$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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Welcome to Silicon Lakes!

The legacy of cornfields and flyover states taints the national perception of the modern Midwest. It’s led the area to be overlooked and under-capitalized by investors who paper the coasts with venture dollars.

While the name “Silicon Prairie” attempts to characterize the tech innovation occurring in America’s heartland, it’s a broad swath including an 8-state region (the name can also refer to two other regions, one in Texas, and one in Illinois).

The upper Midwest, near the Great Lakes, has a more dense collection of innovation hubs built around legacy industrial centers including Chicago, Minneapolis, Grand Forks, Des Moines, and Madison.

As investors like Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund are turning towards the interior, bringing much-needed capital to the area, our own Pradip Madan breaks down the common characteristics of innovation hubs the world over and evaluates the upper Midwest’s potential to become “Silicon Lakes”.

Events

July 25th, Minneapolis. Ryan Weber has been instrumental in organizing the Digital Transformation Summit for Digerati. This is an exclusive, small-crowd event for local leaders to learn and network. Speakers include Weber, Managing Partner of Great North Labs; Mark Ritchie, former MN Secretary of State; and Gene Munster, formerly of Piper Jaffray and head of Loup Ventures. Keep an eye on the site as more speakers are added, and visit the link to request an invitation!

August 16th-23rd, Madison. Forward Fest is an 8-day tech and entrepreneurship festival, the largest such event in Wisconsin. Ryan Weber will be there, so reach out if you’re in Madison and want to meet up!

August 20-22nd, Grand Forks. UAS Summit & Expo. What is UAS? Unmanned Aerial Systems: drones, their controllers and operators. This summit is in its twelfth year!

Portfolio action

FactoryFix is a new addition to the GNL portfolioIt is a labor marketplace for manufacturing businesses to find and contract skilled talent. The team is based out of Chicago and includes founder Patrick O’Rahilly, co-founder of Compass Automation.

New advisors

Great North Labs welcomed four new advisors in the past month:

Alex Ryan- Founder of Bitmatter; Co-Founder/CTO of Starting 11
Julie Novack-CEO/Co-Founder PartySlate
Jackie Schneider-CRO, Field Nation; Formerly Global Vice President of Sales at Proto Labs
Shannon Wiger-VP, Spring Hill Capital; Director of Business Development at Moss and Barnett

Job Board

FactoryFix is hiring a Business Development/Sales intern
Dispatch is hiring for sales, business development, driving and software engineering
Structural is hiring a back-end software engineer, and a customer success specialist

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