IVCA 2017 Awards Dinner Profile: Recipient of the Richard J. Daley Award is Howard Tullman, CEO of Chicago Start-Up Incubator ‘1871’

IVCA 2017 Awards Dinner Profile: Recipient of the Richard J. Daley Award is Howard Tullman, CEO of Chicago Start-Up Incubator ‘1871’

November 22, 2017

The Annual IVCA Awards Dinner is fast approaching – Monday, December 4th, 2016. The yearly event honors the persons and organizations that have made an impact both within the association, the broader VC/PE industries and the community at large. The individual award recipients were recently announced, and the Richard J. Daley Award honoree is Howard Tullman, who has served as CEO for “1871,” the digital start-up incubator housed in the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.
 
The Richard J. Daley Award – named for the mayor of Chicago who served from 1955 to 1976 – honors a single individual who has given direct and extraordinary support to the State of Illinois by participating in or being an advocate for the Venture Capital and Private Equity industry. The honoree has participated at some level in the VC or PE industry, has the highest ethical standards in both a personal and professional approach, and has directed significant effort toward improving the city, state and country.
 
Howard A. Tullman is a serial entrepreneur, Venture Capitalist, educator, writer and lecturer. Besides his position as CEO of 1871 – where he recently announced he will conclude his tenure at the end of 2017 – he is also the General Managing Partner of G2T3V, LLC and of Chicago High Tech Investment Partners. He is also a member of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Chicago NEXT and Cultural Affairs Councils, the Innovate Illinois Advisory and Arts Councils, a member of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s New Media Council, an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and in all those roles an advisor to many start-ups.
 
He is the former Chairman and CEO of Tribeca Flashpoint College and Kendall College, and is the Chairman of the Endowment Committee of Anshe Emet Synagogue. He is on the Advisory Board of HighTower Advisors and Imerman Angels, and a regular guest lecturer at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. Mr. Tullman also serves as a Director of Vehcon and SnapSheet and served as a long-time Director and Board Chairman of The Cobalt Group. He is a Trustee of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the New York Academy of Art, and the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, and as the lead Director (and briefly Chairman) of The Princeton Review. Over the last 48 years, he has successfully founded more than a dozen high-tech companies.
 
Mr. Tullman was a graduate with honors of Northwestern University (B.A., 1967) and of its School of Law (J.D., 1970). Mr. Tullman was admitted to the Bar in 1970 and, on special petition, to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court in 1974. He practiced in Chicago for 10 years, specializing in Federal litigation, and served by appointment as a Special Master for class action litigation in the Southern District of New York.
 
In anticipation of the December 4th Awards Dinner, the IVCA interviewed Richard J. Daley Award honoree Howard Tullman.
 
IVCA: Congratulations on the Richard J. Daley Award. What does it mean to you to be honored by your peers in the Venture Capital and Private Equity industries?
 
Howard Tullman: First of all, I’m flattered to be selected by a whole bunch of people who I admire, and whose own activities and successes I have tried to emulate in my own career. Second, I was personally close to Mayor Daley for many years and I was a member of his original Tech Advisory Council, and so it is especially meaningful for me to receive the award named in his father’s honor. And finally, I have attended this IVCA Dinner for many years – as a guest of my dear friend Al Kutchins – and I have always thought that to be recognized at such a large assembly of one’s peers was really a special and unique honor. 
 
IVCA: What do you think has characterized the Chicago investment community the most, and are you optimistic about the future of its growth?
 
Tullman: I think that the Chicago investment community – which I am extremely excited and optimistic about – has really come into its own in the last decade. If there is one distinguishing feature that is descriptive of the community, and also uniquely a part of the character of our great city as well, it is the amazing extent to which we see various investor groups working together and collaboratively here, rather than purely as adversaries and competitors. I’ve seen more instances of cooperation where three or four firms will all participate in a given deal. I think that is a healthy way to make more resources and connections, far beyond mere cash available, to both startups and growth businesses, and to also grow the pool of investment and funding opportunities for everyone here.
 
IVCA: Over your extensive career, what has been the most overt evolution have you seen in Chicago’s entrepreneurial ecosystem?
 
Tullman: When I reached out for funding for my first Chicago business in 1981 – CCC Information Services – I literally had to shame one of the giants and founders of Chicago’s VC community, Stanley Golder, into making what was his first investment in a Chicago-based startup. I wouldn’t let up or leave him alone and, of course, it turned out extremely well for all concerned... but it was clearly a very hard sell and a time when venture funds in the city were few and far between.
 
The biggest change I have seen over the decades has been the emergence of a number of major venture firms in Chicago, and also a tremendous growth in both smaller VC firms, angel investors and investor syndicates. These days it’s a piece of cake to get your deal funded... said no one ever.
 
IVCA: Since working so closely with '1871,' how do you view the opportunity to combine private company investments, entrepreneurship and civic engagement?
 
Tullman: At 1871, we spend a great deal of our time and resources making sure that the businesses being built in our ecosystem are not simply about people trying to make a living, but are also about making a life, and making a difference far beyond their individual desires and lives. 1871 itself is a shining example of how engaged public and private support for a great new idea can come together to serve the entrepreneurial community and the businesses here – big and small – and to better the economy for all concerned. Even though 1871 hasn’t received any city or state funding for many years, we wouldn’t be here in the first place without the help and support from our city, state, federal, university and business partners/sponsors.
 
IVCA: Since you've had a long experience with civic engagement, what advice do you have for younger people who are interested in becoming involved in that experience?
 
Tullman: In our little part of the world, this is a hard question because it’s very difficult when you’re trying to build a new business... to try to serve too many masters and chase too many rabbits at the same time. I would say, as tired an expression as it may be, that charity and civic engagement for our startups needs to start at home – taking care of their own businesses which hopefully have some built-in component of civic contribution.
 
Once they have nailed that, and once they aren’t spending every day putting out a multitude of fires, then it becomes a little easier to focus on giving back and lending a helping hand to those coming next. But if you don’t concentrate on building your initial business on a firm and sustainable foundation, and if you let yourself or your team become too distracted by trying to do too many things, you won’t be around to help anyone out. 
 
Tables and tickets are still available for the 2017 IVCA Awards dinner, December 4th, 2017, at the Four Seasons in Chicago. Click here or contact Kathy Pyne directly at kpyne@illinoisvc.org or 312.241.1620.