The entrance sign at Chicago incubator 1871. Credit: Raed Mansour / Flickr

With four billion-dollar cannabis companies based in Chicago, there’s an argument to be made that cannabis has become Illinois’ fastest growing industry. In an effort to boost that growth, Chicago’s getting a new business incubator focused on the cannabis business, launched by startup incubator 1871 and cannabis education and news company Grown In.

“I do think cannabis is becoming more mainstream. Three years ago when Illinois legalized adult use, there was a lot of consternation about what this means, but now it is widely accepted and businesses are recognizing the growth opportunities of this sector. It’s cool to see,” said Brad Spirrison, Grown In’s CEO.

Started in 2012, 1871 has become a major engine for Chicago innovation, fostering 17 billion-dollar companies, creating over 14,000 jobs and raising $3.5 billion in capital for startups.

Working with Grown In Learning, 1871 announced last week that it will provide training and education on the nuances of the cannabis industry for startups, growth stage companies, and large companies. 

“There’s a lot of demand. Startups and big corporates are asking for this,” said 1871 CEO Betsy Ziegler.

Originally focused on providing office space, technical support, and networking for startups, 1871 has recently moved into providing industry-specific programs. Its first, on supply chain, was kicked off earlier this summer in partnership with Accenture and World Business Chicago. Cannabis is the incubator’s second industry, with plans for up to twenty industries.

“From a business acceleration perspective, there are a lot of tools and services that growth stage companies could benefit from Grown In’s domain knowledge as well as the broad business acceleration and access to capital that 1871 can provide,” said Spirrison.


Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...