This year, Greater MN is joining Twin Cities Startup Week in a big way! The premier event of TCSW is including Greater MN for the first time, as Great North Labs has partnered with BETA to open up the BETA Showcase to Greater MN startups. BETA is the founder and organizer of Twin Cities Startup Week, and every year the Showcase is the sold-out highlight of the week, featuring top startups.
“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. It’s our privilege to present some of these companies at one of Twin Cities Startup Week’s most exciting events – the BETA Showcase. 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.MN
The event will be Oct.14 in the DQ Club Room at TCF Bank Stadium, from 7-9 pm. Tickets for the Showcase usually sell out, so be sure to get them well in advance as 1,000+ attendees are expected this year.
Greater MN Meetup
Great North Labs is sponsoring a special, invite-only, pre-Showcase gathering for Greater MN stakeholders called the Greater MN Meetup. The Greater MN Meetup will focus on Greater MN start-ups, founders, and relationships, and making introductions and connections within this group. Ticketholders for the Greater MN Meetup (from 5-6 pm) are invited to stay for the VIP Showcase event from 6-7 pm, and the Showcase itself.
If you haven’t received an invitation to the Greater MN Meetup and are interested in attending, please make an inquiry here.
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!). We are excited to do our part connecting Greater MN with this awesome gathering.
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. Be sure to check out:
- Beta Showcase on Oct. 14th. This year’s Great North Labs partnership with Beta will bring Greater MN into the metro startup ecosystem! Plan to showcase, sponsor, or attend!
- SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Exponential Medicine and Exponential Medicine Moonshot Workshop on Oct. 14th. Exponential Medicine will feature leading local health tech entrepreneurs Ping Yeh of StemoniX, Mark Platt of Recombinetics, and Jeff Ross of Miromatrix Medical. Great North Labs’s Ryan Weber will be running the Moonshot Workshop with ILT Studios’s Nick Tietz.
Oct. 10th, Innovation Expo inSioux Falls, SD. Great North Labs partner Ryan Weber will be speaking on the Finance Panel.
Oct. 11th, Future Finance Forum at Allianz Field inSt. Paul, MN. “Join more than 300 CEOs, founders, VCs, government leaders, journalists and corporate executives from across the country as they connect in Minnesota to discuss the latest trends moving the fintech industry forward.”
Oct. 15th, The Dance – Automation Summit in Columbus, OH. “We’re bringing together more than 300 of the brightest minds in robotics and automation for one day summit at the Columbus Musuem of Art on October 15th.”
Nov. 6-7th, Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in Madison, WI. Investor/Entrepreneur conference with 500+ attendees.
Nov. 11-17, Startup Wisconsin Week in multiple locations across the state. “Advancing Wisconsin’s tech and startup ecosystems through unique programming driven by entrepreneurs” is the mission of this state-wide happening.
Nov. 14th, Cultivate in Fargo, ND. Put on by Emerging Prairie, this conference is all about emerging tech in agriculture.
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.
Parallax is new to the Great North Labs portfolio. Parallax is a platform that simplifies lead planning and provides real-time answers to the most important questions, allowing businesses to succeed while crafting their vision for tomorrow.
Branch is also new to the portfolio. Branch is a mobile-first technology that helps hourly workers get ahead financially. The application allows users to budget, take paycheck advances, and earn more income by picking up available shifts.
More information about our portfolio companies can be found here.
Dispatchis hiring all over the country for Drivers and locally for Product Owner, Biz Dev, QA Engineer, UX Designer, Accounts Payable, Driver Engagement, and a CFO.
Structural is hiring a Software Sales & Operations Support Specialist.
FactoryFixis 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 Devops Engineer and Principal Electrical Engineer in Boulder, CO.
2ndKitchen is hiring a Digital Marketing Manager, Customer Success Manager, Account Exec., Biz Dev Development Manager, and Director of Sales, all in Chicago, and a Product Designer in New York, NY.
PrintWithMe is hiring a Marketing Manager and NOC Tech Support Technician in Chicago, and a Regional Sales Director for Sacramento/Bay Area and Los Angeles. Branchis hiring a Senior Fronted Engineer, Senior Backend Engineer, Android Engineer, Creative Manager, Content Marketing Manager, Senior iOS Engineer, Settlement Analyst, Customer Support Agent, Demand Generation Manager, Customer Success Manager, Account Exec., and an Office Assistant.
The annual MinneBar event, hosted by non-profit Minnestar, is the largest bar camp-style conference in the country. Saturday, April 27th was the fourteenth incarnation of this highly anticipated event, and it did not disappoint. How highly anticipated was it? Tickets were released in two waves this year, and the first wave sold out in under 7 minutes. Total attendance for the 165+ sessions at Best Buy HQ in Richfield was 1,700.
Minnebar has become Minnesota’s version of South by Southwest-random Minnebar14 attendee
As one passerby put it, MinneBar has become Minnesota’s version of South By Southwest. Don Ball, cofounder of coworking space COCO (now Fueled Collective) credits Managing Director Maria Ploessl and her crew for keeping it a “pure experience”. “Lesser minds would kill it off through monetization,” said Ball.
Becky Lauseng, Director of HR at the ag-tech software company Conservis and a Minnebar newbie, shared her glowing review with Great North, “This year was my first time attending Minnebar and wow, was I impressed! I’m already looking forward to next year! From the variety of topics offered in the breakout sessions, to the passionate and forward thinking presenters, this event was so valuable to me. For someone who supports a local technology company and its employees, I gained a lot of insight on current trends, ideas and technology advancements that I can take back to work and apply. I can’t wait for next year!”
Great North Labs is a proud supporter of Minnestar and Minnebar. Our advisors Sona Mehring and Alex Ryan are board members, while advisor Ben Edwards and Great North Labs Managing Partner Rob Weber sit on the Advisory Board. Edwards is actually the co-founder of MinneBar and Minnestar, and he returned this year to represent his current startup (and Great North Labs portfolio company) Misty Robotics. We were glad to be a part of another successful Minnebar, and to see a strong showing from the MN tech community. Here are some of the highlights.
Diversity and Inclusion in Tech
The day started as it always does with Session 0. This year’s presenter was Sharon Kennedy Vickers, Chief Information Officer for the City of St. Paul. Vickers is a 2018 Bush Fellow, and is the co-founder of Techquity, and co-organizer of CodeSwitch and Open Twin Cities.
A key point from Vickers’s speech was that one of tech’s greatest pitfalls is in overvaluing “outputs” of users and workers compared to their inputs. She is working towards an inclusive innovation economy, and making Minnesota a great place to launch tech products with social impact.
“Diversity is the invitation into the room. Inclusion is the offer to dance.”Elliot Payne
Later in the day, Jeff Lin hosted a panel on the importance of diversity in tech, with Antoinette Smith, Jenessa White, Elliott Payne, and Philip Xiao. As Elliott put it, “Diversity is the invitation into the room. Inclusion is the offer to dance.”
At Great North, we believe that founders in rural areas also work at a disadvantage, especially when it comes to accessing capital and receiving strong mentorship. We work with these founders through the tech and entrepreneur communities in cities like Sioux Falls, Fargo, and St. Cloud. So we were glad to see Caitlyn Casper from St. Cloud State’s Entrepreneurship Club taking part in her first Minnebar!
VC Reverse Pitch
Our team’s first presentation of the day was voted into the largest room, the Theater. Great North Labs Managing Partner Rob Weber presented “VC Reverse Pitch” alongside Mary Grove, partner in Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund (ROTR). The session shared a fund manager’s perspective on what they seek to know when determining whether a startup is worth investing in and how a VC can help a founder grow their business. It was packed with founders looking for inside knowledge on securing investment.
Among his opening remarks was a tidbit of valuable advice for founders. Rob talked about how important it was for a founder to be knowledgeable and able to provide an overview of their total addressable market (TAM) as experts in that industry. Weber also frequently encountered founders being unable to explain how their startup’s primary distribution model connects to their serviceable market (SAM).
Mary Grove later seconded this notion, as she said that many times what got ROTR excited was when they could look at a fleshed out growth plan, charted out for months in advance. She recommended that founders provide quarterly follow-ups to fund managers with key progress updates.
“One of the reasons we like co-investing with Great North Labs is because Rob and Ryan have the experience of building, growing, and exiting a company.”Mary Grove, Partner, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund
Grove highlighted the importance of finding good, trustworthy co-investment partners to complete a successful venture round, and talked about why Revolution like to partner with Great North Labs on deals. “One of the reasons we like co-investing with Great North Labs is because Rob and Ryan have the experience of building, growing, and exiting a company.” She had more glowing words for the Weber twins early on, saying, “They are good friends, co-workers, and partners.”
She also stated that it is time for the Twin Cities to be nationally recognized, and we at Great North Labs agree with this wholeheartedly. We think that Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, and their mission of driving economic advance and funding great startups in states outside of traditional VC funding, is the ideal partner in driving this national recognition.
Intro to Exponential Technology & Leadership
Ryan Weber, Great North Labs managing partner (and Rob Weber’s brother), opened by explaining what compelled him to help establish a new chapter of Singularity University’s global community. After attending their executive education program in Silicon Valley, he returned home inspired by the future changes around the corner, and the possibility for global, positive impact by using these technologies for good. He joined the founding team of SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul in hopes of educating and inspiring others to work on moonshot projects aimed at changing the world instead of simply solving problems.
The local tech community has gone through extensive growth in the past 5 years, and is becoming one of the best places to form a startup in the country. However, Silicon Valley is far ahead of us when it comes to startups with grand, world-changing visions. Weber believes that to take the tech community even further, we need to study the world’s greatest challenges, and see how we can exploit new exponential technologies to provide solutions that are ten times or more better than what is currently available.
Weber’s presentation included an introduction to the concept of exponential thinking, a review of a few of the most promising new technologies with examples of local startups going after moonshots utilizing them, and closed with a call-to-action to join the movement by joining the chapter. Membership in SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter is free. The chapter’s kickoff event is at UMN-Carlson on the evening of June 4th, and non-members are welcome to attend.
Creating a MoonShot
Ryan Weber and The Sota Enterprises CEO (and Great North Labs Advisor), Nick Tietz, facilitated a working session focused on design to promote moonshot thinking and the new SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter. In 45 minutes they took a packed room of about 75 people through a structured process to generate a moonshot project.
Participants chose a Grand Challenge to work on, then used two methodologies, “Question Storming” and “Future Wheels”, to crystallize a moonshot statement that embodied the key elements of a world-changing project. Each participant left with a self-generated moonshot idea to solve a major problem facing the world that they would be interested in tackling.
Work Space Selection: Aligning Work Space With Your Company’s Growth
While MinneBar is rife with practitioners teaching multiple skill levels in technical niches, it has really broadened its offerings compared to the early days. This year included a presentation on Korean Skin Care, Personal Finance for Programmers, and even one unlisted, pop-up session titled “How I Accidentally Started a Bank in Nigeria” [Or was it Angola? I forget the country].
One interesting, non-technical session addressed the workspace needs of companies with rapidly expanding employee numbers. David Anderson (Frauenshuh commercial real estate service provider) and David Paeper (HGA architects) provided great advice for growth companies on how to align their work space with their company’s growth. “Your most valuable asset is your people so your space needs to make them your first priority” said David.
Their presentation covered a wide breadth of topics including Location, Amenities, Value, Design + Culture, Well-Being + Safety, and Function + Aesthetics. Key takeaways include:
- Subleasing – Subleasing often provides the most flexibility and value. Most, but not all, sublet space can be searched for on an exchange to help a tenant quickly find what’s on the market.
- Visualization Helps Determine Location – They showed examples with overlaid visuals on a map, used to explore where a companies staff live and where the transit options are, in order to determine the optimal location.
- Suburbs vs. Downtown – The costs for the same quality of space are typically similar downtown versus in the suburbs. However, parking typically is an added expense for being downtown.
- Compression Planning – A growth company should utilize compression planning in their real estate plan to help them understand how they can utilize their space effectively from the onset and after they achieve their expected growth without incurring unexpected costs.
- Freestanding Furniture Is Best – Freestanding furniture has greater reusability and is becoming more strongly preferred compared to panel furniture for tech companies whose need to reconfigure frequently
Sharing the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Tech Community Story with the World
For the entrepreneurs and for the tech talent, what’s going on matters, the ecosystem matters, the way we tell our story matters.Meg Steuer, Forge North
A panel of presenters including Tiffany Orth of Make It. Msp, and Matt Lewis and Meg Steuer of Forge North talked about the importance of storytelling when building and promoting the local tech and innovation ecosystem. While economic opportunity is first and foremost, the whole presentation served as a reminder of all the great reasons why the the area is a good place to work, live, and grow a business.
Mary Grove’s husband, Steve Grove, is working to drive changes at the state level as the new commissioner of MN DEED. The Minnesota Innovation Collaborative is an important effort to inject some growth into Minnesota’s innovation economy. While the Twin Cities metro has the most Fortune 500 companies per capita among US cities, many of them are from the 1970s or earlier, and we aren’t generating new ones at a lead-sustaining pace. Many parts of the state, including declining rural areas and the Iron Range, are in dire need of economic innovation. While we believe that private investment (like ours and that of ROTR) can drive growth in these areas, we believe that the most impactful approach includes public action as well.
MinneBar is a welcome reminder of the power of community, and of the promise of technology to create a better life. Whether you want to create a moonshot, build an exponential tech startup, get funding for a high-growth venture, house your growing company, or attract out-of-state talent, it’s good to know you are welcome at MinneBar, and in the diverse, inclusive tech ecosystem that is growing here in Minnesota and the upper Midwest.
Great North Labs is proud to work with and support organizations like Minnestar, SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul, Forge North, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, and the Minnesota Innovation Collaborative. We are fortunate to be part of this growing, talented, and inclusive tech and innovation community that is among the best and most economically promising in the country. And we are excited to facilitate rapid, innovative growth in early-stage startups by bringing capital, experience, and our network to bear in this rich environment.
Exponential Tech with SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul
Great North Labs Managing Partner Ryan Weber is now co-ambassador for Singularity University’s chapter here in the Twin Cities! SingularityU Minneapolis-St.Paul is one of 126 SU chapters in 63 countries.
Singularity University is a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. Through their Grand Challenges, SU provokes moonshot thinking with global impact. Headquartered at NASA in Silicon Valley, SingularityUniversity empowers individuals andorganizations across the globe to learn, connect, and innovate breakthrough solutions using accelerating technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, anddigital biology.
“In venture capital, we are looking at the next ten years- Singularity is looking beyond that at the next hundred.” – Ryan Weber
Great North Labs is excited to be part of this accomplished global community of innovators, and we think Singularity University is an important addition to the local techand venture ecosystem. Like Ryan and Rob Weber’s (and our advisors’) involvement in local incubator/accelerator mentorship programs, this venture will help develop and support the tech andstartup ecosystem in Minnesota andacross the Midwest.
Technology is changing at an exponential pace, and bringing exponential changes with it (think cell phones, or the internet). There are people on the coasts at thebleeding edge of this new tech, generating patents and research, and many of these advances can be used here to create value with new products and startups.
“The Midwest is in a unique position because of the large incumbent industry players, so that even if most of the research and patents are being created on the coasts, we are in the best position to create applications to harness these technologies.” -Ryan Weber
For example, while it may have been a Stanford team that led the charge to create the first self-driving vehicles, guess where they are building self-driving tractors? In Fargo, the Grand Farms initiative has applied for a grant to build thefirst fully-autonomous farm by 2025. One of the leaders of this moonshot initiative is Greg Tehven, executive director of Emerging Prairie and a Great North Labs advisor.
Tomorrow, Nov. 9, Ryan Weber is partnering with Tehven to bring Great North Labs and SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul to Fargo with an Intro to Exponential Technology & Leadership. The talk is from 3-4 p.m. at Prairie Den. If you’re in Fargo andwant to meet with Ryan one-on-one, sign up for a meeting time.
Nov. 27th-28th, IoT Summit Chicago, Chicago. In its sixth year, IoT Summit Chicago is a convergence of IoT thought leadership and innovation from across the region.
Nov. 29th, 2018 Tekne Awards, Minneapolis. “Each year the Tekne Awards shine a spotlight on Minnesota’s science and technology community by honoring innovation across numerous industries.”
Dec. 4th, December “State of Innovation” Meetup, Minneapolis. MinneInno’s periodic exploration of Twin Cities startup and innovation scene features food, drink, and networking in addition to a speaker, panel, or showcase.
TBD, Anderson Center Governance Forum, 2019 dates and locations are forthcoming for this St. Cloud-based, 3-day forum aimed at improving theperformance and effectiveness of directors and board members. Visit thewebsite for inquiries.
Dispatch is enjoying some remarkable growth, including mulit-city expansion, which has also led to increased investor interest.
Great North Labs is considering multiple investments for Q4, as well as follow-on investments with existing investees. More exciting announcements are to come!
Great North Labs recently welcomed four new advisors:
Ann Rupnow is the Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Coordinator at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Greg Tehven is the co-founder and director of Emerging Prairie, an adjunct professor at North Dakota State University’s College of Business, curator ofTEDxFargo, and host of 1 Million Cups Fargo.
John Sheehan is the VP of Product Management at CA Technologies. He formerly was the co-founder Runscope, and headed Developer Evangelism at Twilio.
Daren Cotter is the founder & CEO of InboxDollars.
Welcome to the team!
Dispatch is hiring Drivers in Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando (and Ft. Mary), Fort Worth, and Minneapolis (and St. Paul and Golden Valley).
Structural is hiring an Account Executive and an Office Administrator.
FactoryFix is hiring a Vue.js Developer, and a Business Development Rep.
Team Genius – watch for postings on the Team Genius website.
Pitchly – watch for postings on the Pitchly website.
ZAPinfo – watch for postings on the ZAPinfo website.
Intel co-founder Gordon Moore famously predicted that computing power would grow exponentially by doubling every two years (“Moore’s Law”). The implications of such rapidly improving computing power are now evident all around us, but back when Gordon predicted such growth it was hard to imagine a future with such incredible computing power.
In March, we held our first-ever Exponential Technology and Leadership workshop to address the inevitable trends that will disrupt many industries.
Whether it’s AI, IoT, medicine, space, or even blockchain, it was evident throughout this bootcamp that proactive, exponential thinking is necessary to maintain a competitive advantage in all industries.
Participants had the opportunity to hone in on their skills development through the process of question storming, developing moonshot ideas, and rapid prototyping.
If you were unable to attend, you can still sign up for our next workshop on April 23rd.
Welcome, new Advisors!
Candice Savino – VP of Engineering at Trunk Club; Formerly Senior Director of Engineering, Groupon
Nicolas Thomley – Henry Crown Fellow at The Aspen Institute, Co-Founder & CEO of Morning Sun Financial Services, Founder of Pinnacle Service
Suk Shah – CFO at Avant; Formerly CFO at HSBC
Paul Longhenry – SVP – Strategy, Corporate, and Business Development at Tapjoy; Formerly Venture Capital Investment Director at D.E. Shaw Ventures
Top Midwestern Spots for Startups
It’s no secret that the startup ecosystem is rising in the Midwest. “…the amount of money being invested into startups is on the rise in the Midwest and throughout many other parts of the country, reaching fresh multi-year highs in 2017. Almost one full quarter into 2018, the trend appears to continue unabated.”
Read more from Crunchbase about why the Midwest is now being coined as a “goldilocks zone.”
4/10 – Lean Startup Bootcamp
4/23 – Exponential Technology & Leadership Workshop –
4/28 – Agile Scrum Crash Course
Follow the Lean Startup Path to create your next startup, realize your potential in Product Management as a career, and master the skills needed to find winning business models through Lecture and Labs.
Our work-friendly bootcamp is over three Tuesday sessions: 4/10, 4/17, and 4/24 from 6:00 – 8:30 pm at Great North Labs in St. Cloud.
The implications of rapidly improving computer power are evident around us – gain a competitive advantage and avoid disruption through this workshop. Become familiar through our Intro to Exponentials, review Disruptive Technologies, expand your Exponential Leadership, and develop skills to broaden your perspective.
Monday, April 23rd from 8:00 – 4:30 pm at Fueled Collective in Minneapolis.
Learn and begin applying the foundational concepts of Agile Scrum to improve work transparency on your team. Review the history of Agile, problems that can be solved via Agile, and tackle software development complexity.
Saturday, April 28th from 9:00 – 5:00pm at Fueled Collective inMinneapolis.
Minnebar is April 14th
Great North Labs’s Managing Partners, Ryan and Rob Weber, will speak three times at this annual tech and software conference which has been a Twin Cities mainstay since 2006. The all-day event will be at Best Buy Headquarters. Tickets are free.
Tweet to Meet with Rob (@robertjweber) or with Ryan (@mnvikingsfan) at the event.
Do you know any investors interested in sharing investment opportunities? Have them contact us!