#MATTERturns5: Five years in, MATTER is a global innovation hub

We opened MATTER five years ago with the idea that we could help entrepreneurs and innovators build healthcare solutions by harnessing the enormous expertise and resources that are available in Chicago — including leading companies across all sectors of healthcare, top-tier health systems and research institutions, and most of the major medical associations. There was a lot of uncertainty: Were there enough healthcare and life sciences entrepreneurs in Chicago? Would the large companies in the region be willing to participate? Would organizations be willing to collaborate in ways that can truly accelerate innovation?

Five years in, I’m happy to say that it’s all working. We have nurtured hundreds of Chicago-based startups, including high-growth companies such as Regroup (now InSight + Regroup), Level Ex and HabitNu that have terrific traction in the market. We continue to work with most of the established healthcare companies and organizations in the Chicago area. And we regularly bring together innovation leaders and entrepreneurs to collaborate on developing next-generation solutions.

But MATTER has become much more than a Chicago entity. We are a global startup incubator and innovation services provider headquartered in Chicago. Today, more than one-third of our member companies are located outside of Illinois, including concentrations in New York, Tel Aviv and Toronto, and our global membership is our fastest growing category.

Many of our most engaged corporate partners are located outside of Chicago, as well. We are currently in the middle of running innovation challenges and accelerators with Denmark-based Novo Nordisk, Switzerland-based Roche Diabetes Care and Indiana-based Parkview Health. Over the last two years, we have refined our capabilities to help large, established organizations such as these source and co-develop novel solutions, tackle complex challenges involving new technologies, and strengthen their internal innovation capabilities. It’s all part of the underlying thesis we started with: that the best way to innovate in healthcare is through collaboration.

As part of our growth strategy, we began working with the city of New York in 2018 to develop a healthcare and life sciences innovation center in Manhattan. We were honored to have been selected to explore this opportunity and, while that plan ultimately didn’t work out, we got to know a lot of great people and companies in New York and will continue to build our community of startup members and partners there in the coming months.

Closer to home, the future looks brighter than ever. For the first time since we opened our doors, we have both a city government and a state government that are enthusiastic about helping foster more healthcare and life sciences innovation in Chicago. There are multiple large-scale real estate development projects focused on our industry. And P33, the civic group organized under the umbrella of the Commercial Club of Chicago, has health and life sciences as one of its core growth areas. We look forward to working with all of these groups to make Chicago the best place for healthcare and life sciences innovation.

Ultimately, our success is measured through the innovations we help advance — whether driven by nascent firms or the largest global enterprises. Our mission is to help the innovators — the people and organizations developing solutions that improve the healthcare experience. Over the last five years, we’ve continued to evolve our services in response to feedback and demand, and you can see the results in all of the amazing solutions that are changing lives today. Click here to see our recent report looking back on the last five years at MATTER.

I want to thank all the members of our community who have made our journey possible: our tremendous board of directors, all the volunteer faculty and mentors who make our programs possible, the corporate partners we are honored to work with, and of course the entrepreneurs who inspire us every day. On behalf of the entire MATTER team, we look forward to working with you in the next five years to accelerate innovation, advance care and improve lives.

Want to read more about how we’re commemorating five years at MATTER?