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 here, here, here, here, here, 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.

$23.7 Million Raised


Great North Labs has closed its first fund with $23.7M in committed capital! This is one of the largest debut seed funds ever raised in the Midwest. 

“We are very appreciative and humbled by the tremendous support shown for our debut fund by our limited partners,” said Great North Labs Managing Partner Rob Weber. “Our investors’ support shows not only their conviction for us as fund managers, but also their conviction to backing the next generation of startup founders across our region.”

Managing Partners Rob and Ryan Weber, SCSU President Robbyn Wacker, and Managing Partner Pradip Madan at the Great North Labs Startup Ecosystem Kickoff last September. 

This fund raise has exceeded our team’s expectations, and has increased our capacity, reach and impact as we cultivate the next generation of tech startups across the Upper Midwest.

“The opportunity in the Midwest is significant for investors with the right experience, criteria and investment thesis. For four decades, capital has gravitated towards Silicon Valley, Boston and New York. With the high cost of living and a talent supply-demand imbalance, making a startup successful is now more difficult in Silicon Valley,” said Managing Partner Pradip Madan, who is based in Silicon Valley. “As a result, investors are starting to pay more attention to the startup ecosystems in places like Chicago, Minneapolis, Madison and Des Moines. Plus, many of the industries – financial, food, travel and hospitality, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, mining – that entrepreneurs are now disrupting are native to these areas. In the new Gold Rush, the gold is the hard-working entrepreneurs and their startups in these regions.”

Read more at VentureBeat, the Star Tribune, Yahoo Finance, the Minneapolis-St. Paul  or Milwaukee Business Journals, MinneInno or ChicagoInno, Tech.MN, the Grand Rapids Herald, the St. Cloud Times

Events

July 17-18th. Enterprise Rising, Minneapolis. “If you’re an enterprise SaaS startup, then this will be the best room you’ll be in all year.” 

July 17-18th. Fund Conference, Chicago. Brad Feld of Foundry Group is the featured speaker this year. “FUND Conference was launched in 2015 to connect investors, vetted, emerging-growth companies, and business leaders for same-day connections and business development opportunities.”

July 18th. Minnedemo32, St. Paul. A showcase of working tech products made in Minnesota. No PowerPoint, 7 minutes to present. 

July 24th. Horizon, St. Paul. This is Forge North’s activation event for ecosystem leaders. “If you are ready to look to the horizon, set clear and ambitious new goals for our region, and rally around breakthrough ideas, partners in Forge North invite you to join in.”

July 25th. TedX Fargo 2019: Forward, Fargo. “We want to empower people to be solution-orientated, believing that ideas can change the way the world works. We want to encourage you to listen to new ideas, find a topic that you’re passionate about, and then take action to enable those ideas. Join us as we celebrate our 10th TEDxFargo event, and 10 years of TEDx!”

Advisors

Two Great North Labs advisors are new to the team

Geoff Wood is the founder of Gravitate Coworking in Des Moines, Iowa, as well as the Executive Director of the West Des Moines Business Incubator. Geoff co-founded and publishes Clay & Milk, a media startup that covers the Iowa entrepreneurial ecosystem.  

Mike Rynchek is the former CTO of Bright Health. Before that, Mike founded and served as CEO of Spyder Trap, which was acquired by Bright Health. He is currently the Global Strategy Lead for Onduo, and an active startup investor and advisor. 

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring all over the country (25 cities!) for Field Sales Representatives and Drivers. In Bloomington, MN, they are hiring an Engineer, a UX Designer, and for Biz Dev, Customer Experience, and Driver Engagement roles. 

Structural is hiring a Node/JavaScript Engineer.

FactoryFix is hiring a Software Engineer in Madison, WI, and a Business Development Specialist and an Account Managers in Chicago.

Misty Robotics is hiring a Manufacturing and Repair Engineer, a Devops Engineer, and a Sr. Software Engineer, in Boulder, CO. 

pepr is hiring for Biz Dev – Outbound Sales in Minneapolis. 

2ndKitchen is hiring a Full-Stack Developer in Brooklyn, NY, and an Operations Associate in Chicago.  

PrintWithMe is hiring a Business Development Executive, a Customer Success Manager, a Strategy Intern, and a Marketing and Operations Intern.

One of the largest debut seed funds ever raised in the Midwest

St. Cloud, USA — June 19, 2019 — Great North Labs closed its first fund with $23.7M in committed capital. Great North Labs is an early-stage venture fund focused on cultivating the next generation of tech startups across the Upper Midwest. The fund is based in St. Cloud and Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a partner located in Silicon Valley. This is one of the largest debut seed funds ever raised in the Midwest.

“We are very appreciative and humbled by the tremendous support shown for our debut fund by our limited partners,” said Great North Labs Managing Partner Rob Weber. “Our investors’ support shows not only their conviction for us as fund managers, but also their conviction to backing the next generation of startup founders across our region.”

The bulk of venture capital is raised and spent on the coasts. Fifty-two venture capital funds were formed in the US in 2018, with the majority formed in California, New York, and Massachusetts. Those states accounted for 79% of the $5.3B in capital raised (source: National Venture Capital Association). Nationally, some larger funds are becoming more active in seed stage investing in the Midwest. The most active of these are Techstars, which operates an accelerator in addition to a venture fund, and Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund.

Funds that invest in early-stage startups, or “seed funds”, are generally smaller in size, and only about half a dozen have ever debuted in the Midwest with over $20M committed. In the Upper Midwest (defined as ND, SD, MN, IA, WI, IL), there are only two examples besides Great North Labs, both from Chicago. Hyde Park Venture Partners raised $25M in their 2013 debut, and MATH Venture Partners raised $28M in 2015 (sources: data compiled from Pitchbook, CB Insights, Crunchbase, and public databases). Both Hyde Park and MATH have gone on to raise larger funds since their debuts.

Managing Partner Ryan Weber said, “Exponential technologies are causing accelerating changes, and the implementation of these technologies is greatly enabled by the domain expertise living inside our strong industries throughout the Upper Midwest, creating fertile ground for high growth, technology-driven entrepreneurship.”

Great North Labs invests in consumer or enterprise startups that have potential to reach a $1B market, show early signs of product-market fit, possess defensible attributes, and leverage new technology. Startups must be based in, or significantly tied to, the Upper Midwest. Great North Labs has also committed 10% of the fund ($2.37M) to investments in pre-seed startups with founders from under-represented groups, or startups located in under-served markets, such as St. Cloud, MN; Sioux Falls, SD; and Fargo, ND. At a time when 45% of deals by Midwest investors are still going to startups outside of the region (source: TechCrunch), Great North Labs is committed to catalyzing the potential of the region by not only capitalizing on existing exceptional opportunities, but by cultivating new ones.


The fund has three Managing Partners: Ryan Weber, Rob Weber, and Pradip Madan. The Webers, twin brothers who have worked together since bootstrapping their first company in college, have a successful track record as founders, operators and early stage investors. Pradip Madan is a Silicon Valley tech executive with a long history of success at both Fortune 100 companies and startups, and has been part of several seminal moments of tech and venture history. The Webers live in St. Cloud and Maple Grove (Minnesota) respectively, and Madan is located in Silicon Valley. The team also includes a network of accomplished advisors from successful tech companies throughout the Upper Midwest and Silicon Valley.

“The opportunity in the Midwest is significant for investors with the right experience, criteria, and investment thesis. For four decades, capital has gravitated towards Silicon Valley, Boston and New York. With the high cost of living and a talent supply-demand imbalance, making a startup successful is now more difficult in Silicon Valley. As a result, investors are starting to pay more attention to the startup ecosystems in places like Chicago, Minneapolis, Madison, and Des Moines. Plus, many of the industries – financial, food, travel and hospitality, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, mining – that entrepreneurs are now disrupting are native to these areas. In the new Gold Rush, the gold is the hard-working entrepreneurs and their startups in these regions,” said Managing Partner Pradip Madan.

ABOUT Great North Labs

Great North Labs is a St. Cloud & Minneapolis-based, early-stage venture fund. We are industry agnostic, and invest in consumer and enterprise technology companies across the Upper Midwest. Our hybrid model emphasizes advisory support and guidance for our portfolio companies along with capital investment, and we support and develop the local startup ecosystem through partnerships and education.

We mentor with Techstars, serve on the board of Minnestar, and lead the local chapter of Singularity University. The partners regularly speak at industry events, mentor founders, and advise startups and provide financial support to Gener8tor/gBETA Greater MN-St. Cloud, Beta.MN, St. Cloud State, St. John’s Center for Entrepreneurship, SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul, and MNCup. Great North Labs also provides educational support in valuable industry skills, such as Lean Startup, Agile Scrum, and Innovation Design, at low cost for founders and students through the Great North Labs Startup School.

Our mission: We apply capital, operating experience, relationships, and market intelligence to cultivate the next generation of leading tech companies in Minnesota and across the Upper Midwest. For more info, visit gnladmin.staging.wpengine.com, or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook.

Media Contacts:

Great North Labs josef@greatnorthlabs.com

Images + More info can be found in our media kit.

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