Welcome to our last newsletter of 2020. It’s been a challenging year. We feel fortunate that the local early-stage startup scene has remained strong, and believe that investment in innovation and digital transformation will help fuel the post-pandemic economic recovery.
In 2020 Great North Labs invested a total of $5.8M, adding 14 startups to our portfolio for a total of 23. Most of the remaining capital in Fund I is allocated for follow on investing. That won’t slow us down with backing new startups as we intend to continue investing in new companies out of new funds.
Before we look forward to new investing and ring the new year, let’s take a look at the top stories of 2020 for Great North Labs. These are the topics we wrote about that resonated the most with our audience.
Top 5 Stories of 2020
The pandemic has forced sweeping changes around the world. We wrote about legislation that can spurn the economy to recovery and the increasing speed of digital transformation driving value creation in tech companies and the Midwest. We also tracked trends, curated startup resources for entrepreneurs, and encouraged giving to support local nonprofits in the tech and startup community.
2. Capacity Building
As the startup ecosystem grows, with it grows the capacity to produce breakout startups. Those startups drive economic value creation, economic activity, and job creation. This year we laid out the cash and equity, time and effort donated, re-affirming the commitment laid out in our Founders Pledge and our give-first mentality.
3. Resilient Startups
Startups have to be capital efficient and nimble to survive a downturn. The Midwest in general is know for capital efficiency and the grit required. We dug up a list of resilient startups in Minnesota that not only survived, but thrived after coming through a recession. We also pointed out how to spot a good consumer app startup, and paired with CliftonLarsonAllen to explain how investors may be able to get 100% capital gains exclusion by investing in these startups as angels or through venture funds.
4. George Floyd
The American Dream is one of a meritocracy, where those who work hard and well are rewarded. This dream is still not a reality for many Americans who face systemic inequities. BIPOC individuals face economic deprivation due to these inequities, which have profound and compounding effects. The events surrounding the death of George Floyd drove home the fact that we need to continue to work to provide equitable opportunities for success through charitable giving, training, and mentorship, and track progress in the number of founders we see.
5. 2020 World Economic Forum
Great North Labs was honored to be invited to the 50th Anniversary World Economic Forum in Davos back in January of 2020. Managing Partner Pradip Madan spoke about our investment thesis, digital transformation, and increasing innovation in the private and public sector in front of leaders from around the world and appeared on CNN Money in Switzerland. Pradip also hosted roundtable discussions on “Business models and strategies that will hallmark the next phase of global economic transformation” with The Digital Economist, and participated as a sponsor for the International Women Business Leaders Reception.
Launch MN Expert Exchange
Launch Minnesota has put out a call for mentors and experts to join their Expert Exchange. “The Minnesota Expert Network is a statewide program to help entrepreneurs find the right support and bring avenues for engagement, networking, and project development for startups at different stages of growth.”
Interested subject matter experts, project supporters, and business mentors can find more information here.
Here is a mix of upcoming events for investors, founders, and/or ecosystem supporters. All events listed are virtual.
- Jan. 12th, the BETA Spring Cohort application opens.
- Jan. 22nd, application deadline for Developing Your Lean Startup. This is the Lean Startup School cohort with Red Wing Ignite and ILT Academy from Feb. 6th through April 1st.
- Jan. 22nd, LaunchMN Friday Forum.
- Deadline TBD, gBeta Greater MN-St. Cloud Spring Cohort. The application is now open for the accelerator program, which will run from Mar. 4th through April 23rd.
- Feb. 25th, BETA State of the State. The event is “a tight, informative download on Minnesota’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Brief updates will be shared by founders, community leaders, and regional thought leaders to provide a comprehensive overview of the area’s most exciting activities.”
iraLogix is new to the Great North Labs portfolio! iraLogix is an advanced, institutional IRA record-keeping and trading technology offering web-based institutional IRA record-keeping services. We led a $7.5M round that included Circadian Ventures, Trog Hawley Capital, and Riverfront Ventures.
“We needed a Plan B.” PartySlate, the visual platform for event planning, has moved into virtual events.
“Plyo App Inspires Active Lifestyles.” Plyo is partnering with Big Ten Schools to promote active lifestyles.
“Study: Work From Home Transitioning Resident Amenity Needs at Apartment Communities.” PrintWithMe has expanded their self-service printer service to 49 states, while a study confirms that their service is an in-demand amenity for those who work from home in an apartment building.
Dispatch is hiring a Product Marketing Content Creator, and a Senior Ruby on Rails Developer for Remote work.
FactoryFix is hiring a Team Lead – Full Stack Developer, Full Stack Developer, and Infrastructure Developer- DevOps in Madison, WI; and a Sales Development Representative in Chicago, IL, Indianapolis, IN, or Madison, WI.
TeamGenius is hiring a Customer Success Manager, and Lead Engineer-Mobile Development based in Minneapolis, MN.
PrintWithMe is hiring Customer Support Reps in Houston, TX and Washington, D.C. Regional Sales Directors for East Coast, South Central, and South East regions; Director, Demand Generation, Operations Lead, and a Winter 2021 MBA Strategy Intern in Chicago, IL.
Parallax is hiring an Experienced Product Designer in Edina, MN.
Branch is hiring a Senior iOS Engineer and Android Engineer for remote work. Also a Consumer Marketing Manager, Account Executive (Mid-Market), and Channel Sales Manager in Minneapolis, MN.
Inhabitr is hiring a Chief Growth Officer/Head of B2C Growth, Digital Marketing Lead, Operations and technology Associate, Operations Manager – B2B, and a Sales and Customer Experience Associate in Chicago, IL. Also, Product and Technology Associates in Miami, FL, Los Angeles, CA, Austin, TX, Dallas, TX, and Phoenix, AZ; a Junior Interior Designer in Los Angeles, CA, and a Product Manager in Alpharetta, GA.
Clinician Nexus is hiring a Customer Success Manager in Minneapolis, MN.
NoiseAware is hiring a VP of Marketing, a QA Technician (independent contractor), Senior Director of Software Engineering, People Operations Generalist, Account Manager, and a Customer Advocate in Dallas, TX.
Happy Thanksgiving, and welcome back to the Great North Labs newsletter!
This is the perfect time of year to reflect on what we are thankful for, and for giving back. We are most thankful for our investors, our advisors, and our portfolio companies, of course! They are the reasons we exist, work, and succeed.
We are also thankful for the developing startup ecosystem in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. There have been great developments recently like the Launch MN Initiative, the first Greater MN accelerator, and one of the largest seed funds ever raised in the Midwest!
There is still a need to improve. There are valid and pressing worries about the creation, automation, and distribution of jobs. Innovation and startups are increasingly important to our future. Did you know that from 1980-2010 about half of all jobs created in the US were from high-growth startups?
That is why we are challenging founders in Minnesota to make a Founders Pledge! The Founders Pledge is an international movement of founders dedicating equity to support nonprofits. This is a way for cash-strapped founders to provide impactful contributions to organizations they find important.
There are several existing structures and organizations, but basically, to make a Founders Pledge startup founders donate a portion of their future proceeds to local nonprofits. They give support to the organizations that support them. If the Founders Pledge becomes ingrained in the culture of our startups, it will create a virtuous cycle between successful startups and the people and organizations that help them succeed.
Supporting the Startup Ecosystem
According to research on early-stage entrepreneurship from the Kauffman Foundation, Minnesota is lagging behind on 4 key indicators of success. Our rate of new entrepreneurs, opportunity share of new entrepreneurs, startup early job creation, and startup early survival rate are all below average, with our composite score putting us at 46th compared to the rest of the US.
Nonprofits are a vital part of supporting early-stage entrepreneurship, and creating favorable outcomes for founders. By contributing to their success, founders can increase the chances of their own and future startups’ success. Join the movement and Great North Labs in making a Founders Pledge!
The holidays are a busy time for everyone! If you find some time between family and friends, here are some events worth attending:
- Dec. 3rd- Medical Alley & AtriCure Networking Social. “This event brings the Twin Cities bioscience players together for expanding your network, hearing about exciting innovation and career opportunities. Appetizers, beverages, demos and tours of AtriCure’s MN facility will be provided.”
- Dec. 9th- FASTCON at the Science Museum in St. Paul. “The first-ever MinneAnalytics Data Science and Tech Conference focused on Food, Ag, Supply Chain, and Sustainability”
- Dec. 11th- Global Conversations: The Global Pulse of Minnesota. “Join a discussion with Global Minnesota’s President Mark Ritchie as he looks back over the evolution of Minnesota as one of the leading international regions, provides a snapshot of key indicators of the current global pulse of the state, and looks ahead at challenges and opportunities as we approach 2020.”
- Dec. 11th- Lunar Startups Lunch and Learn. “Lunar Startups is launching Cohort 3 in March 2020. Join us to learn more about the criteria, how to apply and our process for selecting startups.”
- Dec. 17th- TCB Mag 100 People to Know in Minneapolis. This annual event is a fun networking gathering put on by Twin Cities Business.
- Dec. 18th- MinneAMA- Hiring Junior Devs 101. Minnestar’s monthly virtual AMA session will feature Matt Decuir, founder of Invisible Network and Minneapolis Junior Devs.
- Dec. 19th- gBETA Greater MN-St. Cloud Pitch Night in St. Cloud, MN. This is the first cohort’s pitch night from the very first accelerator based in Greater MN!
Inhabitr closed a $4M dollar series A round, led by Great North Labs. The news of the Chicago-based furniture rental platform was covered in TechCrunch, and in this piece by ChicagoInno.
2ndKitchen closed a $4.35M round. This startup connects restaurant kitchens with kitchen-less venues, such as bars and breweries. Investors included Hyde Park Venture Partners, Math Ventures, and M25.
Dispatch was named to CNBC’s Upstart 100, which includes “100 of the world’s most promising start-ups to watch in 2019”. Congratulations to the Dispatch team!
Dispatch is hiring all over the country for Part Time Drivers and in Bloomington, MN for a Biz Dev Representative, HR Manager (Remote OK), 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.
FactoryFix is hiring a Software Engineer, Product Designer, and UX Designer in Madison, and a Biz Dev Specialist and Account Manager in Chicago.
2ndKitchen is hiring a Customer Success Manager, Account Executive, and Director of Sales in Chicago.
PrintWithMe is hiring a Customer Success Associate, Network Operations Specialist, 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 Content Marketing Manager, Settlement Analyst, Customer Support Agent, Customer Success Manager, and Senior Backend Engineer in Minneapolis.
Thanks for being a friend of Great North Labs. We are excited to share an update with you regarding our new Venture Fund and affiliated Startup School. Thank you for your interest!
October marks just our 5th month of existence. Our top priority the past two months has been raising capital for our fund. We’ve also been taking meetings with startups but investing is on hold until the completion of our initial close.
Additionally, we’ve been working on further developing our business strategy and plan for the fund & startup school. This includes developing an organizational plan for all of Great North Labs. Expect to see a revamped web-site later in October with more details about our strategy and plan.
Startup School Events – Lean Startups Bootcamp Date: Every Monday from 6pm – 8:30pm from 10/23 to 11/20
Instructor: Ryan Weber (Founding Partner of Great North Labs)
Location: Great North Labs office in St. Cloud (near the SCSU Welcome Center)
Description: Learn, and begin applying, the lean startup practice so that you can eliminate waste in planning and growing your startup. It’s open to students and small business professionals of any type, profit or non-profit, high-tech or no-tech, for free or mid-to-large business professionals for a low cost. Find more information and apply to participate at our website . The same bootcamp will be offered in early 2018 in the Twin Cities.
Disruptive Tech Series – Blockchain Trends
Great North Labs believes disruptive technology is an important ingredient to drive substantial value in industry. Due to this, we will make a concerted effort to build our understanding of these technologies and identify opportunities to invest in startups embracing them. You may have heard of Bitcoin, and possibly the underlying technology it is built on, “Blockchain.” We’re hosting a Blockchain Meetup where we’ll be discussing what Bitcoin and the Blockchain is, how it’s starting to impact several markets, and future trends of this new technology. Look for details of this event on our Events section of our website, coming late October.
Job Openings – We’re Hiring!
Digital Marketing Specialist Intern (St. Cloud) – Help us help our region’s top startups by joining our small team and assist in supporting our digital and event marketing needs.
New To Our Blog:
The Secret To Fostering A Strong Startup Community Inside Your University – by Rob Weber
– Joined Coco Minneapolis in the Grain Exchange for our Twin
Cities office location.
– Contracted a marketing agency in the Twin Cities to help
support our initiatives.
– Conducted meetings with several St. Cloud and Twin Cities
based universities (SCSU, CSJSB, UofMN) to see how we can better collaborate in supporting startups. The feedback has been very positive. Initially, they are helping to promote our Lean Product Bootcamp but other events are and collaboration are being discussed and we’ll post further updates once they are finalized.
– We’ve learned after running two Lean Product Bootcamps that hosting a pitch day after only five weeks for a Lean Workshop is impractical. Teams need more time to complete their business model vetting. Instead, we are planning to host a larger pitch event some time in March for anyone that is interested.
● Promote our Lean Product Bootcamp in St. Cloud (starts
October 23rd) or Twin Cities (early next year) to anyone you know that may be leading a new business and is interested in how learning how to reduce waste in planning and executing on their idea. More information available on our website.
● Looking for a contractor in the Twin Cities or St. Cloud that has experience in WordPress that may be available part-time on an ongoing basis in support of our further development of the Web-Site.
● Help us fill the Digital Marketing Specialist Intern opening we have in St. Cloud for Great North Labs.
● Beginning on November 3rd, vote online for Ryan Weber’s session on Running Lean so that he can secure a spot at this year’s Twin Cities Product Camp event to be held at the Nerdery on Saturday, November 18th.
● Follow @GreatNorthLabs on Twitter as there is a lot of activity in the startup community that we’ll begin sharing and promoting.
Rob, Ryan, & James – The Great North Labs & Great North Capital Team
P.S. If you know others who would be interested in what we are up to, please refer them to our Newsletter to sign-up to receive updates, become mentors, founders, etc.