With unemployment soaring, small businesses shuttering, and even some large chains withholding rent, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are reverberating through our communities. Many people wait on relief from the government in the form of stimulus payments and unemployment benefits. Businesses scramble to secure emergency loans, payroll support, and new ways to gain revenue. Oftentimes lost among other dire news is the plight of nonprofits and charities, who languish as donations dry up and revenue-producing events are put on hold.

Cash and Equity Giving

Jack Dorsey’s $1 billion equity pledge is an eye-catching reminder of how important it is to support these causes and organizations now if you are able to. Many are dependent on revenue from events that can’t happen and donations from disposable income that has evaporated. Our Founders Pledge is built on the idea of baking giving into your venture as part of your short-term and long-term financial plans, to support your community, and to support the organizations that support you with a mix of cash and equity giving.

One nonprofit that can use your support at this time is the CentraCare Foundation. From now until May 30th, your donation to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund will be doubled, due in part to a gift from our partners Ryan and Rob Weber.

Time and Effort Giving

During this time many businesses and leaders have risen to the challenge to support their communities through non-cash/non-equity donations. Our portfolio companies are also active in the fight, supporting local businesses, hospitals, and healthcare workers on the frontline. Here are four examples of their work.

1. Dispatch launched same day delivery for local businesses. This service aims to help alleviate supply chain difficulties during the pandemic

2. 2ndKitchen launched a new service to offer delivery for bars and breweries. This is a lifeline for these businesses when they have to be closed, with 2go allowing bars and breweries to sell beer, food, and merchandise for pickup or delivery- for free.

2ndKitchen's 2Go

Clinician Nexus partnered with MN COVIDsitters to provide the technology platform that connects volunteer medical students with healthcare workers to provide free childcare during the pandemic.

4. PrintWithMe is holding a Face Mask Drive. The face masks, unused N95 masks as well as simple surgical masks, are being supplied to Chicago-area hospitals.

Giving for a Better Future

In consideration of the pandemic, the Webers have expanded the list of colleges they support to include North Hennepin Community College (NHCC), one of the largest Minnesota State colleges serving a very diverse student body with many low-income students. Ryan and Rob are alumni of NHCC, where they gained the skills that helped them bootstrap their own startup.

The Webers have donated $10,000 to NHCC’s Foundation to directly aid Graphic Design students studying product design, a program they see as well-positioned to fill the large UI/UX design talent gap in Minnesota and the surrounding region. Their support of this program goes beyond money to include volunteering as mentors, promoting awareness of NHCC’s Graphic Design program, and using their networks to help students connect with internships and employment opportunities.

We continue to support and evolve our own educational initiative aimed at filling the gap of disciplined startup education in the region, formerly known as the Great North Labs Startup School. The programming is now known by a variety of names, and collectively as the Lean Startup School. The new iterations have come about by partnering with Red Wing Ignite and ILT Studios. These partners have allowed us to develop the programming as a white-label offering to communities around the state, with a particular emphasis on Greater Minnesota. There are two cohorts currently, in St. Cloud and Red Wing, with more planned for the future.

Lean Startup School

We will get through this crisis, one way or another. Whether or not the federal government gets behind legislation that supports startups with an influx of capital, such as the New Business Preservation Act, there is a broad community of entrepreneurial support and a healthy, growing startup ecosystem in the region. We will continue to cultivate transformative innovations, successful entrepreneurs, and tech startups in the Upper Midwest!

Valuable startup ecosystem organizations we support include MN Cup, Beta.MN, Minnestar, SCSU University Foundation, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation, gBETA Greater MN-St. Cloud, SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Silicon North Stars. If you also find them valuable and you are able, please consider giving to them during this time of need!


Welcome back to the Great North Labs newsletter! 2019 has been a big year for us. We invested $5.7M in 10 startups, including six in Minnesota, three in Illinois, and one in Wisconsin. That brings our totals to date to $8M in 18 early-stage startups throughout the upper Midwest, and one in Colorado. 

Other than investing, the past year has been full of great events, important developments, and growth. Here are our top 5 stories of 2019. 

Top 5 Stories of 2019

1. The year started with a bang, as we closed our debut fund. Our $23.7M raise is one of the largest debut venture funds ever raised in the Midwest. You can read about it on our site, at VentureBeat, or hereherehereherehere, and elsewhere.

2. Minnebar is one of the largest tech gatherings annually in Minnesota. Put on by Minnestar, the bar camp (similar to an un-conference) attracted 1,700 local tech professionals to Best Buy HQ. Not only is it a popular event, it’s a fun event to present at. Read our recap

3. Launch MN took off with Red Wing Ignite alumnus Neela Mollgaard at the helm. The MN DEED initiative aims to grow the innovation ecosystem around the state (their application for education funding grants has recently been extended to January 17th, FYI). Watch Great North Labs’s Ryan Weber speak to state legislators and Gov. Walz at the Launch MN Kickoff. 

4. Twin Cities Startup Week was a huge success this year, with 16,000 attendees and over 200 events. We partnered with TCSW organizer BETA.MN to expand the BETA Showcase to include Greater MN for the first time. 10 startups from Greater MN exhibited, and ecosystem supporters from around the state were brought together beforehand at the Greater MN Meetup. Read more in our newsletter here, and about all of the other things we did during TCSW.

5. Finally, our year has ended with a call to giving. We’ve challenged the startup community to commit to a founders pledge, to ensure the support of the nonprofits that support founders. It’s a virtuous cycle, and we want to see it become a part of our startup ecosystem. Read more about the founders pledge here.

Also, consider donating to Minnestar at this time. Our advisor, Daren Cotter, is currently matching donations up to $10k

The developments in 2019 have been fantastic, including fund growth, state policy changes, growing tech events, and nonprofit support.

“I am interested in paying it forward to the MN Tech community that has been so much a part of the success of InboxDollars. I support Minnestar’s mission and the dedicated people who are executing it every day.

I truly believe that vibrant and growing tech community benefits all its stakeholders. Minnestar and its excellent team are dedicated to executing this mission every day, and I’m proud to support them. I’m excited to see our community continue to grow, and I hope this match campaign will be a small part of that! I can’t wait to see what the great entrepreneurs and technologists in MN are going to build next.” –Daren Cotter (via Minnestar)

Events

The holidays are a busy time for everyone! If you find some time between family and friends, here are some events worth attending: 

Portfolio News

Clinician Nexus is the newest addition to the Great North Labs portfolio. Read about their $1.5M round in the Star Tribune. Clinician Nexus provides health systems, schools, and students with a transparent, people-centered platform that facilitates better clinical rotation management, from start to finish. 

Job Board

Dispatchis hiring all over the country for Part Time Drivers and in Bloomington, MN for a Biz Dev Representative, Data Scientist, and CFO. 
Structural is hiring an Associate Software Engineer in Indianapolis or St. Paul, MN. 
TeamGenius is hiring a Sales Associate in Minneapolis. 
FactoryFixis hiring a Software Engineer, Product Designer, and UX Designer in Madison, and a Biz Dev Specialist and Account Manager in Chicago.
Misty Roboticsis hiring a Lead Qualification & Inside Sales Specialist, and a Inside Sales Specialist (contract) in Boulder, CO. 
2ndKitchen is hiring a Customer Success Manager, Account Executive, and Director of Sales in Chicago. 
PrintWithMe ishiring a Customer Success Associate, Network Operations Specialist, Inside Sales Executive, and an Operations Lead in Chicago; Super User Technicians in Portland and Houston; and a Regional Sales Director for the West Coast.
Parallax is hiring a Customer Success Specialist, Quality Assurance Engineer, Senior Software Engineer, and for a Growth/Customer Acquisition role in Minneapolis. 
Branchis hiring a UX Designer, Content Marketing Manager, Settlement Analyst, Software Engineer, Customer Support Agent, Customer Success Manager, and a Senior Backend Engineer in Minneapolis. 

1. The year started with a bang, as we closed our debut fund. Our $23.7M raise is one of the largest debut venture funds ever raised in the Midwest. You can read about it on our site, at VentureBeat, or here, here, here, here, here, and elsewhere.

2. Minnebar is one of the largest tech gatherings annually in Minnesota. Put on by Minnestar, the bar camp (similar to an un-conference) attracted 1,700 local tech professionals to Best Buy HQ. Not only is it a popular event, it’s a fun event to present at. Read our recap

3. Launch MN took off with Red Wing Ignite alumnus Neela Mollgaard at the helm. The MN DEED initiative aims to grow the innovation ecosystem around the state (their application for education funding grants has recently been extended to January 17th, FYI). Watch Great North Labs’s Ryan Weber speak to state legislators and Gov. Walz at the Launch MN Kickoff. 

4. Twin Cities Startup Week was a huge success this year, with 16,000 attendees and over 200 events. We partnered with TCSW organizer BETA.MN to expand the BETA Showcase to include Greater MN for the first time. 10 startups from Greater MN exhibited, and ecosystem supporters from around the state were brought together beforehand at the Greater MN Meetup. Read more in our newsletter here, and about all of the other things we did during TCSW.

5. Finally, our year has ended with a call to giving. We’ve challenged the startup community to commit to a founders pledge, to ensure the support of the nonprofits that support founders. It’s a virtuous cycle, and we want to see it become a part of our startup ecosystem. Read more about the founders pledge here.

Twin Cities Startup Week is over! It was a busy week for many of us in the tech and innovation community, with around 300 events to attend and thousands of people to meet. 

This year, Great North Labs was proud to bring Greater Minnesota into the BETA Showcase for the first time ever. Thanks to Reed Robinson and Adam Lingerfelt at Beta for working with us to include 10 non-metro startups at this year’s event! We are still waiting on final tallies from TCSW, but we know that over 900 tickets were sold for the Showcase event. The value for these outstate entrepreneurs of that kind of exposure is fantastic, and we are glad to have done our part in providing it through our partnership with BETA. 

Great North Labs’s Ryan Weber speaks at the 2019 BETA Showcase at TCF Bank Stadium as BETA Executive Director Reed Robinson looks on.

Prior to the Showcase, Great North Labs hosted an invite-only event for the entrepreneurs and other attendees working from or with Greater Minnesota. The Greater MN Meetup brought together Greater Minnesota ecosystem stakeholders to join the conversation on improving the startup ecosystem. We had over 100 attendees involved in actively supporting the Greater MN innovation ecosystem! Thanks to Moss & Barnett and EPIQ Partners for co-hosting and making this event possible. 

“With the efforts of some amazing partners like the NEW Launch MN initiative and Great North Labs, there’s an ever increasing appetite for supporting and celebrating technology being built in Greater Minnesota… Working together, we’re excited to see what kind of growth occurs – customers, investment, awareness, etc – by building tighter relationships between the local technology ecosystem and those building outside of the Twin Cities.” – Reed Robinson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of BETA

Events and initiatives like the 2019 BETA Showcase, gBeta Greater MN St. Cloud, and Launch MN are excellent catalysts for entrepreneurs. By supporting them we will continue to drive innovation and foster economic value creation in Minnesota and across the Upper Midwest. 

In line with this mission on a national level is Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, who just announced a $150M second fund. They are focused on investing in startups from communities not located in traditional startup hotbeds. We are partners with Rise in Dispatch and Structural, and are supporters of what they do locally. Great North Labs’s Rob Weber will be speaking at their upcoming annual summit in D.C. on Scaling a Company and Growing a Team Outside of Silicon Valley. Congratulations to Steve Case, Anna Mason, Mary Grove and the rest of the Rise team!

Events

Nov. 5th, UMD Entrepreneurship Conference in Duluth, MN. This student-run conference will bring together entrepreneurs, educators, and innovators.

Nov. 6-7th, Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in Madison, WI. This is an Investor/Entrepreneur conference with 500+ attendees.

Nov. 12th, Launch MN Roundtable Discussion: Central Minnesota in St. Cloud, MN. Great North Labs is hosting Launch MN! This session will educate innovation ecosystem stakeholders on the initiative, and serve as a forum for feedback about how to best support Central MN.

Nov. 12-14th, Fulcrum: The Conference on Solutions for the Future of Work inDetroit, MI. “The Fulcrum Conference will bring together a broad range of stakeholders to design win-win solutions that will benefit workers, employers, our communities, and our economy.” 50% off code for SingularityU community members: SUCOMM50. 

Nov. 14th, Cultivate in Fargo, ND. Put on by Emerging Prairie, this conference is all about emerging tech in agriculture. Entrepreneurs in the AgTech space actively looking for investment and ready to pitch, apply hereConnect with Ryan Weber (@mnvikingsfan) at the event. 

Nov. 14th, OnRamp Manufacturing Conference in Indianapolis, IN. The OnRamp Manufacturing Conference highlights innovations disrupting the manufacturing industry, the leaders making such innovations possible, and how new technologies and business models will reinvent the industry.

Nov. 18th, Moonshot Monday in Minneapolis. SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul’s happy hour event will feature Finnegan’s finest, networking, and the think-outside-the-box Global Grand Challenges game. 

Nov. 19-20th, 2019 UNMET Conference inDenver, CO. “50 of the fastest-growing tech companies located throughout the middle of the US will be pitching to raise Series A/B Capital”. Connect with Rob Weber (@robertjweber) at the event. 

Advisor News

Amit Patel is new to the Great North Labs Advisory Team! Amit is the Co-Founder and CEO of Vios Medical. Amit’s experience includes Global Partnership Strategy at Heartflow, Inc., and Corporate Development at Medtronic. 

Brian Tockman is new to the Great North Labs Advisory Team! Brian advises consumer growth and omni-channel retail companies. He is a former Venture Investor at General Mills, Merchant at Target, and eCommerce Startup Leader.



Portfolio News

Misty Roboticshas released Misty II! Check out their latest robot/developer platform here.

Dispatch won the Operational Excellence Award at the 2019 Twin Cities Startup Week Awards. Congrats to the Dispatch team!

Job Board

More information about our portfolio companies can be found here

Dispatch is hiring all over the country for Drivers and for  Biz Dev, QA Engineer, Front-End Engineer, Accounts Payable, and a CFO in Bloomington, MN
Structural is hiring for a Sales & Marketing Operations Specialist, and Account Exec in St. Paul, MN.
FactoryFix is hiring a Software Engineer and Product Designer in Madison, and a Business Development Specialist and an Account Manager in Chicago.
Misty Robotics is hiring a Lead Qualification and Inside Sales Specialist in Boulder, CO. 
2ndKitchen is hiring a Digital Marketing Manager, Customer Success Manager, Account Exec, Customer Support Manager, and Director of Sales, all in Chicago.
PrintWithMe is hiring a Customer Success Associate, Network Operations Specialist, and Operations Lead in Chicago, and a Regional Sales Director for the West Coast. 

Summer is coming to an end, but fall is shaping up to be a good time! The ever-growing Twin Cities Startup Week is October 9-16th this year, and the schedule is currently being finalized.

There are quality startups around the state that can use the exposure that comes with a slot at the top startup event of the largest startup gathering in the state (and one of the largest in the country!). This year Great North Labs has partnered with Beta to open up the Beta Showcase to Greater MN startups.

Beta Showcase


The Beta Showcase is a collection of top local startups, with roughly 18 spots available to metro and Greater MN startups this year. Hundreds of people gather to talk to the founders, network, drink, and vote on their favorite, with the winner announced at the end of the night. Tickets for the Showcase usually sell out, so be sure to get them well in advance. 

This is the first year Greater Minnesota startups will be highlighted during the Showcase event alongside metro startups. 

If you are a founder who is interested in the exposure and the experience that comes with this event – applications are open until August 30th. We are especially interested in any startups located outside the Minnesota metro area who want to take part. The Showcase is Monday, October 14th in the DQ Club at TCF Stadium in Minneapolis. Interested startups can apply here.

With this event expansion to Greater MN comes expanded sponsorship opportunities. If your company is interested in joining Great North Labs and Beta as we work to bring Greater MN into the startup ecosystem, simply reply to this email for more info. MN DEED has already grabbed the title sponsorship, but there are other opportunities available.

Events

With Twin Cities Startup Week on the horizon, it’s easy to overlook other events. Instead, look them over here:  

Sept. 10th, Beta’s Tournament of Champions Grand Finale in Minneapolis, MN. This competition is down to the Final Four, and the winner will walk away with $50,000. 

Sept. 16-17th, 2019 US FinTech Symposium in Chicago, IL. This educational event will focus on FinTech disruptors like AI and blockchain, while also featuring some Midwest startups. 

Sept. 17th, Cross-border investing: Wisconsin Tech Council Luncheon inUW-Eau Claire, WI. Great North Labs Analyst Mike Schulte will be presenting. 

Sept. 17th, MedCity Invest Digital Healthin Minneapolis, MN. This event, supported by our friends at the Medical Alley Association, “will unite active investors with corporate business development executives to facilitate investment opportunities with the most innovative companies from the Digital Health sector.”  

Oct. 8-9th, Fall Experiment in Milwaukee, WI.This is a gathering of tech and creatives with focuses on “Tech, Art, Gaming, Music”.

Oct. 9-16th, Twin Cities Startup Week in Minneapolis, MN. This is the largest startup gathering annually in Minnesota, featuring dozens of events at multiple venues around the city, including: 

Oct. 10th, Innovation Expo inSioux Falls, SD. Great North Labs partner Ryan Weber will be speaking during the Finance Panel.

Portfolio News

Great North Labs advisor Neela Mollgaard was named the head of Launch Minnesota! The new state program will provide incentives, training, and grants for new startups across the state. 

Portfolio News

ZapInfo raised $1.75M in a Series Seed 2 funding round, which included new investor Randstad Innovation Fund. They have grown by over 400% in the last 12 months since Doug Berg took over as CEO. 

Misty the robot (of Misty Robotics) took a road trip to Twilio SIGNAL 2019. You can check out the trip recap here. One developer who took Misty for a spin said, “I don’t usually program robots because it’s hard, and not very fun. But this was super fun and easy, so, I’m definitely going to pick one up.” 

Job Board

Dispatchis hiring all over the country for Drivers and locally for Engineers, Biz Dev, QA, UX, Accounts Receivable, and a CFO. 
Structural is hiring a Customer Success Specialist, and a Software Sales & Operations Support Specialist
FactoryFixis hiring a Software Engineer in Madison, and a Business Development Specialist and an Account Manager in Chicago.
Pitchly is hiring a Product Designer in Des Moines (preferably) or the Upper Midwest. 
Misty Robotics is hiring a Devops Engineer and Principal Electrical Engineer in Boulder, CO. 
PrintWithMe is hiring a Marketing Manager and NOC Tech Support Technician in Chicago, and a Regional Sales Director. 

May newsletter
Great North Ventures

$40M Fund II Raised!

Great North Ventures Raises $40M Fund II
Great North Ventures

Great North Ventures Raises $40 Million Fund II

Investment Thesis: Fund II Strategy
Great North Ventures

Investment Thesis: Fund II Strategy

Investment Thesis: Community-Driven Applications
Great North Ventures

Investment Theme: Community-Driven Applications

Great North Labs Newsletter December 2017
James DonFrancesco

Great North Labs Newsletter – December 2017

Rob-Back-To-The-Future-wide
Rob Weber

A Letter To My Younger Self

mixed icons with brown color and tech theme
James DonFrancesco

Great North Labs Newsletter