those networks in successfully advancing the development of their product design and prototype. Additionally, mHUB supports workforce development programs provided by the Technology and Manufacturing Association (TMA) to community members of Bethel New Life that have graduated more than 20 certified individuals on computer numerical control (CNC) operation. This certification enables the participants to transition directly into jobs with manufacturers in the TMA network. These partnerships are invaluable in bringing to reality the physical product ideas of aspiring entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and from various communities.
In addition to these partnerships, mHUB is also an agent of change in celebrating and promoting STEM education and entrepreneurship for youth. mHUB sponsors events, workshops and tours for a variety of student -based groups across Chicago, from Chicago Public schools, IMSA, community colleges of Chicago amongst others.
Your 2019 Product Showcase & Demo Day is coming up, tell us about the event and how people can get involved.
The 2019 Product Showcase & Demo Day will bring more than 1,000 visionaries, innovators, entrepreneurs and members of industry to mHUB for a day of discussion and celebration.The event consists of an afternoon speaking program including panels, startup pitches, more than 35 showcasing companies and a keynote speaker – all followed by an evening reception.
It’s a great opportunity to network, hear about trends in the space and come together with the tech community. Folks can register here.
mHUB is helping to advance Chicago as a hub for manufacturing innovation and startup activity. How can entrepreneurs, as well as mid-sized and large manufacturers that haven’t been connected to mHUB get more engaged?
Physical product development and hardware innovation is often thought of as lower growth potential than software. But, there is tremendous momentum and opportunity in the space. We encourage entrepreneurs and manufacturers to come take a tour or attend an event, and see the amazing energy and innovation in the community.
You’ve come a long way in two years, where does mHUB go from here? What does success look like over the next five years?
We hope to become a platform and catalyst for physical product development across the U.S. By creating resources for and driving growth in physical product development startups, we’re not only building companies—but creating a pathway for more momentum in physical product development broadly.
WHAT WE’RE READING:
- UI Labs fades amid name, organizational changes [Crain’s Chicago Business]
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- Top 25 IoT Startups to Watch in 2019 [Forbes]
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