Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Springfield, IL

Springfield, IL

Perhaps best known as the longtime home of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield has a long history as the epicenter of Illinois’ government.

Springfield, IL is the state’s capital and sixth-largest city, and the second-largest outside of the Chicago metropolitan area. Perhaps best known as the longtime home of Abraham Lincoln, Springfield has a long history as the epicenter of the state’s government. While Chicago gets most of the state’s attention from a business perspective, Springfield has begun to emerge as a viable place for entrepreneurship and innovation.

The city ranked 17th in Silicon Prairie News’ 2018 “State of the Silicon Prairie” report, which studied and ranked Midwest cities as entrepreneurial hubs. More recently, Springfield was 34th on Forbes’ 2019 ranking of the best small places for business and careers, with a ranking of 4th in the “Cost of Business” category. Finally, while the state of Illinois as a whole was ranked in the bottom half of WalletHub’s list of the best states to start a business, it’s ranking of 8th overall in the “Access to Resources” category suggests a somewhat promising business environment.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Springfield’s entrepreneurial ecosystem:

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

The goal of the meetup is to provide support and connections to those building systems, especially software development.

The Springfield Real Estate Master Mind Group is designed to help educate and support real estate investors in the Springfield area.

Small business owners and entrepreneurs in the Springfield area can attend regular meetings to make connections and grow their networks.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Illinois Chamber of Commerce hosts a variety of regular events, including an annual Women in Business conference.

Illinois Women in Leadership aims to support women in business and other leadership roles and hosts regular events for members.

The Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce hosts a variety of events, including networking opportunities, an annual gala, small business expos, award ceremonies, and more.


Startup Competitions:

Campus 1871 is a Chicago-based pitch competition for college students throughout the state of Illinois, including those at the University of Illinois Springfield.

The Illinois Innovation Awards is an awards ceremony and pitch competition hosted by the University of Illinois Springfield that celebrates and challenges the area’s best entrepreneurs.


Co-working Spaces:

The Incubator is a combination café and co-working space that also offers a full bar on the weekends.

Led by the University of Illinois Springfield, Innovate Springfield offers both incubation services and a traditional co-working membership plan.

Your Corner Office is a co-working space that also provides business consulting to members and hosts community events.



Since 2009, the Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab in Urbana has been a makerspace open to the public for free, with charges for specific tools and materials used.

Down the road in Urbana, Makerspace Urbana hosts open hours twice a week to allow non-members to enter and explore the space and potentially join.

Springfield is home to a small makerspace open to the public that also hosts classes to help educate members about the available tools and equipment.



Lincoln Land Community College is home to Springfield’s branch of the Illinois Small Business Development Center, which runs programs and services to support area small business.

In addition to providing co-working memberships, Innovate Springfield runs a business incubator program and a program designed to support social innovation.

While the Research Park at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign primarily works with those with a connection to the school, it does run some public incubator programs and services.



In addition to co-working space and a café/bar, the Incubator also runs an early-stage accelerator that funds and supports digital media, consumer product and tech companies.

Techstars, a massive company that runs highly-ranked tech accelerators in cities throughout the world, has a program located in Chicago.



Lincoln Land Community College hosts an array of resources and programs designed to support student entrepreneurship, including offering a one-year certificate program on the subject.

Down the road in Decatur, students at Millikin University have access to the school’s variety of programs in entrepreneurship, including a major, minor and two certificate programs.

The University of Illinois’ flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign organizes a wide variety of entrepreneurial support resources for both students and the general public.

The Center for Entrepreneurship works to support student entrepreneurs at the university and offers a graduate certificate program in entrepreneurship.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Located in Peoria, Central IL Angels is an investment group that works with companies throughout the central area of the state, primarily with early-stage startups.

Organized by the state, the Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund (ILGIF) aims to attract quality technology startups to the state and support those that are already there.

With offices in Chicago and Champaign, Illinois Ventures provides venture capital and seed funding to promising healthcare and technology startups located throughout the state.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

While the Central Illinois Business Magazine doesn’t currently offer a newsletter, it doe publish its issues, which cover business throughout the region, for free online.

Illinois Business Daily provides an email newsletter that delivers the latest business news coming from throughout the entire state.

The Illinois Innovation Network, which covers news related to the state’s entrepreneurship and innovation scene, offers a newsletter containing updates on the environment.

The Springfield Business Journal offers Biz Bites, a weekly newsletter focusing on area business and entrepreneurship that is sent out on Wednesday afternoons.

Are you familiar with entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Springfield not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Augusta, Georgia, Champaign-Urbana, IL, Chicago, IL,

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.