Kevin Willer to Transition from CEO of CEC to Partner at i2A Fund

Decision comes following 2-year tenure that included the successful launch of startup hub 1871 and securing the CEC's position as the center of Chicago's entrepreneurial ecosystem

Feb 13, 2013, 10:01 ET from The CEC

CHICAGO, Feb. 13, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The CEC, the non-profit organization committed to supporting, promoting and growing the startup community in Chicago, today announced that CEO Kevin Willer will be transitioning from his role as CEO to become a partner in local seed stage venture fund, Illinois Innovation Accelerator Fund (i2A).

Mr. Willer's announcement comes at the completion of a successful 2-year tenure with the CEC in which he led the launch of startup center 1871 and effectively positioned the CEC at the center of Chicago's active entrepreneurial community. Today the CEC and 1871 deliver programming and resources to over 220 early-stage startups and are effectively bringing the key players of the startup ecosystem together under one roof in order to foster relationships and encourage growth.  In December 2012, six startup members of 1871 announced raising $11.6M in capital and creating 30 new jobs. 

"This move is coming at the right time for Kevin and the CEC.  Kevin did exactly what we asked of him when he joined as CEO two-years ago—and also exceeded our expectations with his leadership of 1871.  We will build on all of his great work to fulfill our mission on behalf of the community of entrepreneurs in Chicago," said Bryant Keil, Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of the CEC. 

Said Willer, "I'm proud of what the CEC team has accomplished in the last 2 years.  I often say that while my time at Google was incredible, this experience while working with so many of Chicago's great entrepreneurs has been the most rewarding of my professional career. Becoming a Partner in the i2A Fund represents my next career goal of becoming a leader in early-stage investing in Chicago."

The i2A Fund builds on Willer's work as a co-founder of Google's Chicago office, leading the CEC and 1871 and as a Venture Partner at New World Ventures. i2A has a strong track record of seed-stage investing in Chicago's most promising startups and entrepreneurs. Through i2A and his ongoing role on the Executive Committee of the CEC Board, he will maintain a visible and active role supporting the city's startup community.

"What's exciting about Kevin's move to i2A is that it serves as a great example for what the CEC is looking for from everyone in our community.  We want people to launch and grow companies, and then reach back to other entrepreneurs and provide them with mentoring and support.  When new opportunities emerge, you take those, and the cycle continues," added CEC Co-Chairman Jim O'Connor Jr.

Willer's transition will take place over the next few months. The CEC Board of Directors has engaged with an executive search firm to identify the best candidate to lead the organization. They believe that because of the high-profile nature of the CEC's work, it is a great moment to bring new talent to the organization.  Mr. Willer will continue to lead the organization until a successor is named.

About the CEC

The Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC) is a non-profit organization that supports entrepreneurs on their path to building high-growth, sustainable businesses that serve as platforms for economic development and civic leadership. Its flagship project, 1871, fulfills CEC's vision of a central address for entrepreneurs in Chicago. CEC runs and operates the workspace, develops programming, organizes events and ensures that the culture of 1871 allows entrepreneurs the greatest opportunity for success.

About i2A
The I2A Fund is a seed stage venture fund focused on catalyzing and partnering with the next wave of innovative technology ventures in Illinois and the surrounding regions.  I2A partners with emerging ventures to provide them with their first round of institutional financing and work with them to achieve success.

Melissa Lederer