Great North Ventures Investment Themes

Great North Ventures is a network-driven, generalist early-stage fund that prioritizes exceptional execution. Founded by founders, for founders – we back repeat founders, we back strong first-time founders, and we form founder teams in our venture studio. 

Our innovator network and team’s connections drive our value-add to startups, and our network density is greatest in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. While we are a generalist fund, we invest in three theses: “Solving Labor Problems”, “Digital transformation Through AI”, and “Community-Driven Applications”. 

Solving Labor Problems

The world’s talent markets are more connected and competitive than ever. The hardest challenges for virtually every business are related to attracting and retaining talent, including skilled and unskilled. Given the pressure across all industries for recruiting, developing, and retaining top talent, we are focused on investing in startups that look to tackle talent issues with either horizontal approaches (across industries) or vertical approaches (going deep in a single industry). 

The future of work will see more workers who value their flexibility connecting across the world, working from anywhere. Traditional definitions of jobs (like the “9-5”) will also change as gig work and variations of employment affect how talent approaches the idea of work. 

As the industry changes, down to the very conception of “work”, new solutions will come to market to meet demand while accommodating new realities.

What We are Looking For

Labor Marketplaces

Despite the rise of horizontal recruitment platforms like LinkedIn and Indeed, most workers are unsatisfied with the way they find new work; similarly, employers want to source the right workers more easily . Workers end up with low success rates on time-consuming applications for many job types because the horizontal platforms can’t go deep enough to match-make at a high rate. This same filtering issue plagues employers because they end up with a lot of noise from poorly recommended matches.

Examples in our portfolio include FactoryFix and Skillit. FactoryFix is a labor marketplace that for manufacturing businesses to find skilled talent to run their business. Skillit matches skills-tested carpenters with great construction firms.

Financial Services for Workers

As companies compete to attract talent, services offered to employees factor into employment decisions. Financial services for employees improve the employee experience by reducing inefficiencies, saving money, and giving employees greater control over their earnings.

Examples in our current portfolio include Branch and Micruity. Branch allows users to budget, take paycheck advances, and earn more income by picking up available shifts. Micruity partners with life insurers and fund managers to  pensionize 401(k) plans, to provide access to a secure retirement for workers.

EdTech

Workers expect that they will advance in their careers. If they stay stagnant for too long, they will leave and go to another place. As such, employers and recruitment platforms need to get better at advancing the skills of workers so that they can level up. Edtech, especially “continuing education” offers this skill advancement.

An example from Fund I that has already been acquired is Clinician Nexus. Clinician Nexus provides clinical rotation management for health systems, medical and nursing schools, and medical and nursing students, with a transparent, people-centered platform.

Gig Work 

Employees want flexible solutions so they can choose when they want to work and have the flexibility to work around their personal schedules or part-time positions.

Examples in our portfolio include Dispatch and Yardstik. Dispatch employs a driver network that performs last-mile delivery on-demand. Yardstik makes it easy for gig marketplaces and SaaS platforms to screen, verify, and train their workers.

Workplace Collaboration 

A very effective way to increase productivity, while also increasing the engagement of workers, is to increase collaboration within and across functional areas of businesses. Collaboration limitations can be due to institutional silos, or physical barriers like those presented by remote work.

An example from our portfolio is Structural. Structural is an Employee Success Platform built to nurture employee connections within an organization.

Remote & Hybrid Work– The market was already trending towards supporting remote work, but the pandemic has accelerated the transformation by 10X. The cat is out of the bag and it isn’t ever going back. We still have a lot of opportunities to continue to innovate.

PrintWithMe is an example in our portfolio. PrintWithMe provides an accessible and smart printing solution for people who work from coffee shops, apartment buildings, or wherever a kiosk is located. 

Project/Task Management– Given talent constraints in the market, efficiently allocating resources is more important than ever. Businesses that can increase operational efficiency can stay ahead. 

An example from our portfolio is Parallax. Parallax is a platform built to help digital agencies and tech consultancies operate more efficiently, with better utilization of billable resources.

Work with us

If you have a startup that is solving labor market challenges in these or other ways, submit here for feedback. We will provide feedback to all startups who submit.

Before you submit, get an inside look at our process first: “This is how to evaluate early-stage consumer app startups

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