Chicago is a city you want to get to know as a Dutch business owner. Not only is it an amazing city, but it could also be a smart choice to focus your international business efforts on.

Where fire leads to skyscrapers

Chicago rose out of the ashes a few times throughout its history, perhaps most notably in 1871 when a raging fire burned down most of downtown Chicago.

Chicago residents wanted to come back from this tragedy better and stronger, so they cleared away the wreckage and broke ground on the world’s first skyscrapers. These buildings, complemented by their more modern counterparts, still adorn Chicago’s skyline today.

Located on the shores of Lake Michigan and at the intersection of railroads cutting across the country, Chicago is the third largest city in the US and the beating heart of the Midwest. It terms of population and size Chicagoland is comparable with the Randstad in the Netherlands. While it is difficult to define a city like Chicago in a few broad strokes, the following quote does a decent job capturing its essence:

“Chicago, a dynamic, ever-changing city, built by dreamers and doers – generations of people who shaped America with powerful industries, divers communities, searing conflicts, new ideas, and vibrant culture.

“To know Chicago, take the ‘L’, walk down State Street, tour the neighborhoods, relax on the beach, find a jazz or blues club, and go to a ballgame. There you will find the cities pulse – bold, brash, ready for today and eager for tomorrow. Chicago thrives on plans for the future. Know Chicago and you will know America.”

—Chicago History Museum

Where the market is as diverse as it gets

It is almost equally challenging to define Chicago’s innovation ecosystem, economy and marketplace, as it is exceptionally diverse. Not a single industry represents more than 14 percent of the economy. As such, nearly everything is happening in Chicago.

For Dutch startups or scale ups, this is not much to go on, so let me break it down a little further.

If your business works in a space that cuts across sectors, works B2B, has a hardware component, uses commercialized IP, and/or works in (hold onto your hats) the food, smart city, IoT, IT/software, FinTech, energy, biotech, medical device, and/or music sector, Chicago could be the place for you.

If any of this sounds familiar, be sure to check out my future blogs that will hone in on the opportunities per sector!

Where innovation and entrepreneurship are on the rise

The innovation ecosystem in Chicago and its resources for startups have surged in the past decade. This trend is likely to continue considering Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s dedication to growing and strengthening Chicago’s startup scene and fostering its innovation ecosystem.

By now, there are more than 100 incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces, more than $1.7 billion of venture capital investments, 275 digital startups launched every year on average, $8.2 billion in acquisitions and IPOs, and the highest VC returns of any US startup hub!

Where research and development are the order of the day

Another sign of the city’s commitment to innovation and research is the more than 300 corporate R&D centers, 1,700 patents issued each year, $1.6 billion investment in R&D at Chicago’s colleges and universities annually, and 96 Nobel prize winners.

Where nerds are flocking together

Chicago is home to world-class universities and draws in graduates from other universities around the Great Lakes. This makes the city rich in terms of a highly educated workforce and a large millennial population.

Illinois universities produce some of the strongest STEM (science technology, engineering and mathematics) talent in the nation, and also foster entrepreneurship and spur innovation. Budding entrepreneurs at Illinois universities have access to more resources than ever before.

The expansion of these resources (curriculum, programming, competitions, seed funding and incubation) is paying dividends, with 2016 showing a surge in startup creation and retention in the state. As such, Chicago fosters a growing a talent base and an entrepreneurial community that can help Dutch businesses launch in the US.

Where people are working to arrange your soft landing

Recently, organizations have been pulling sector-specific resources in Chicago together and have been working on stronger collaboration to boost innovation is their respective fields. The reason is that Chicago has a lot to offer, but it can be difficult to navigate the ecosystem to leverage all the resources at your disposal.

Chicago is a big place, but luckily the Netherlands Consulate General is located right at the heart of this vibrant city and can help you as a Dutch business with ambition every step of the way!

And where you could scale your business!

Stay tuned for the next blogs, and as always, don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you have. We’re here to help!