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Frequently Asked Questions

Browse a list of common questions relating to the mHUB Accelerator programs for hardtech startups.

What is mHUB?

Launched in 2017, mHUB is the largest and fastest growing physical product innovation center in the U.S. Its mission is to accelerate industry growth by cultivating a community of collaboration and connectivity between innovators, entrepreneurs and manufacturers. In its first five years, our startups have raised $1.5B in lifetime funding, have generated more than $1B in revenue, hired more than 5,193 employees and launched more than 1,502 products. Learn more about our member startups.

Where is your facility located?

mHUB is located in the West Town neighborhood in Chicago at 965 W. Chicago Ave. This historic industrial corridor has deep roots in manufacturing and has been home to leaders in industry including Motorola Mobility, Milwaukee Iron and Metal Company, Werner Piano, and more. Learn more about the building, the neighborhood, or schedule a tour.

What capabilities does the space have?

mHUB is focused on physical products. mHUB's 63,000 square-foot facility contains multiple fabrication labs, including electronics, plastic fabrication, metals, textiles and rapid prototyping, as well as a micro-factory for small production runs.

Beyond the fabrication labs, mHUB offers a mentorship program designed to connect entrepreneurs with business and industry leaders, technical training, hardtech development services and a robust 50+ course entrepreneurial curriculum curated for every stage of the journey and business building. mHUB's flagship entrepreneurial product design workshops are even leveraged by regional corporates for employee training and external innovation.

Get more details on mHUB's Prototyping Labs and Member Benefits.

What is expected of me / our team during the Accelerator program?

The mHUB Accelerated Incubation program will be fast-paced and designed to bring your startup from concept or prototype to the foundation of a profitable, scalable and sustainable business in six months. The Team at mHUB expects that you and your team bring your ingenuity, a strong work ethic, and a collaborative spirit. mHUB expects you to come out of the program with a product and business ready to present to investors, customers and corporate partners.

Why is the program in-person at mHUB in Chicago?

mHUB’s hyper-resourced hardtech innovation center is a big part of the accelerator’s secret sauce for success. With over $6M of prototyping equipment, a member community of over 1200 hardtech innovators, and a broader ecosystem of leaders from industry, academia, research, VC and more, being onsite at mHUB allows our cohort teams to immerse themselves in the program and the community and capitalize on opportunities at every turn.

What is the focus of the Accelerator program?

mHUB's program focuses on three main areas that are interwoven and revisited iteratively. The first focus is on customer development and validating your hypothesis. It answers the question of who your customer is and what problem you are trying to solve. The second focus area is all about product feasibility; what is the solution to that problem and validating that solution with your customers through experimentation and prototyping. The third focal area consists of monetizing your solution; what is the business model and what is your go to market strategy. At the end of mHUB's six-month, on-site program you will be demonstrating and pitching your business to mHUB’s stakeholders and possible investors. Actually, you will be pitching throughout the program to become an expert storyteller.

What happens at the end of the program?

At the end of the six-month program, you will be pitching your company to investors and our broader community. At this time, investors in the mHUB Product Impact Fund, the corporate partners and our VC partners may participate in your company’s current funding round. At the end of the program, your team will still be members of the mHUB community for the following 18 months, which includes access to workspace, shop equipment, classes, mentorship, events, etc.

Am I expected to stay in Chicago after the program ends?

You are not required to stay in Chicago after the program ends, although, we find that many of our current mHUB startups do stay local after graduating from mHUB (remember you get an additional 18 months of membership). If you stay, you can continue to engage with the cohort’s corporate partners and mentors as well as the mHUB members and alumni. mHUB will provide the infrastructure and resources to help you continue to grow and refine your business.

Who are the most notable mHUB companies?

See our portfolio for a listing of the accelerator program’s current participants. Additionally, mHUB has worked with over 425 companies since its inception. Read more about our member companies.

How do you choose which companies are able to participate?

mHUB has developed a holistic selection process and a diverse selection committee designed to select the most promising teams based on program fit and alignment with our criteria. mHUB's selection criteria include:

  • focus on our corporate partners’ provided problem statements
  • the market potential of the proposed solutions
  • the experience, commitment and passion of the founding team
  • the current capital structure of the startup
  • the overall business strategy

The selection process will comprise several rounds. An initial round is based on the completeness of the application. An in-depth review is based on an holistic scoring of the above selection criteria. Finally, an in-person interview takes place where the product and business model as well as team coachability, passion and commitment are assessed.

Is my company too far along to apply? What if we have already received funding?

mHUB accepts applications that cover a broad spectrum of development; your product or solution can be in the concept phase, in prototyping phase, in initial commercial pilot or in market. mHUB knows that the physical product development process can be capital intensive, so we do not discount any startup who has already taken necessary amounts of funding. As long as you fall within the pre-seed and seed classification, mHUB invites you to apply!

What will happen to my confidential information when I apply?

See mHUB's Privacy Policy for more information.

We don’t really need the money. Does it still make sense to apply?

Absolutely. While the capital investment(s) is a large benefit of the program, much of the true value comes from access to mHUB’s industry-leading resources, mentorship, entrepreneurial and technical training, mHUB’s startup community and connection to industry stakeholders who are willing and interested potential customers. Key features highlighted by our current members and alumni include peer learning with other startups (you are in it together), access to a state-of-the-art prototyping environment and mHUB’s extensive manufacturing and tech ecosystem.

How do I know if my company is a physical product/hardtech company?

“Physical product” is a broad term, but mHUB likes to say it is best defined as any physical good you can manufacture. Although, mHUB understands that many physical product companies also have a digital side to them. As long as your company has exposure to the physical side, mHUB invites you to apply.

Does the mHUB Product Impact Fund anticipate making follow-on investments?

Yes, the fund is structured to make follow-on investments in 8 to 12 companies with check sizes ranging from $100K to $750K. These investments will require an additional institutional investor or established firm to lead and price the funding round. In addition, the Product Impact Fund Limited Partners will seek direct and co-investment opportunities.

What if we need more money than the cash provided by the Accelerator before the program ends?

Throughout the program, mHUB will help make connections to investment partners within our ecosystem to help you meet your funding needs. Our stakeholders (corporate partners and investors) will witness firsthand your progress during the program through intermediate prototype demonstrations and pitch competitions.

How is Accelerated Incubation different from other Accelerators?

mHUB Accelerated Incubation is a 6-month deep dive incubation taking place in Chicago, the heart of U.S. manufacturing and engineering ingenuity. mHUB believes our in-person program is unique because of our 360-degree incubation model that focuses on the engineering, design and manufacturing of a physical product, along with building the startup teams’ business and leadership capacity. Throughout the life of the program, all teams will have the ability to access mHUB’s Hardtech Development Services and tap into a deep talent pool of entrepreneurs, engineers and designers to support your product development, processes and overall strategy. In addition, each accelerator cohort has direct access to corporate partners who will actively engage with teams to understand market demand, build customer relationships and offer possible pilot opportunities. mHUB’s ever-growing manufacturing ecosystem offers connections to a robust network of industry experts, contractors, investors, mentors, manufacturers, suppliers and more.

What is the role of the corporate partners in the program?

Corporate partners are an integral part of the accelerator program. They assist in defining market opportunity, supporting the review and selection process, acting as mentors, providing funding support for the program and providing possible pilot opportunities. At the mid-point of the program, corporate partners may make an additional investment(s) in cohort companies in the form of convertible notes. In addition, they will provide marketing support to help us generate strong visibility for the program and teams.

When will participating corporate partners deploy their initial investments and what will be the terms?

Each corporate partner will deploy a minimum of $100K in additional investments per cohort via a convertible note. These investments will occur at the mid-check point / product-market fit pitch competition. The terms for the convertible notes: 80% discount rate, 4% APR with debt converting at Series A funding or acquisition. There will be no pro-rata written into this document. There will also be no valuation cap.

How does the investment affect my Cap Table?

Accelerator companies allocate a non-negotiable 6.5% of their company to the mHUB Product Impact Fund through the form of a Simple Agreement for Future Equity (SAFE), which converts to equity in each company’s next priced round. Upon the conversion of the SAFE to equity, the mHUB Product Impact Fund would become a preferred shareholder. While mHUB only takes one spot on your cap table, our equity stake spreads returns and ownership among our fund’s 80-85 strategic Limited Partners, allowing you the benefit of multiple shareholders without the complexity.

To receive the investment, all Accelerator companies will be required to provide:

  • Organizational documents, such as certificate of incorporation, LLC or similar, company’s bylaws
  • Any voting agreements, transfer restriction agreements, proxies, preemptive rights agreements or other agreements relating to the management, ownership or control of the company
  • Summary of related party transactions and arrangements
  • Employment and consulting agreements
  • Current capitalization table
  • Any severance, bonus or change of control obligations
  • Incentive equity plans, awards and agreements

What happens to my intellectual property?

You retain 100% ownership of your IP. Any additional IP developed in the program is assigned to your company.

How many companies will you accept into the cohort?

mHUB expects to accept 8 to 10 companies per cohort.

What if my company (or product) qualifies for numerous cohorts?

mHUB invites you to apply to multiple cohorts if the theme fits your product. If selected to participate, you will join the cohort that the mHUB selection committee feels best fits your product and expertise.

What can I expect from the Pitch Events?

Midway Corporate Pitch Event - This event will focus on product market fit and show the teams’ progress within the first three months focused on the Discovery phase and the beginning of the Design phase. The audience will include peers, contractors, LPs and corporate partners.

Investor Pitch / Demo Day - This event will be the culmination of the accelerator program. The pitches will be holistic and focused on capturing additional customers and attracting follow-on investment. The audience will include the public, VCs, angels, LPs and industry partners.

How far along should my product be in the development process?

mHUB accepts applications that cover a broad spectrum of development; your product or solution can be in the concept phase, in prototyping phase or already in an initial commercial pilot. Regardless of your status, all startups will follow thorough customer validation through hypothesis and assumption testing followed by multiple experiments towards building their Minimal Viable Product. Once product-market fit is obtained, the best business model and go-to-market strategy will be developed to build a profitable, scalable and sustainable business. mHUB understands that startups may be in different stages along this journey, but mHUB wants to validate and confirm each step. For some startups, this might be a confirmation of assumptions, for others, newly gained insights might require some pivoting.

How much money and services will I get when accepted to the program?

When accepted to the program you will get the following value:

The Financial Investment

  • The mHUB Product Impact Fund I makes an initial investment of $100K in cash for each startup through a pre-money SAFE in exchange for 6.5% equity.
  • Additionally, the program’s corporate partners allocate a minimum of $100k in the form of convertible notes to be distributed across the cohort. These funds will be distributed based on partners’ discretion and may not be shared by entire cohort.
  • Follow-on investment opportunities from mHUB’s Product Impact Fund to support portfolio teams’ future rounds. 

Access to the mHUB Hardtech Ecosystem

  • Become part of mHUB, one of the nation’s leading hardtech innovation and manufacturing centers. You will join an ecosystem of more than 1,000 hardtech entrepreneurs and innovators, an active investor network, seasoned industry mentors, regional manufacturers and suppliers, and our hardtech product development community.
  • Access to mHUB's $6M prototyping, manufacturing and testing workshop, along with technical staff and training.
  • Cash equivalent credits towards hardtech development services ($30K per startup), 24-month mHUB membership ($34K value per startup), as well as multiple other services
  • Support from our engaged and invested partners

Other questions, comments, or concerns?

Please email us at team@mhubchicago.com and we will be happy to answer any additional questions you may have.