Welcome back to the Great North Labs newsletter! 2020 kicked off to a fast start. We were invited to participate in the World Economic Forum, and we announced the next chapter in our Startup School. There’s also a new advisor on the team, and a new portfolio company.

World Economic Forum

Managing Partner Pradip Madan went to Davos for the annual gathering, which focuses on entrepreneurship in the global public interest, and shaping global, regional, and industry agendas. On and off stage, Pradip spoke about investing in the Upper Midwest, supporting and growing the ecosystem, and of course, the promise of the Upper Midwest region.

Pradip spoke on the Global Citizen panel hosted by Minneapolis AI company PinkLion.AI titled Innovation in Tech: Leveraging unexplored areas and geographies to increase scale and innovation in the public and private sector, and hosted an hour-long roundtable for The Digital Economist on Business models and strategies that will hallmark the next phase of global economic transformation.

Great North Labs was also proud to sponsor the International Women Business Leaders Reception and the Digital Future Board Room. Inclusion and digital transformation are both important topics that we are glad to support and help elevate on the world stage. 

The Global Citizen Panelists: Patricia Simmons, M.D., Maria Dayton, Pradip Madan, Karen Korponai, Jennifer Bonine, and Dean Costakis

There was a strong regional contingent involved with and leading these events, including Jennifer Bonine of PinkLion.AI, Patricia Simmons of Mayo, and Maria Dayton, Ambassador of SingularityU Minneapolis-St.Paul. Maria and Jennifer were instrumental in organizing these events, and are strong representatives for Minnesota and the region. 

One of the ecosystem building efforts that Pradip highlighted at WEF was our Startup School, which is currently undergoing a reboot. We have new partners, expanded curricula, and greater reach!

Startup School Reboot

Started in 2017, the original Great North Labs Startup School offered bootcamps covering Lean Startup and Agile Scrum, and additional offerings over the years included education on digital disruption and exponential technologies. Roughly 200 students went through the school. 

Now, we are working on an expanded offering with new partners Red Wing Ignite and ILT Studios. While the new initiative will no longer be wholly owned and operated by Great North Labs, it will be greatly expanded, able to reach more of Greater Minnesota, and hopefully scale across the entire state. You can read more about it on our blog, or in this article by Minne Inno. 

Classes will begin in March, and sign-up will be live in February. Contact us to get on the mailing list and stay informed, and to find out when you can sign up.


Here are some upcoming events related to tech startups. Where our attendance is noted, feel free to reach out or connect at the event: 

Advisor News

Steve Schmidt is new to the Great North Labs team. He is the Founder and CEO of Abetech, a company that creates bar code and RFID systems and solutions that increase productivity.

Portfolio News

NoiseAware is new to the Great North Labs portfolio. NoiseAware provides a real-time noise monitoring solution for the rapidly growing short-term rental industry. According to property managers, the biggest challenge they face is party prevention. This is likewise a major concern for major rental platforms such as AirBnB. NoiseAware’s solution includes options for indoor an outdoor monitoring, in real-time, with historical data and trend tracking across properties. 

Job Board

FactoryFix is hiring two Full Stack Developers and a UX Designer in Madison, and a Business Development Specialist and Account Manager in Chicago.
Pitchly is hiring a remote Legal Marketing & Sales Content Specialist
Misty Robotics is hiring a Lead Qualification & Inside Sales Specialist, and an Inside Sales Specialist (contract) in Boulder, CO. 
2ndKitchen is hiring an Account Executive, Business Development Representative, Operations Associate, Operations Intern, and Design Operations Intern in Chicago. 
PrintWithMe is hiring a Customer Success Associate, Customer Service Representative, Web Developer (Python), 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. 
Branch is hiring a Revenue Operations Manager, Sales Development Manager, UX Designer, Senior IOS Engineer, Customer Support Agent, Account Executive (Enterprise), IT Coordinator, Data Engineer, Devops Engineer, Jr. Visual Designer, Senior Backend Engineer, Senior Android Engineer, and Account Executive (Mid-Market) in Minneapolis. 
NoiseAware is hiring a Back-end Developer, Embedded Developer, Front-end Developer, Mobile Developer, Site Reliability Engineer, Global Supply Chain Manager, Product Marketing Manager, and UI/UX Designer in Dallas.

With approximately 500 attendees, uber-founder and CEO Navroop Sahdev and VP Heidi Cuppari conducted the outstanding The Digital Economist Roundtable at the World Economic Forum 2020 at Davos. Great North Labs was invited to the event to discuss the role of venture capital in economic impact, and I shared the fund’s experience and strategy.

Pradip Madan speaking at the World Economic Forum
Pradip Madan speaking at the World Economic Forum 2020.

The strategy starts with Fund I. The plan for Fund I is to invest in roughly 30 companies. We anticipate these portfolio companies will raise a total of ~$200M from co-investments as they grow. With that total and, for example, a 500% return over the life of the fund, we would build ~$1B in market value. By motivating LPs with successful exits to reinvest in subsequent funds, this builds a cycle of growth.

In the course of raising and investing Fund I, we gained valuable experience in developing relationships and aligning incentives. Great North Labs built an ecosystem of 200+ investment partners, 60+ advisors, and developed relationships with universities, regional economic development organizations, government, and innovation catalyst organizations such as Singularity University. To develop local talent, we founded a startup school that educated 200+ on startup entrepreneurship, regularly provide office hours and mentorship to entrepreneurs, and worked with, trained, and hired college students.

Regional entrepreneurs prefer to raise money and grow in their communities, and investors prefer to invest within the region where regional VCs are available. By leveraging our foundational work from Fund I, our second fund could bring 2-3X the co-investment dollars and returns. Over 3-4 decades, this is how investors built fortunes and turned the farm economy of Silicon Valley into one of the world’s most prosperous regions. 

While continuing to lead and co-invest in Seed Stage through B Rounds in Fund I, we will raise Fund II. This will create investing continuity and maintain dealflow, synchronicity with the local ecosystem, and co-investor relations. By creating a cycle of growth and re-investment, our goal is to create prosperity in a similar fashion as Silicon Valley, here in the Upper Midwest.

Great North Labs will be participating in a couple of events at the World Economic Forum this year, where we have been invited to talk about our work investing in early-stage companies in the Upper Midwest. The Forum (WEF) is an annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland, of business, political, academic, and other leaders.

The purpose of the forum is to engage with leaders, and to help inform and shape global, regional, and industry agendas. According to WEF:

“The Forum strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance. Moral and intellectual integrity is at the heart of everything it does.” 

Great North Labs Partner Pradip Madan will be speaking about investing in the Upper Midwest, supporting and growing the ecosystem with initiatives like the Startup School, and of course, the promise of the Upper Midwest region.

Like Steve Case said at the Greenwich Economic Forum in November, there is a tremendous opportunity for venture capital within the coasts. 

“To me, it feels a little like the Internet 35 years ago when nobody, other than a few…believed in the idea of the internet. And people, when I was talking about it, were skeptical.”

“Over time, I think you’ll see venture capital shift. The coastal investors will need to have regional investment strategies.”

-Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution, and founder of Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund

Here are the events where Great North Labs will be speaking.

1. Global Citizen Panel sponsored by Pink Lion

PinkLionAI Panel WEF

TIME: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 5-7pm.

LOCATION: Promenade 52, 7270 Davos Platz, Switzerland.

TOPIC: “Going Off Road Innovation in Tech: Leveraging unexplored areas and geographies to increase scale and innovation in the public and private sector.”

Attend this panel to understand methods and ways you can leverage untapped resources that are sitting available to you all around the globe.  We will look at how this works from the startup innovation perspective, through funding and the venture firm perspective, and out to the large corporate entity with innovation and human capital that is an underutilized resource in many geographies.  We will highlight this example specifically in how it is successful in the US and Minnesota and demonstrate and answer questions on how it applies to your specific use case. 

This panel has plenty of Minnesota representation with Pradip Madan of Great North Labs, Jennifer Bonine and Dean Costakis of Minneapolis’s PinkLion.AI, Patricia Simmons who is on the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees, and Maria Dayton who is the Ambassador of SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul.

2. The Digital Economist Night in partnership with The Caspian Week

TIME: Thursday, Jan. 23, 7:30p-midnight.

LOCATION: Promenade 61, 7270 Davos Platz, Switzerland.

TOPIC: Business models and strategies that will hallmark the next phase of global economic transformation.

Distilling the cutting edge tools from economic science, with hands-on industry experience, The Digital Economist roundtable series convenes enterprises, startups and innovators to explore, discuss and steward the business models and strategies that will hallmark the next phase of global economic transformation.

Pradip Madan will be hosting a roundtable for this, the inaugural summit for The Digital Economist, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

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