Chicago’s new incubator Catapult stocks up on startups

The Windy City is famous for one big giant startup Groupon(s grpn), but the folks at Chicago’s newest incubator, Catapult, believe there will be many more, and — for a short while at least — it hopes to play host to the next big Web sensations from the Midwest. Catapult only opened its doors in March, but on Tuesday it welcomed a wave of seven new startups in residence.
Catapult doesn’t bill itself as an incubator. Rather it calls itself a collaborative community, and it definitely gives off commune-type vibe. It’s a not-for-profit entity that rents 12,000 square feet of building space in Chicago’s downtown River North neighborhood. The incubator is investor agnostic, and new startup residents are selected democratically. The founders of current Catapult companies vote on whom to accept and whom to deny.
That sort of peer-selection process produced Tuesday’s latest round of new entrants. The five initial tenants VLinks MediaMentorMobStyle and 5Degrees voted on the seven new companies joining them at 321 N. Clark Street. Here is a brief description of the new tenants:

  • Dabble runs an online marketplace for classes, ranging for sausage making to getting started with Word Press. The company launched in Chicago this month last year but is expanding to other markets.
  • Buzz Referrals is in the business of digital referrals, providing a platform that allows Websites to promote themselves through social coupons on other rewards programs.
  • Shiftgig is developing a LinkedIn for people in the restaurant, nightlife, hotel and hospitality industries. It’s networking everyone from busboys to nightclub managers in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles and Miami.
  • Tempo stores and analyzes for companies massive times-series datasets – for example thermostat temperatures, network latencies, heart rates – that would normally break traditional databases.   
  • Procured Health produces a Web-based application that advises hospitals on what new medical device and health technology to buy how to implement it.
  • Kula has developed a peer-to-peer, mobile marketplace app that allows user to share, buy, and sell almost any good imaginable based on their current locations.
  • BucketFeet makes fancy sneakers. The company hooks up with artists looking to expand their craft to shoes, and then provides the distribution, e-commerce, and social media tools to allow those artists to connect to consumers.