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


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! 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: 

Portfolio News

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.

Job Board

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 GovernorRead all about it on the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation’s website.

Great North Labs Managing Partner Rob Weber with Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.

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.

Upcoming Events

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).

Portfolio Action

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. 

New Advisors

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).

Job Board

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:

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

To register, visit Minnebar’s website and sign-up to attend the conference and then navigate to all sessions and select the Great North Labs sessions that interest you here.


KPIs/Key Milestones

New advisors

Speaking Engagements

Help Wanted/Asks

Excited by a quick start to 2018!  Looking forward to collaborating with you all!

The Great North Labs Team

July Newsletter
Great North Ventures

iraLogix closes $22M + Branch expands with Uber

iraLogix Closes Series C
Great North Ventures

iraLogix closes $22M Series C

June Newsletter
Great North Ventures

Flywheel lands Gates Foundation grant

We're Hiring
Great North Ventures

Venture Capital Analyst

May newsletter
Great North Ventures

$40M Fund II Raised!

Investment Thesis: Community-Driven Applications
Great North Ventures

Investment Theme: Community-Driven Applications

Fund II Theses: Solving Labor Problems
Great North Ventures

Investment Theme: Solving Labor Problems

Great North Ventures

Mike Schulte Promoted to Venture Partner

Great North Ventures

New Name + New Venture Studio

Great North Venture Labs
Great North Ventures

Great North Launches Startup Studio

Giving in the Time of Coronavirus
Great North Ventures

Giving in the Time of Coronavirus

capitol building
Great North Ventures

COVID-19 Resources for Startups, State-by-State

March Newsletter
Great North Ventures

COVID-19, the CARES Act, and startups stepping up

New Business Preservation Act
Great North Ventures

New Business Preservation Act

Startup Summit 2020
Great North Ventures

Great North Labs’s Startup Summit 2020

Great North Ventures

MinneBar 14 Recap

Tech Madness 2019
Great North Ventures

Dispatch and 2ndKitchen claim Tech Madness titles

Great North Labs at CES
Great North Ventures

Great North Labs at CES

Top Posts 2018
Great North Ventures

Carried Interest: Top Posts from 2018

engineer and various business information. Internet of things industry.
Pradip Madan

IoT 3.0

Healthcare innovation image
Great North Ventures

Healthcare Innovation

St. Paul city skyline
Great North Ventures

Great North Labs Featured in St Cloud Times

Ryan Weber teaching incubator class
Great North Ventures

Great North Labs – Featured on BizJournals.com