Kellogg officer to become first woman CEO of Chicago tech incubator


Source: Taryn Tawoda

Betsy Ziegler.

Rachel Kupfer, Reporter

Kellogg School of Management’s current chief innovation officer Betsy Ziegler will be making a big move from Northwestern to the Chicago tech scene this spring when she becomes the first woman CEO of technology incubator 1871.

Ziegler, who has held different positions within Kellogg throughout the past seven years, said she will use her time at 1871 to continue growing the company’s influence throughout Chicago and the world. She will begin her position in April.

Ziegler aims to both work with Fortune 500 companies based in Chicago and the Midwest and build bridges with entrepreneurs internationally, she told The Daily.

Described on its website as the “center of the tech and startup ecosystem in Chicago and the Midwest,” 1871 provides an environment for entrepreneurs to create and build businesses in technology.

The company is the flagship project of Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, a nonprofit group dedicated to sustaining Chicago’s entrepreneurial community. It has partnerships with Apple, Bosch and Accenture, and, since its founding in 2012, has become home to more than 400 digital startups, according to its website.

Jim O’Connor Jr., chairman of CEC’s board of directors, was looking for a new CEO that would maintain the company’s rate of expansion, he said in a statement to 1871.

“Betsy Ziegler is a proven leader and an innovation expert who exemplifies everything that we were looking for,” O’Connor Jr. said. “We have built a strong team, a committed community, and a powerful institution, and Betsy is the right choice to lead them forward.”

Ziegler will be replacing Howard Tullman (Weinberg ’67, School of Law ’70), who was CEO for the past four years. 1871’s website says that during his time as CEO, Tullman has emphasized the mindset of, “You get what you work for, not what you wish for.”

Similarly, Ziegler said she wants to bring with her from Kellogg the mindset that the world is constantly changing and speeding up.

In order to continue creating bonds both within 1871 and with its entrepreneur partners, Ziegler said she will carry over enthusiasm and a community-building orientation.

“It is about being present and demonstrating that you care about people and you care about their success,” Ziegler said. “That’s spending time with them, caring about whether or not they’re individually successful, listening to their ideas, taking action that moves in the directions they care about.”

Although she considers herself an expert within the field of graduate business education, 1871 will be a new challenge for Ziegler.

By taking on her new role, Ziegler said she is looking to grow professionally and personally from the experience.

“I’ve never been the person that has been ultimately in charge of the whole shebang,” Ziegler said. “I’ve led very large teams here at Kellogg, larger than the team I’ll be leading and growing at 1871, but I’ve never had the whole organization resting on my shoulders before. That’s a great opportunity.”

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Twitter: @rachkupfer