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.
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.
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:
- 1st Place: Scobium – They have a new eco-friendly synthetic leather material for the textiles industry, manufactured using bacterial cellulose.
- 2nd Place: TalentSignal – They are a pre-launch startup researching a new business model to help guide students through the development skills needed to land a job in their chosen field by matchmaking them to successful practitioners who serve as mentors.
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.
Here is a mix of upcoming events, for investors, founders, and/or ecosystem supporters. All events listed are virtual.
- Dec. 1-3rd, Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour: Equity Edition. Black-founded startups based off the coasts compete for $2M in funding. Days 1 + 2 feature town halls: “Building Inclusive Startup Ecosystems” and “Entrepreneurship and HBCUs”. Day 3 is the Pitch Competition Finals.
- Dec. 2-4th, Web Summit From the folks who produce Collision, this is the annual European version.
- Dec. 2-4th, Powering Inclusion Annual Summit. This is the Center for Economic Inclusion’s Annual Event. Virtual this year, “The Summit is for leaders at every stage of the journey of building racially inclusive organizations, communities, and economies”.
- Dec. 3-10th, Food | Ag | Ideas Week. Put on by MN-based Grow North, this annual event focuses on ideas to innovate our food system.
- Dec. 3rd, 2020 Chicago Tech Day. Sort of a “State of the City” event for Chicago tech, with Mayor Lightfoot and various tech community leaders.
- Dec. 11th, Walleye Tank Ice Fishing Edition. Startups, pitch your healthcare innovation. Deadline to apply is Dec. 1st.
- Dec. 13-19th, Curiosity Week with Emerging Digital Academy. Based in Fargo, ND, this new tech community gathering wil feature 30+ events.
- January, TBD, Lean Startup School events with ILT Studios:
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 scene. Allergy Amulet was named to the list of impactful tech startups.
2ndKitchen Releases New 2021 Multifamily Amenities Guide. 2ndKitchen has a new report out with research and survey data on the importance of amenities in Multifamily properties.
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! We are excited to announce that signups for the new, Greater MN-focused startup school initiative are live, and will kick off on March 7th in St. Cloud and March 14th in Red Wing.
Red Wing Ignite Startup School
The Lean Startup School is a partnership led by Red Wing Ignite, with partners including Great North Labs and ILT Studios. Disciplined startup education is in short supply in Minnesota, and we are addressing the shortage with this accessible program. The first workshop in the series, Program 01: Customer Driven Innovation – Module 101: Opportunity Identification will be held in St. Cloud on March 7th at 9am and 1pm. A second cohort will be based in Red Wing, with the same workshop kicking off there on March 14th, at 9am and 1pm.
“What most people don’t tell you is that there is a process that can be taught and practiced to sharpen an idea, iterate on it, and then pair it with an initial business strategy to go validate,” says, Nick Tietz, Founder and CEO of ILT Studios. “We believe that there are hundreds of unused ideas just waiting for a clear path to success and this Opportunity Identification Course is designed to help entrepreneurs to unlock these ideas, nurture their development and help them to have a chance at becoming a great business idea.”
|The Red Wing Ignite Lean Startup School begins on March 7th in St. Cloud, and on March 14th in Red Wing.|
We wrote about our involvement and the genesis of the Great North Labs’s startup education initiatives here. If you want to sign up, follow this link to for St. Cloud, and this link for the Red Wing course! The program is FREE for anyone with an idea, including the spectrum from students to seasoned entrepreneurs.
World Economic Forum
Managing Partner Pradip Madan went to Davos for the annual World Economic Forum gathering, which focuses on entrepreneurship in the global public interest, and shaping global, regional, and industry agendas. As part of the Digital Future Board room, Pradip spoke after the session “Unlocking Global Corporate Performance with a Family-Friendly Business Code” about investing in the Upper Midwest, and how we are poised for success.
“In today’s conversations folks talked about support, and a kind of environment which is collaborative, and has longevity in its loyalty to the institution and the organization,” said Pradip. “All these things are true for the Upper Midwest, and that gives us the environment for our entrepreneurs to succeed, and for Limited Partners – our investors – to succeed as a result.
See Pradip here in this clip from CNN Money.
Here are some upcoming events related to tech startups. Where our attendance is noted, feel free to reach out or connect at the event:
- Feb. 26- BETA’s State of the State in St. Paul, MN. Update on the state of MN tech startups.
- Feb. 27- Tech Talent 2020 inMinneapolis. This event at Target Field is put on by MHTA. “During this event, we will build on the data and ideas we delivered last year to look at specific ways the tech and STEM education communities are addressing supply and demand here in Minnesota”.
- Mar. 7th and 14th- The Lean Startup School in Red Wing and St. Cloud. This is the first workshop in a series designed to take entrepreneurs from “idea” to “investable”.
- Mar. 16- Wisconsin Tech Summit in Green Bay, WI. The Tech Summit will feature a series of brief meetings, or “speed dates,” to foster communication and partnerships.
- Apr. 25- Minnebar15 in Richfield, MN. The annual, can’t-miss gathering at Best Buy HQ put on by Minnestar. Tickets won’t be available until April 9th, but you can check out the talks and register your interest here. If you plan on going, this is good to do, to make sure you can get a seat in the talks you want to hear. (Minnestar uses those registrations to assign room sizes). Check out Managing Partner Rob Weber‘s talk Scaling a Company Outside of Silicon Valley.
PartySlate is new to the Great North Labs portfolio. PartySlate is a visual platform for event planning that is free to use for people who are looking to throw a party, while vendors and event planners can pay a premium for improved placement. Great North Labs led this $5.5M round into this visual event planning platform. With $11M raised to date, CEO Julie Novack and PartySlate are #3 in funds raised by a female founder in Chicago in the last 10 years. Read more in Crain’s.
FactoryFix is hiring a Product Designer- Customer Growth, two Full Stack Developers, and a Infrastructure Developer- DevOps in Madison; a Recruiter, and a Business Development Representative in Chicago.
TeamGenius is hiring a Customer Success Associate.
Pitchly is hiring a remote Legal Marketing & Sales Content Specialist
Misty Robotics is hiring a Lead Qualification & Inside Sales Specialist, and an Inside Sales Specialist (contract) in Boulder, CO.
2ndKitchen is hiring a Customer Success Manager – Events & Popups, Production and Inventory Associate, Operations Associate, Business Development Representative, and an Account Executive in Chicago.
PrintWithMe is hiring a Customer Service Representative, Web Developer (Python), and an Inside Sales Executive in Chicago; Super User Technicians in Portland and Houston; and Regional Sales Directors for the Southeast and 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 Sales Operations Manager, Sales Development Manager, Field Marketing Manager, Software Engineer, Customer Support Agent, Account Executive – Enterprise, Sales Engineer, IT Coordinator, Lifecycle Marketing Manager, DevOps Engineer, Jr. Visual Designer, Sr. Backend Engineer, Demand Generation Content Manager, Account Executive – Mid-Market,Growth Marketing Inter, and Growth Marketing Analyst in Minneapolis; a remote Sr. Android Engineer; and an Operational Data Scientist in Minneapolis or remote.
NoiseAware is hiring a Global Supply Chain Manager, Product Marketing Manager, and UI/UX Designer in Dallas.
PartySlate is hiring a Marketing Coordinator, HR Manager, Account Executive, Product Marketing Manager, Senior Product Desinger (UX), Senior Software Engineer (Front End), all in Chicago.
Is it spring already? Where is the late-April blizzard? Ah well, there’s always a surprise October snow to look forward to.
MinneBar 14 was this past weekend, with 1700+ tech enthusiasts gathering at Best Buy HQ for the best local tech event this side of Twin Cities Startup Week. As they say, a good time was had by all. Our recap will walk you through the highlights and show you why we love it.
Speaking of Twin Cities Startup Week, mark your calendar for this October 9-16th. It’s going to be a good one this year. And hopefully snow-free!
Rob Weber has been supporting entrepreneurs in St. Cloud and hanging out with the Governor. Read all about it on the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation’s website.
While you’re at it, do a little supporting yourself by contacting your state rep about supporting the Minnesota Innovation Collaborative. Steve Grove, MN DEED’s commissioner, has some big plans, and he knows a thing or two about both public policy and supporting entrepreneurship.
Mary Grove does too, as the former director of Google for Entrepreneurs. She was on-hand at MinneBar to present “VC Reverse Pitch” with Rob Weber, where they shared metrics and qualifications they look when investing as VC’s. Mary, a partner in Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, also spoke about partnering with Great North Labs, “One of the reasons we like co-investing with Great North Labs is because Rob and Ryan have the experience of building, growing, and exiting a company.”
Speaking of ecosystem building, a great article came out comparing Sioux Falls and Fargo. Sioux Falls and Fargo: Two Approaches to Building Startup Ecosystems. It’s a great intro for anyone interested in the tech and entrepreneurship communities in the two cities, or for anyone interested in practical examples over theory.
Beta Showcase Spring 2019-May 8th, Minneapolis, MN. It is “a science fair for startups, with beer and music”.
Minnesota Entrepreneur Kickoff – May 14th, Fort Snelling, MN. This annual event is devoted to growing the MN entrepreneur ecosystem. Ryan Weber will be presenting on Exponential Technology.
5 Lakes Forum– May 14th, Milwaukee, WI. “5 LAKES Forum is a launchpad for tech and startup leaders from the Great Lakes region to create meaningful connections and navigate high-level business and technology topics.”
EntreFest – May 16-17th, Cedar Rapids, IA. A two-day conference for entrepreneurship and innovation professionals. Ryan Weber will appear on two investor panels, and will also be speaking on Exponential Technology.
Drone Focus – May 29th, Fargo, ND. This conference is expanding their focus to include the infrastructure, software, systems, and resources for autonomous systems. It is put on annually by Emerging Prairie.
Lean Startup Bootcamp – May 29th-June 19th, St. Cloud, MN. Join Great North Labs for our Lean Startup Bootcamp to level-up your skills as an entrepreneur, a product manager, or student of innovation. This work-friendly training is from 6-8:30 p.m. for four consecutive Wednesdays.
SingularityU Minneapolis-St.Paul Chapter Kickoff – June 4th, Minneapolis, MN. Join chapter co-ambassador Ryan Weber for the inaugural event of this organization, one of only 2 Midwest chapters of a total 142 chapters in 66 countries worldwide. SU-MSP is focused on education, networking and community, with a mission to work to solve the world’s most pressing problems with exponential technologies. (Signup and Speakers TBD).
ZenLord Pro is live with a new website. The landlord management software startup also has a flashy new explainer video, in case you’re looking for an easy way to manage your rentals or just need to understand what it is, exactly, that they do.
Six Great North Labs advisors are new to the team.
Nick Tietz is the former Director of New Business Development and Innovation at Life Time Fitness, and is a co-founder of VariAware, LLC and Vitals Aware Services. Nick is the founder of The Sota Enterprises, where works with companies and startup founders to turn ideas into assets. Among other things, he partners with Great North on Innovation Workshops.
Aaron Kardell is Founder & CEO of HomeSpotter, which is a “relationship engine” for brokers, real estate agents, and clients.
He is the former founder & CEO of Mobile Realty Apps, and co-founder of Deals.by.
Casey Carl is CEO and founder of North Coast Ventures, a strategic advising and early stage venture investment company. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Minnesota health nonprofit MATTER.
Thompson Aderinkomi is co-founder and CEO of Nice Healthcare, which is a primary care clinic that provides care through in-home and remote video visits. He also co-founded Relate, and is a former co-founder and board member of Healthcare.mn.
Bryan Laskin is the founder of Operability, LLC, which is leading development for cloud based communications for the healthcare industry. He is also the SVP of Innovation for Dental Care Alliance, and co-founder of Talentship.
Scott Resnick is theCOO of Hardin Design & Development, and is the current Entrepreneur is Residence at StartingBlock Madison. He is also the former Executive Director of StartingBlock, which is an entrepreneurial hub in Madison (similar to 1871 in Chicago).
Dispatch is hiring all over the country for Field Sales Representatives and Drivers and for a variety of positions in Bloomington, MN.
Structural is hiring a Digital Marketing Specialist in St.Paul.
TeamGenius is hiring a Part-time Customer Success Associate in Minneapolis.
FactoryFix is hiring a Software Engineer in Madison, and a Business Development Specialist, Business Development Manager, and a Key Accounts Manager in Chicago.
Misty Robotics is hiring a Head of Hardware and a Manufacturing and Repair Engineer in Boulder.
Pepr is hiring for Business Development – Outbound Sales in Minneapolis.
2ndKitchen is hiring a City Lead and a Full-Stack Developer in Brooklyn, NY.
We’ve been busy! Since our December newsletter, we have several new investments that are closed or near closing, 20 new people (5 staff and 15 advisors) that have joined our team, and a new bootcamp on Exponential Technology & Leadership. This newsletter provides further details on each of these topics and more!
New To Portfolio
The focus of entrepreneurs and investors alike in making last mile delivery more efficient through utilization of current mobile technology has largely been in servicing B2C companies in areas such as grocery and food delivery. The traditional B2B last mile delivery space generally occupied by regional courier providers or private fleets has largely been untouched by new entrants.
Combining this lack of utilization of new technology along with the “instant gratification” pressure that consumers are bringing from online retail into the local trades and the B2B last mile delivery space is ripe for disruption. HVAC, electrical and plumbing contractors are challenged with consumers expecting same-day installation or repair of their home appliances and mechanical equipment. Often times the systems needing to be repaired or replaced require components not stocked on the service van. Courier services are therefore being leveraged by progressive contractors to capture these same-day sales.
Dispatch’s product is a software platform which provides suppliers with the ability to utilize the Dispatch app and backend to enter deliveries in their local market which are picked up by independent contractors and delivered to the suppliers’ customers, most commonly in B2B segments like HVAC, auto parts, plumbing, electrical, etc. Customers win by increased visibility into the delivery of the product they order and with similar costs as they typically pay for standard courier services. What Uber has done to the taxi market, What Uber has done to the taxi market, Dispatch has the ability to do to the courier market, which is largely untouched by B2C-oriented last mile delivery competitors.
Upcoming Startup School Events (those further out are listed on our website)
Exponential Technology & Leadership Bootcamp
Date: Thursday, March 8th from 8:00am to 5:00pm
Instructor: Ryan Weber (Managing Partner of Great North Labs)
Location: Great North Labs Office, 305 5th Ave S Suite 150, St. Cloud, MN 56301
Description: Develop leadership & technology expertise to unlock exponential growth:
- Learn how to define bold new ideas for your startup, company or non-profit
- Learn about disruptive technologies so you and your organization aren’t blind-sided by other startups
- Develop new techniques for adapting to rapid change in your start-up, company or non-profit
Open to students and business professionals of any type, profit or non-profit, high-tech or no-tech. Find more information and apply here.
Lean Startup Bootcamp (3 Days)
Dates: Tuesday (4/10), Tuesday (4/17), and Tuesday (4/24) from 6pm to 8:30pm
Instructor: Ryan Weber (Managing Partner of Great North Labs)
Location: Great North Labs Office, 305 5th Ave S Suite 150, St. Cloud, MN 56301
Description: Learn, and begin applying, the lean startup practice so that you can eliminate waste in planning and growing your startup.
Open to students and small business professionals of any type, profit or non-profit, high-tech or no-tech. Find more information and apply here.
Minnebar – 3 Sessions by Great North Labs
Date: Saturday, April 14th from 8am to 5pm (30 to 50 minute sessions, session times not yet posted)
Location: Best Buy HQ
- Session 1: Exponential Technology & Leadership – Ryan Weber
- Session 2: How Entrepreneurs Are Impacting Cities – Rob Weber
- Session 3: How Running Lean Can Help You Raise Capital – Ryan Weber
- Sona Mehring – Founder and former CEO Caring Bridge, Board Member at Minnestar
- Rick Ehrman – VP and Head of Corp Dev Sports Engine, previously worked at Univision Communications, NBCUniversal, and GE
- Jonathan Ozeran – Director of Product, Tempus; and Co-Founder, WUF; previously worked at Zest Health and Yello
- Brian Schoenborn – Partner and Co-Chair of Sports and Entertainment Business, Stinson Leonard Street; Founding Owner, Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
- Björn Stansvik – Founder and CEO MentorMate
- Matt Blodgett – Managing Director Vector Capital; Enthusiastic Investor in MN Tech Companies; Proto Labs (Former Board Member) and NativeX (former Board Observer)
- Corey Koskie – Entrepreneur, former MLB player (Twins, Blue Jays, Brewers) and Planet Fitness franchisee
- Jeff Hinck – General Partner at Rally Ventures, formerly Board Member at SportsEngine and Compellent
- Don Krantz – Board Member at Proto Labs, Associate at Digi Labs, Board Advisor for RSAM (Robotic, Sensors, and Advanced Manufacturing) area of MnDrive, formerly EVP and Technology Officer at Proto Labs
- Shivani Khanna Stumpf – CTO at Hoonuit (fka Atomic Learning), formerly Sr. Director of Product Management at SPS Commerce and Engineering/Product Manager at SportsEngine
- Nicholas Kartos – Co-founder/CEO at GymDandy, formerly Director of Media and Advertising at SportsEngine and Founder at Wisconsin Sports Network
- Bobby George – CEO at Montessorium
- Brian Bispala – Co-Founder at Aftercode, formerly Director at Foodsby and Co-Founder of Code 42
- Robert Bodor – VP and General Manager, Americas at Proto Labs; formerly Strategy and Business Development at Honeywell
- Bradley Schaufenbuel – CISO and VP at Paylocity
- In January, Rob gave a keynote presentation, “How Entrepreneurship Is Impacting Cities” at the Winter Institute annual conference in St. Cloud.
- Help us get the word out about our upcoming bootcamps and now-active fund.
- Do you know anyone that is interested in sharing investment opportunities with Great North Labs? Get in touch!
- Register for Minnebar and favorite our three sessions: Exponential Technology & Leadership, How Entrepreneurs Are Impacting Cities, How Running Lean Can Help You Raise Capital
Excited by a quick start to 2018! Looking forward to collaborating with you all!
The Great North Labs Team