While there are vaccines on the horizon and a potential further stimulus package, possibly in time for the holiday season, we still have a ways to go until economic recovery. Startups will be key to that recovery. 
 

Which Startups Will Succeed?

Have you ever wondered if your app idea was worth pursuing, if a startup was worth working for, or if your buddy’s startup was worth investing in? Of course you have. While enterprise SaaS startups have reliable benchmarks to compare against, early-stage consumer app startups are harder to evaluate. 

This is a problem for these startups, because it affects their ability to raise money. It’s also a problem for Midwest investors, who miss out on huge successes like Groupon and Grubhub.

Here’s how to evaluate them.
 

MN Entrepreneur Gift Guide


As of 2010 census data, roughly 49% of the private sector worked for a small business, and 2 out of 3 new jobs were created by a small business. If you didn’t find all of your gifts on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, or Cyber Monday, check out our 2020 Minnesota Entrepreneur Gift Buying Guide and buy from a small business.

Local small businesses have great, innovative products. Buying from them this holiday season also supports local jobs and growth. 

It includes ideas for a variety of products from local companies from camel milk skincare products to Boozy Jerky, and from Askov Finlayson’s Climate Positive Parka to the James Beard-winning  “Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” (in case you’re still celebrating Native American Heritage Month).

Local Early-Stage Startup News


LaunchMN celebrated it’s one-year anniversary, and released a First-Year Progress Report

Our latest Lean Startup School (with Red Wing Ignite, ILT Studios, and LaunchMN) pitch night ended with 2 winners: 

gBETAGreaterMN St. Cloud Director Precious Drew was just named to Minne Inno’s 2020 Under 25! (Boozy Jerky mentioned above is an alumnus!)
 

Startup Investment Incentive

If you’re thinking of investing but need some incentive, here is how investors (including investors in VC funds and angel investors) can get a 100% exclusion on their gains from those startup investments

Events

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

Portfolio News


USA Softball Announces Partnership Agreement with TeamGenius. TeamGenius has a new partnership to serve as the athlete evaluation system for USA Softball. 

Inno on Fire: The 30 companies and people shaping Wisconsin’s tech sceneAllergy Amulet was named to the list of impactful tech startups.

2ndKitchen Releases New 2021 Multifamily Amenities Guide2ndKitchen has a new report out with research and survey data on the importance of amenities in Multifamily properties.

 

Job Board

Great North Labs is hiring VC Analyst interns for summer of 2021. The application closes this week!

Dispatch is hiring a Territory Sales Manager, Business Development Representative, and Ruby 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.

PrintWithMe is hiring a Regional Sales Directors for East Coast, South Central, and South East regions; Director, Demand GenerationOperations Lead, and MBA Strategy Intern in Chicago, IL.

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

Branch is hiring a Senior Software Engineer and Android Engineer for remote work, and an Account Executive, Mid-Market, and Channel Sales Manager in Minneapolis, MN.

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

Clinician Nexus is hiring a Customer Success Manager in Minneapolis, MN. 

NoiseAware is hiring a VP of Marketing, a QA Technician (independent contractor), Account Manager, and a Customer Advocate in Dallas, TX.

PartySlate is hiring a Senior Growth Marketing Manager in Chicago, IL.

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. 

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.

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. 

Summer is coming to an end, but fall is shaping up to be a good time! The ever-growing Twin Cities Startup Week is October 9-16th this year, and the schedule is currently being finalized.

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!). This year Great North Labs has partnered with Beta to open up the Beta Showcase to Greater MN startups.

Beta Showcase


The Beta Showcase is a collection of top local startups, with roughly 18 spots available to metro and Greater MN startups this year. Hundreds of people gather to talk to the founders, network, drink, and vote on their favorite, with the winner announced at the end of the night. Tickets for the Showcase usually sell out, so be sure to get them well in advance. 

This is the first year Greater Minnesota startups will be highlighted during the Showcase event alongside metro startups. 

If you are a founder who is interested in the exposure and the experience that comes with this event – applications are open until August 30th. We are especially interested in any startups located outside the Minnesota metro area who want to take part. The Showcase is Monday, October 14th in the DQ Club at TCF Stadium in Minneapolis. Interested startups can apply here.

With this event expansion to Greater MN comes expanded sponsorship opportunities. If your company is interested in joining Great North Labs and Beta as we work to bring Greater MN into the startup ecosystem, simply reply to this email for more info. MN DEED has already grabbed the title sponsorship, but there are other opportunities available.

Events

With Twin Cities Startup Week on the horizon, it’s easy to overlook other events. Instead, look them over here:  

Sept. 10th, Beta’s Tournament of Champions Grand Finale in Minneapolis, MN. This competition is down to the Final Four, and the winner will walk away with $50,000. 

Sept. 16-17th, 2019 US FinTech Symposium in Chicago, IL. This educational event will focus on FinTech disruptors like AI and blockchain, while also featuring some Midwest startups. 

Sept. 17th, Cross-border investing: Wisconsin Tech Council Luncheon inUW-Eau Claire, WI. Great North Labs Analyst Mike Schulte will be presenting. 

Sept. 17th, MedCity Invest Digital Healthin Minneapolis, MN. This event, supported by our friends at the Medical Alley Association, “will unite active investors with corporate business development executives to facilitate investment opportunities with the most innovative companies from the Digital Health sector.”  

Oct. 8-9th, Fall Experiment in Milwaukee, WI.This is a gathering of tech and creatives with focuses on “Tech, Art, Gaming, Music”.

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, including: 

Oct. 10th, Innovation Expo inSioux Falls, SD. Great North Labs partner Ryan Weber will be speaking during the Finance Panel.

Portfolio News

Great North Labs advisor Neela Mollgaard was named the head of Launch Minnesota! The new state program will provide incentives, training, and grants for new startups across the state. 

Portfolio News

ZapInfo raised $1.75M in a Series Seed 2 funding round, which included new investor Randstad Innovation Fund. They have grown by over 400% in the last 12 months since Doug Berg took over as CEO. 

Misty the robot (of Misty Robotics) took a road trip to Twilio SIGNAL 2019. You can check out the trip recap here. One developer who took Misty for a spin said, “I don’t usually program robots because it’s hard, and not very fun. But this was super fun and easy, so, I’m definitely going to pick one up.” 

Job Board

Dispatchis hiring all over the country for Drivers and locally for Engineers, Biz Dev, QA, UX, Accounts Receivable, and a CFO. 
Structural is hiring a Customer Success Specialist, and a Software Sales & Operations Support Specialist
FactoryFixis hiring a Software Engineer in Madison, and a Business Development Specialist and an Account Manager in Chicago.
Pitchly is hiring a Product Designer in Des Moines (preferably) or the Upper Midwest. 
Misty Robotics is hiring a Devops Engineer and Principal Electrical Engineer in Boulder, CO. 
PrintWithMe is hiring a Marketing Manager and NOC Tech Support Technician in Chicago, and a Regional Sales Director. 

May newsletter
Great North Ventures

$40M Fund II Raised!

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

Great North Labs Newsletter December 2017
James DonFrancesco

Great North Labs Newsletter – December 2017

Rob-Back-To-The-Future-wide
Rob Weber

A Letter To My Younger Self

mixed icons with brown color and tech theme
James DonFrancesco

Great North Labs Newsletter