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.
On July 4th, 239 years ago, a group of entrepreneurs, visionaries, and leaders came together to free themselves from a politically oppressive system that they found socially and economically limiting. The country they founded promised life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness- free from tyranny and organized in a way “most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness”.
The American Dream is one of a meritocracy- work hard and be rewarded. This remains a dream for many who are hobbled by systemic barriers. Their success isn’t solely dependent on their talents and hard work, but on factors outside of their control like where they are born, who their parents are, and what color their skin is.
The murder of George Floyd has exposed some of these barriers in a horrifying way. Not all people are safe and happy. Many are being denied the pursuit of happiness, liberty, and their very lives. For these citizens, our country isn’t a meritocracy. For these citizens, our country isn’t living up to its founding principles.
As entrepreneurs and investors, we characterize the issues in terms we can understand and work with. We see the root problem as economic deprivation. Existing inequalities are the symptoms of this problem, and the solution is to give everyone a fair chance to succeed. That’s why our team works to provide equitable opportunities for success through charitable giving, training, and mentorship. We help entrepreneurs to have a chance at success, and we put in the effort to make it happen.
As a venture fund we have only one KPI: returns. Our investing is driven by profits for shareholders. We make investments almost exclusively off referrals- from our advisors, investors, other funds and ecosystem partners. While we believe our efforts are equitable, we don’t currently measure demographics in our deal pipeline. In the words of Peter Drucker, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”.
So moving forward, as we log opportunities for observation and investment consideration, we will be tracking demographic profiles of the founding teams. We will also be tracking demographic profiles in our startup school initiative. These measurements will allow us to ensure that we are seeing opportunities from a representative sample of our region’s population. The data will guide the creation of specific action plans to improve the equity of our investment pipeline wherever necessary, so that we can be held accountable to providing fair access to our capital pipeline, our mentorship, and training initiatives.
We aren’t focused on the short-term. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Here in the upper Midwest, we are contributing to a cycle of growth by building capacity in the innovation ecosystem. The cycle includes not only harvesting profits, but cultivating startups. And by making this cycle accessible, by sharing the plans and the keys to growth engines with underserved communities, we can catalyze the generational change necessary to truly impact disadvantaged people in the region for the next 239 years.
Summer is in full swing. After the 4th, check out these events.
- July 8th is the deadline to apply for MinneDemo 34, in Minneapolis, MN. Minnestar’s regular demo time for Twin Cities makers will be held in early August, on a day TBD.
- July 9th is the OnRamp Agriculture Conference. The OnRamp Agriculture Conference brings together the agriculture and food industries’ leading corporations, investors and startups. The conference highlights innovations disrupting agriculture and the future of food, the leaders making such innovations possible and how new technologies and business models will reinvent the industry. You can connect with Ryan Weber at the event.
- Aug. 12th is the virtual OnRamp Healthcare Conference. “The conference highlights innovations disrupting health care and the future of medicine, the health care leaders making such innovations possible and how new technologies and business models will reinvent the industry.”
- Aug. 13-20th is ForwardFest in Madison, WI. “Join fellow entrepreneurs, nerds, geeks, hackers, foodies, and creatives from the Midwest in an 8-day celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Misty Robotics has developed a new skill for the robot, “Misty”, that turns it into a Temperature Screening Assistant. The skill turns Misty into an autonomous, customizable, user-friendly solution for touchless COVID-19 screening.
Great North Labs has added a Venture Analyst to the team! Emily Shirley is a graduate of Miami University’s Finance and Entrepreneurship program. While at Miami University, Emily co-founded the Social Impact Fund, first undergraduate-led social impact fund in the country. Her recent experience includes as a Strategic Account intern at Cintrifuse.
Dispatch is hiring Product Manager, Product Owner, and Quality Assurance Engineer in Bloomington, MN. Territory Sales Manager positions are open in Atlanta, Kansas City, Memphis, Milwaukee, Nashville, St. Louis, and Minneapolis.
FactoryFix is hiring a Team Lead – Full Stack Developer, Full Stack Developer, and Infrastructure Developer- DevOps in Madison, WI; a Recruiter, and Business Development Rep in Chicago, IL.
PrintWithMe is hiring a Regional Sales Director on the East Coast; a Software Engineer, Summer Strategy Intern (MBA), Summer Strategy Intern (undergraduate), AR/AP Specialist, Account Manager, and Recruiter for Remote work.
Parallax is hiring for Growth/Customer Acquisition in Minneapolis, MN.
Clinician Nexus is hiring a Product Manager in Minneapolis or Remote.
NoiseAware is hiring a COO, VP of Global Sales & Account Management, Product Marketing Manager, UI/UX Designer, Account Manager, and Customer Advocate in Dallas, TX.