Chapter 10Investing for Impact

Walk into the Merchandise Mart in Chicago, a massive art deco building once owned by Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., the bigger-than-life founder of the Kennedy dynasty, and take the elevator to the twelfth floor. When you get there, look down the hall. It seems to stretch for several city blocks. (It, in fact, does.) This was once the largest building in the world. At the end of the hall, you'll see a bright neon sign. It reads “1871,” the year the city of Chicago burned in the great fire. For most Chicagoans, 1871 now refers to a place, not a year. It has become Chicago's innovation hearth. At 1871, young entrepreneurs bring their ideas to a group of established business managers and, if their ideas are good enough, they build their businesses with the help of their peers and mentors. The 50,000-square-foot offices of 1871 resemble a college student lounge. The median age couldn't be any higher than twenty-two or twenty-three. The dress code is anything goes.

In this room that overlooks the Chicago River, several multi-billion-dollar businesses will emerge in the coming years. You needn't take my word for it. Notice the J.P. Morgan bankers roaming through the cubicles. Or the visits from the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, that seem so routine that few even bother to take off their headphones when he stops by. Or the almost weekly visits from members of Congress. Even British Prime Minister David Cameron introduced himself to 1871 during a 2012 visit ...

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