Troy Henikoff: Supporting a culture for innovation

Chicago-based entrepreneur Troy Henikoff has a go-to recipe for fostering communities that supports innovation.

Ingredients include investors, co-working spaces for collaboration, and an inclusive attitude.

Troy Henikoff
Troy Henikoff

Henikoff should know. He is the Managing Director for TechStars Chicago, an organization that is part of a global entrepreneurial network helping people with good ideas start a business by giving them access to accelerators, mentors, and capital.

In fact, Techstars already has a presence in Rochester, allowing health care-oriented entrepreneurs who have been through the program to spend several weeks in the city exploring business opportunities with the Mayo Clinic.

20160615_105627Henikoff was in Rochester this week sharing his experience helping to transform Chicago into an innovator mecca. He met with a group of entrepreneurs during his visit, which comes at a critical time for Rochester. Last week, the Destination Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic

Last week, the Destination Medical Center and the Mayo Clinic announced next steps for Discovery Square, a 2 million square foot urban bioscience campus where doctors, researchers, and scientists will come together to accelerate new advancements in medical research, technology, and patient care.

Already, Rochester has a robust innovation community, drawing on expertise and research at Mayo Clinic. Discovery Square will attract new businesses, investment, and talent to the area, while advancing Mayo Clinic’s goals of improving patient care through innovation.

Henikoff said that the key to a successful innovator ecosystem is support. “When I started out, ‘entrepreneur’ wasn’t part of our vocabulary,” Henikoff told the crowd. “All of this stuff was done in a world where there was no support, where we had to make mistakes for ourselves, figure out things for ourselves…It doesn’t have to be that way.”

Support for entrepreneurs includes physical space where scientists, researchers, tech experts, industry, and academia can collaborate to create and problem-solve. Henikoff pointed to Chicago’s 1871 as the type of space where ideas are born.

But what does all this mean for Destination Medical Center and for Rochester?

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 3.19.14 PMDiscovery Square is a key component of DMC’s plan to enhance Rochester’s reputation as a place for health and wellness by creating a robust entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem that encourages start-up companies. DMC will lead the creation of the physical and cultural environment necessary for Discovery Square to succeed.

“Building a successful start-up community is really about building a successful ecosystem,” said Patrick Seeb, DMC director of economic development and placemaking. Seeb said the DMC plan will not only focus on collaborative spaces, but also on human capital, access to ideas, and capital resources. “We want Rochester to be a place where, when you go to a cocktail party, you’re not the only one who has started a business,” Seeb said.

Discovery Square will encompass a six-block area in downtown. With construction slated to begin in 2017, the first of several Discovery Square buildings is anticipated to be completed within two years.