It’s a wrap for Twin Cities Startup Week (TCSW), Minnesota’s largest annual startup event. How big is it? In 2019 the event attracted 17,000 people to over 200 sessions. This year, the event stretched nearly a month as it went virtual for the first time. 

Startup Competition Winners

One of two big competitions during TCSW is the MN Startup Awards, a joint venture between Tech.MN and TCSW. The winners this year included Canomiks (Emerging Startup), Maddy Kennedy (Impact Award), BetterYou (Operational Excellence) SayKid (Voyager Award), Black Tech Talent (The Inclusive Evolution Award), and Target Accelerators Team (Corporate Champion). 

Great North Labs sponsored the 10K Lakes Award for Greater Minnesota for the second year in a row, which recognizes work supporting startups in Greater MN. MN Cup took home the award this year!

We are proud to support MN Cup through our Founders Pledge, where Rob Weber also judges the High Tech division, and are pleased with the recognition of their success. MN Cup wound up their own competition on Sept. 23rd, with top honors going to BlueCube Bio

The winner of this year’s 10K Lakes Award for Greater Minnesota Startups is MN Cup. Director Jessica Berg accepted the award. 

The other big competition of TCSW is the BETA Showcase, which routinely attracts 800+ attendees. This year featured 21 startups, including 7 startups from Greater MN. The winner of the coveted Golden iPod was Bibliate, a Minneapolis-based provider of academic research summaries.

gBETA Greater MN-St. Cloud

The accelerator program gBETA Greater MN-St. Cloud has announced its fall class. The class includes startups from around the state. Sproutary is from Kimball, Shrpa is from Rochester, LegalMaps is from Edina, and Live.Give.Save is from Red Wing.

This class has some accomplishments under its belt already, as Shrpa took home 2 dedicated awards form MN Cup this year, and Live.Give.Save is the winner of last year’s inaugural 10K Lakes Award.

$2M Pitch Competition for Black founders

Revolution’s Rise of the Rest (ROTR) is partnering with Opportunity Hub, 100 Black Angels & Allies, and Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab to fund Black-founders via the “Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour: Equity Edition”. $2M in investments will go to the top 3 companies. 

Please share this event with your network! It’s a great opportunity for Black founders in the Upper Midwest to connect with investors and resources, and to have a chance at a big check! Great North Labs has partnered with ROTR to help connect capital with Black founders, and Rob Weber be taking pitch meetings during the event.

Great North Labs + Vikings Football = $$ for Minnestar

For every point the Vikings score this season, we are matching up to $5 in donations to Minnestar! Give as little as 10 cents per point, and know that it will be matched, benefitting one of Minnesota’s top startup support organizations. 

The campaign started on September 1st (when the Vikes were 0-0) and continues until the day after the Super Bowl, because hey, you have to believe! This campaign is through local startup ScoreSide, which connects sports with philanthropy.

It’s important to support the organizations that support our startups. Times are challenging. While we believe there’s a shortage of early-stage capital in the region, we also think that right now is a great time to build a startup

Events

Here is a mix of upcoming events, for investors, founders, and/or ecosystem supporters. All events are virtual unless otherwise noted. 

Portfolio News

River’s Edge participates in new robotic technology pilot program for screening COVID-19. Misty the robot is being used to screen hospital employees for COVID-19. 

PrintWithMe Announces National Partnership With Trammell Crow Residential. PrintWithMe has inked a deal with one of the nation’s largest developers of multifamily apartments.

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring a Business Development Representative and Manager, Account Management in Bloomington, MN; a Ruby Developer and Senior Ruby Developer for Remote work. Also Territory Sales Managers in Arlington, VA, Baltimore, MD, and Washington D.C.

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.

PrintWithMe ishiring Regional Sales Directors on the East Coast and in Texas; AR/AP Specialist and Operations Lead in Chicago, IL; VS/SVP of Operations, Marketing Director, Part-Time Customer Service Representative, Inside Sales Executive and a Fall 2020 Strategy Intern (MBA) for Remote work.

Parallax is hiring an Experienced Product Designer in Edina, MN. 

Branch is hiring a Data Platform Manager, Senior Software Engineer, Customer Success Manager, Customer Support Rep, Enterprise Support Specialist, and Fraud Agent in Minneapolis, MN.

Inhabitr is hiring a Chief Growth Officer/Head of B2C Growth, and a Sales and Customer Experience Associate in Chicago, IL.

NoiseAware is hiring a VP of Global Sales & Customer Experience, Embedded Developer, QA Technician (independent contractor), Account Manager, and a Customer Advocate in Dallas, TX.

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. 

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? 
 

Founders Pledge


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.

Local nonprofits stand to benefit greatly when pledging founders have big exits.

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!

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

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!

Job Board

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. 

July Newsletter
Great North Ventures

iraLogix closes $22M + Branch expands with Uber

iraLogix Closes Series C
Great North Ventures

iraLogix closes $22M Series C

June Newsletter
Great North Ventures

Flywheel lands Gates Foundation grant

We're Hiring
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Venture Capital Analyst

We're Hiring
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Executive Assistant – Venture Capital Firm

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

Fund II Theses: Solving Labor Problems
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Investment Theme: Solving Labor Problems

April Newsletter
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Trends in the Gig Economy + Work in the Metaverse

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MinneBar 14 Recap

Minnesota Innovation Collaborative
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Minnesota Innovation Collaborative

engineer and various business information. Internet of things industry.
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IoT 3.0

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Healthcare Innovation