The University of Minnesota is embracing startup culture across disciplines and producing results in the number of founders, tech talent, and startups. One of the top universities in the country with enrollment regularly over 50k, a system-wide endowment of nearly $4B, and over $1B spent annually on research and development, it’s incredibly important for the cultivation of early-stage tech startups in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Because of this alignment, Great North Labs engages with the U of M in several ways.

How the U of M is Engaging

John Stavig is a leader in the tech startup community. The managing director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, Stavig teaches entrepreneurship courses and leads the Center. He helped launch one of the first student-run VC funds in the world, Atland Ventures, with David Russick. 

Stavig has opened the doors to the Carlson School of Management for events and educational opportunities that benefit both students and startup community members. Great North Labs’s Ryan Weber has taught Lean Startup boot camps out of Carlson, at Stavig’s invitation, reaching ~50 students with our Startup School. Ryan has also guest lectured in the Applied Technology Entrepreneurship course on conducting market research and fundraising.

John Stavig welcomes tech startup community events into the Carlson School of Management. Ryan Weber has lectured on crafting Moonshots, Lean methodology, market research, and raising capital.

MN Cup is elevating the entire startup scene. MN Cup has become the largest statewide startup competition in the country. MN Cup takes no equity, is totally free, and distributes half a million dollars in seed funding to their startup participants. The exposure, funding, and recognition they receive is unparalleled in Minnesota. Some of the biggest startups to come out of the competition are:

  1. Sezzle- 2016 High Tech Division winner
  2. Stemonix- 2016 Grand Prize Winner
  3. Kipsu- 2015 Finalist
  4. 75F- 2014 Grand Prize Winner
  5. WhenIWork- 2013 High Tech Division Winner
  6. Foodsby- 2013 Semifinalist

Donors like the Carlson Family Foundation enable Director Jessica Berg to make MN Cup possible. The competition grows bigger every year through their support and efforts. Great North Labs’s Rob Weber judges every year in the High Tech division, and can attest to the increasing quality of startups. Great North has invested in two MN Cup alumni to date, Plyo (2018 Student Division Winner) and TeamGenius (2017 Semifinalist).

Plyo rewards college students for exercising on campus with virtual points that can be redeemed for exclusive offers to popular restaurants, retailers, and brands. Plyo won the 2018 Student Division of the MN Cup.

Atland Ventures provides students real VC experience. Atland is the first-of-its-kind, student-run venture fund, investing in companies that leverage disruptive tech. Originally founded in 2016 by four students, Atland has invested in a dozen companies, including two in the Great North Labs portfolio, Structural and Dispatch. Atland is an independent company, not a student organization, and students can actually see profits from their efforts if the fund succeeds. Their faculty support is from Stavig, David Russick, founder of Gopher Angels, and Raj Singh, Assistant Dean of Undergraduates at Carlson. 

The limited partners include some of the most active local early-stage investors, including our partners Ryan and Rob Weber. Rob also serves as a mentor, and has recruited past Atland directors and managing partners to expand on their practical experience by interning at Great North Labs. The experience students gain at a working venture capital fund is a tremendous benefit in an industry that is notoriously hard to get in, and several have gone on to land jobs at startups and venture funds. 

The U of M has a proliferation of startup support efforts across disciplines. Venture Builders, Grow North, MIN-Corps, WE at the Holmes Center; the Venture Center, MNBridge, and the Discovery Capital Program at University of Minnesota Technology Commercialization, are among the additional efforts to cultivate and support startups. 

One example of the results of this multi-disciplinary collaboration is a startup we recently looked at called Grip Molecular Technologies. Grip is a cutting-edge startup using novel nanomaterials in an electronic biosensor to provide medical diagnostics. Not only are 2 different research scientists on the team from the U of M, but also a marketing executive.

Results by the Numbers

Since 2006, the U of M has launched over 165 startups. They have attracted over $1.15B in capital, and 7 have gone public since 2017. Investors can track U of M startups as they develop, through an online Startup Pipeline. 

The U of M is ranked #18 for Global MBA programs in Entrepreneurship, with the largest statewide startup competition in the country, and 260 mentors providing guidance. Countless students have gone on to lead or work in startups. 

In the Great North Labs portfolio, startups employ over 63 U of M alumni. That averages to nearly 2 U of M alumni for every startup we have invested in!

Dispatch is an on-demand delivery platform that enables businesses to track, manage, & share deliveries as they are ordered. Dispatch is based in Bloomington and employs 17 University of Minnesota alumni (according to LinkedIn data).

Why It Matters

The University of Minnesota is embracing startup culture across disciplines, and is contributing to the growth and development of talent, capital, and support necessary to early-stage startups in the region. This enables digital transformation and innovation across sectors. We are aligned with this approach, and work with the U of M to realize economic value creation in Greater MN, Minnesota, and across the Upper Midwest. 

While people and companies capture headlines with big funding rounds, IPOs, and acquisitions, much of the work the U of M is doing is out of the spotlight. The truth is that the university is plugged in and making a difference in the startup ecosystem. 

We’ve seen it firsthand, working with the administrators, the organizations, the faculty, and the students. And with leaders like Stavig, Berg, Russick, and the Carlson Family, the impact is only going to grow.

Every year, when I begin holiday shopping for friends and family, I always start with a list of gift ideas sourced from local entrepreneurs in Minnesota and the surrounding region. One of the best ways to support your community is to become a customer from the entrepreneurs in your community.

With the input of some friends in our local startup community, here is the 2020 list!

Gift Baskets

GiftBomb – With a unique intake form to understand your gift recipient’s interests better, the highly personalized Giftbomb gift baskets have brought surprise and delight to so many friends and family for me this year. They source most of their products from local businesses. Huge fan!

Apparel

Askov Finlayson’s Climate Positive Parka ($495)- I purchased Askov’s latest parka right when it came out and it is outstanding. Although this is on the higher end on my list at $495, it’s well worth it for that special someone.

Great Lakes Shirts ($36)- Because of the shut downs due to COVID, I’ve spent a lot more time with my family at our cabin this year. Great Lakes has very cool designs representing lake country vibes.

Love Your Melon Facemasks ($25)- By now, most people’s facemasks could probably use a refresh. Enough said.

Kidizen Gift Card – For the latest new (or used) in kids fashion.

REM5 Winter Hat ($30)- Live events are out, but winter hats are in.

Toys & Games

Covid Playing Cards ($12)- Covid Cards are a fun time capsule delivered in the form of a standard deck of playing cards of all the whacky things that we have all experienced this year.

Paddle North Paddle Boards, Floating Docks, Kayaks ($500 to $1000)- We purchased one of the floating docks for our cabin a little over a year ago and it was a real hit with the kids.

Omnia Fishing Gift Card – For the fisherman in the family.

YOXO ($46)- Creative toys for young kids.

Cooper Kits ($65/quarterly subscription)- Running out of fun, educational ideas for the kids schooling from home?

Art Barn Boxes – DIY art boxes for kids.

Food & Beverage

BoozyJerky ($6)- Beer-infused beef jerky that is super tender and great paired with your favorite ale.

Fast Mary’s Bloody Mary Mix ($15)- Vegan, gluten-free seasoning blend for a spiced up bloody.

SIPDARK – Whiskey accessories.

Muddy Paws Cheesecake – Over 222 flavors of cheesecake. If that’s not enough, you can even rent their cheesecake food truck!

Nomisnacks ($32 for 16)- They built a better granola bar.

Golden Fig Gourmet Foods – Spices, snacks, artisan gifts, even dog treats!

The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen ($25)- The James Beard winner’s cookbook featuring modern Native American cuisine

Health & Wellness

DoseHealth – Medication management.

Cammellatte – Skincare products made from camel milk.

Pets

PetChatz ($90) – A treat-dispensing video phone to check in on your pet when you’re away.

Other

Printerette Press – Custom cards, invitations, etc.

Fractional Toys – Rent ATVs, boats, motorhomes instead of buying.

Mend Jewelry – Jewelry is always a good gift idea.

Welcome to our state directory for startups seeking COVID-19 resources! Last month we whittled the plethora of resources available down to the essentials here. We certainly weren’t the first to provide a guide, and we realized that with the proliferation of the same information over many sources, it would also be valuable to provide this state-based directory for startups looking for one-stop COVID-19 resources.

Many state efforts have been overshadowed as the federal stimulus and loan programs dominate conversations of economic recovery and small business support. The federal programs for small business relief include the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) EIDL and PPP loans. But since applications opened, there has been a crush of applications, with some large lenders refusing to accept applications or imposing requirements (such as an applicant needing to be a pre-existing customer, or holding certain accounts, etc.). Some lenders are so overwhelmed they have already stopped taking applications. 

This chart from the Delaware Division of Small Business compares one of their loans to available SBA loans.

So where else can startups turn? There are small business support organizations and government bodies in every state that have been providing assistance and guidance before “COVID-19” and “startups” were even a thing. This assistance includes grant programs, disaster assistance, bridge loans, training, advice, and more. Most of these pages also feature links to federal programs, so you may have to drill down to find the state-specific resources.

Here is where to look for COVID-19 resources in your state.

Midwest

Minnesota

MN DEED (Department of Employment and Economic Development)

Info and Resources for Employers and Businesses

Illinois

Office of the Treasurer

Small Business COVID-19 Relief Program

Iowa

Iowa Economic Development Authority

COVID-19: Iowa Business Recovery Assistance

Wisconsin

Wisconsin Small Business Development Center

COVID-19: How we can help businesses

North Dakota

Center for Technology and Business

Coronavirus Resources for Small Businesses

South Dakota

South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development

COVID-19 

Ohio 

Ohio Department of Health

Resources for Economic Support

Michigan 

Michigan’s Small Business Development Center

Supporting Your Small Business During COVID-19

Indiana

Indiana Small Business Development Center

COVID-19 Resources

Nebraska 

Nebraska Department of Economic Development

DED COVID-19 Information

Kansas 

Kansas Department of Commerce

COVID-19 Response

Missouri 

Missouri Department of Health and Human Services

COVID-19-Businesses 

Northeast

Maine 

Maine Department of Economic & Community Development

DECD-Home

New Hampshire 

New Hampshire Small Business Development Center

COVID-19 Assistance

Vermont 

State of Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development

COVID-19 Recovery Resource Center

Massachusetts 

Commonwealth of Massachusetts 

COVID-19 Resources and Guidance for Businesses

Rhode Island 

Rhode Island Commerce

COVID-19 FAQ

Connecticut

Connecticut State

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

New York 

NYC Small Business Services

Financial Assistance for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

New Jersey 

Department of Labor & Workforce Development

NJDOL and the Coronavirus (COVID-19): What Employers & Businesses Should Know

Pennsylvania

PA Chamber of Business and Industry

Business Resources for Coronavirus

South

Delaware 

Delaware Division of Small Business

COVID-19 Information for DE Small Businesses

Maryland 

Maryland Department of Commerce

Maryland COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund Programs for Businesses

Virginia 

The Commonwealth of Virginia

Coronavirus Actions and Support- Support for Businesses

West Virginia 

West Virginia Development Office

COVID-19 Business Relief Resources and Information

Kentucky 

Team Kentucky- Cabinet for Economic Development

Business-related COVD-19 guidance, resources and FAQs

North Carolina 

NC Commerce

Solutions for N.C. Business &Employers | COVID-19 Resources

South Carolina 

South Carolina Chamber of Commerce

COVID-19 Information & Resources Hub

Tennessee 

Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development

COVID-19 Small Business Resources

Georgia 

Georgia.gov

COVID-19: Support for Businesses

Florida 

Florida Small Business Development Center

COVID-19 Business Disaster Recovery Assistance

Alabama 

Alabama Small Business Development Center

Small Business Guidance on COVID-19

Mississippi 

Mississippi Economic Council

Coronavirus- Resources for Employers

Arkansas 

Arkansas Small Business and Technology Development Center

COVID-19 Resources

Louisiana 

Louisiana Economic Development

COVID-19 Assistance

Texas

Texas Economic Development

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Commerce

COVID-19 Resources

West

Montana

U.S. Small Business Administration

Montana District Office

Idaho

Idaho Commerce

COVID-19 Resources and Information

Wyoming

Wyoming Business Council

COVID-19 Resources for Employers

Colorado

Colorado SBDC

COVID-19 Small Business Response Resources

New Mexico

New Mexico Economic Development Department

Help for Businesses Negatively Impacted by the COVID-19 Health Emergency

Arizona

Arizona Commerce Authority

Business Financial Support

Utah

Coronavirus.Utah.gov

Resources for Business

Nevada

Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance

Nevada COVID-19 Response-Business Information Network

California

California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Oregon

Business Oregon

Small Business Resource Navigator

Washington

Small Business Liaison Team

COVID-19 Business Resources for Washington State

Alaska

Alaska Small Business Development Center

COVID-19 Resource Center

Hawaii

Hawaii Chamber of Commerce

COVID-19 Response Hub

By Rob and Ryan Weber

Where do startups come from, and how can we encourage more of them? Whether you believe in clustering or building a rainforest, one thing is for sure: startups don’t materialize out of nowhere, nor do they always succeed on their own.

Importance of Startups

A healthy local startup ecosystem drives both new startup formation and their chances of success. Unfortunately, according to research available from the Kauffman Foundation on early-stage entrepreneurship, Minnesota is below average on every state-wide indicator. 

This is incredibly important because between 1980 and 2010, about half of all jobs created in the US were from high-growth startups. 2.9 million were created per year on average, according to the National Venture Capital Association. In the Upper Midwest, each startup produces approximately 4 jobs in their first year of business. 



The Kauffman Early-Stage Entrepreneurship Index is an equally weighted index of four indicators of entrepreneurship activity: rate of new entrepreneurs, opportunity share of new entrepreneurs, startup early job creation, and startup early survival rate. Minnesota ranks 46th. Source: 2018 State Report on Early-Stage Entrepreneurship

Founders Pledge

So how can a cash-strapped startup founder help? Take a Founders Pledge! The Founders Pledge is a popular movement driven by founders around the world. It came about because startups don’t have cash, but have enormous potential for value creation in their equity. Popular options include the Founders Pledge organization, where founders make a pledge of at least 2 percent of their personal proceeds to nonprofits, or Marc Benioff’s Pledge 1% which encourages founders to pledge 1% each of equity, time, product, and profit.

By taking the Founders Pledge, founders align a long-term commitment to do good with the success of their tech startup, and to the success of the entire ecosystem. Imagine if every time a local tech startup exited, that meant money went into local nonprofits? 

MN Founders Pledge Challenge

While many startup founders support, actively engage with, and lead local nonprofits, we think it’s also important to support these organizations in a meaningful financial way. Time is an excellent donation, but an equity pledge is meaningful support that creates a shared interest in mutual success. 

We believe this is so important that we are challenging other Minnesota startup founders to make a Founders Pledge! All it takes is pledging a percentage of your proceeds to nonprofits. It’s that simple.

Within your first 12-24 months of operation either go through the Founders Pledge, Pledge 1%, or structure your own pledge.  We have chosen to structure our own pledge, and are willing to provide advice and referrals to the local legal and accounting professionals who helped us structure our giving.

The Value to Nonprofits

Our own pledge is to give at least 2 percent of our own personal interests from our $23.7M debut venture fund to Minnesota nonprofits. As Great North Labs’s portfolio grows and has exits, our nonprofit partners will benefit alongside our fund’s investors. For example, if a $10,000 equity pledge is made to a nonprofit today, and the fund returns a 5X multiple over its life, the $10,000 pledge will return $50,000 to the nonprofit over the fund’s life. This allows us to support local organizations in a meaningful way without sacrificing liquidity. 

The same type of equity multiplier can apply when a founder pledges some of their equity, and it creates the possibility of creating sustaining legacy gifts in the event of large exits. For example, if a company has a $2B exit (like Michigan’s Duo Security in 2018), and a founder with 20% equity has made the Founders Pledge, that is an $8M dollar influx for local nonprofits. While big exits like this are rare, if the Founders Pledge becomes part of our culture in Minnesota and across the Upper Midwest, then large gifts like this become inevitable.

Local nonprofits can reap huge benefits from a cash-equivalent equity donation.

Supporting the Ecosystem

There are many aspects to a productive startup ecosystem, such as access to capital (part of why we founded Great North Labs), that are important. But it’s important to remember that these “aspects” aren’t just monolithic categories to fill in and check off of a list- they are individuals and organizations pursuing their own missions, with their own motivations.

These individuals and organizations are vital parts of the startup ecosystem, and include a variety of people, structures, and missions. While for-profit entities can self-support, nonprofits are dependent on donations.

Nonprofits we Support

As Managing Partners of Great North Labs, we’ve identified several nonprofits that we believe are making an impact not only in the Twin Cities, but in St. Cloud and throughout the entire state. We support them variously with time, cash, and equity pledges. While other founders undoubtedly have different lists of who they find personally impactful, this is ours:

A Virtuous Cycle

Together, our equity donations will provide considerable upside to the nonprofits over the long run as our startups go on to create immense value, growing the startup ecosystem and not only benefitting local job growth and creation, but also making the next generation of startups more likely to succeed.

Once the Founders Pledge becomes part of the culture of the startup community, it will create a virtuous cycle of success.

If you are a founder who would like to make a similar commitment, feel free to contact us, or tweet @greatnorthlabs with #MNFoundersPledge. We can offer advice on making the commitment and professional referrals for legal and accounting.

The environment is ripe and the ecosystem is ready, and it’s time that this popular movement started spreading through Minnesota and the Upper Midwest!

Twin Cities Startup Week is over! It was a busy week for many of us in the tech and innovation community, with around 300 events to attend and thousands of people to meet. 

This year, Great North Labs was proud to bring Greater Minnesota into the BETA Showcase for the first time ever. Thanks to Reed Robinson and Adam Lingerfelt at Beta for working with us to include 10 non-metro startups at this year’s event! We are still waiting on final tallies from TCSW, but we know that over 900 tickets were sold for the Showcase event. The value for these outstate entrepreneurs of that kind of exposure is fantastic, and we are glad to have done our part in providing it through our partnership with BETA. 

Great North Labs’s Ryan Weber speaks at the 2019 BETA Showcase at TCF Bank Stadium as BETA Executive Director Reed Robinson looks on.

Prior to the Showcase, Great North Labs hosted an invite-only event for the entrepreneurs and other attendees working from or with Greater Minnesota. The Greater MN Meetup brought together Greater Minnesota ecosystem stakeholders to join the conversation on improving the startup ecosystem. We had over 100 attendees involved in actively supporting the Greater MN innovation ecosystem! Thanks to Moss & Barnett and EPIQ Partners for co-hosting and making this event possible. 

“With the efforts of some amazing partners like the NEW Launch MN initiative and Great North Labs, there’s an ever increasing appetite for supporting and celebrating technology being built in Greater Minnesota… Working together, we’re excited to see what kind of growth occurs – customers, investment, awareness, etc – by building tighter relationships between the local technology ecosystem and those building outside of the Twin Cities.” – Reed Robinson, Co-Founder and Executive Director of BETA

Events and initiatives like the 2019 BETA Showcase, gBeta Greater MN St. Cloud, and Launch MN are excellent catalysts for entrepreneurs. By supporting them we will continue to drive innovation and foster economic value creation in Minnesota and across the Upper Midwest. 

In line with this mission on a national level is Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, who just announced a $150M second fund. They are focused on investing in startups from communities not located in traditional startup hotbeds. We are partners with Rise in Dispatch and Structural, and are supporters of what they do locally. Great North Labs’s Rob Weber will be speaking at their upcoming annual summit in D.C. on Scaling a Company and Growing a Team Outside of Silicon Valley. Congratulations to Steve Case, Anna Mason, Mary Grove and the rest of the Rise team!

Events

Nov. 5th, UMD Entrepreneurship Conference in Duluth, MN. This student-run conference will bring together entrepreneurs, educators, and innovators.

Nov. 6-7th, Wisconsin Early Stage Symposium in Madison, WI. This is an Investor/Entrepreneur conference with 500+ attendees.

Nov. 12th, Launch MN Roundtable Discussion: Central Minnesota in St. Cloud, MN. Great North Labs is hosting Launch MN! This session will educate innovation ecosystem stakeholders on the initiative, and serve as a forum for feedback about how to best support Central MN.

Nov. 12-14th, Fulcrum: The Conference on Solutions for the Future of Work inDetroit, MI. “The Fulcrum Conference will bring together a broad range of stakeholders to design win-win solutions that will benefit workers, employers, our communities, and our economy.” 50% off code for SingularityU community members: SUCOMM50. 

Nov. 14th, Cultivate in Fargo, ND. Put on by Emerging Prairie, this conference is all about emerging tech in agriculture. Entrepreneurs in the AgTech space actively looking for investment and ready to pitch, apply hereConnect with Ryan Weber (@mnvikingsfan) at the event. 

Nov. 14th, OnRamp Manufacturing Conference in Indianapolis, IN. The OnRamp Manufacturing Conference highlights innovations disrupting the manufacturing industry, the leaders making such innovations possible, and how new technologies and business models will reinvent the industry.

Nov. 18th, Moonshot Monday in Minneapolis. SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul’s happy hour event will feature Finnegan’s finest, networking, and the think-outside-the-box Global Grand Challenges game. 

Nov. 19-20th, 2019 UNMET Conference inDenver, CO. “50 of the fastest-growing tech companies located throughout the middle of the US will be pitching to raise Series A/B Capital”. Connect with Rob Weber (@robertjweber) at the event. 

Advisor News

Amit Patel is new to the Great North Labs Advisory Team! Amit is the Co-Founder and CEO of Vios Medical. Amit’s experience includes Global Partnership Strategy at Heartflow, Inc., and Corporate Development at Medtronic. 

Brian Tockman is new to the Great North Labs Advisory Team! Brian advises consumer growth and omni-channel retail companies. He is a former Venture Investor at General Mills, Merchant at Target, and eCommerce Startup Leader.



Portfolio News

Misty Roboticshas released Misty II! Check out their latest robot/developer platform here.

Dispatch won the Operational Excellence Award at the 2019 Twin Cities Startup Week Awards. Congrats to the Dispatch team!

Job Board

More information about our portfolio companies can be found here

Dispatch is hiring all over the country for Drivers and for  Biz Dev, QA Engineer, Front-End Engineer, Accounts Payable, and a CFO in Bloomington, MN
Structural is hiring for a Sales & Marketing Operations Specialist, and Account Exec in St. Paul, MN.
FactoryFix is hiring a Software Engineer and Product Designer in Madison, and a Business Development Specialist and an Account Manager in Chicago.
Misty Robotics is hiring a Lead Qualification and Inside Sales Specialist in Boulder, CO. 
2ndKitchen is hiring a Digital Marketing Manager, Customer Success Manager, Account Exec, Customer Support Manager, and Director of Sales, all in Chicago.
PrintWithMe is hiring a Customer Success Associate, Network Operations Specialist, and Operations Lead in Chicago, and a Regional Sales Director for the West Coast. 

The Innovation Ecosystem


At Great North Labs, we work to cultivate the next generation of leading tech companies across the upper Midwest. As a venture fund, this means deploying capital, providing startup intelligence, and utilizing our network to support and grow early-stage tech startups. We also provide low-cost training through our Startup School, in areas that we perceive an educational need, such as our Lean Startup Bootcamp currently running in St. Cloud. 

This sort of development can’t occur through a singular entity, however, so Great North Labs supports a variety of impactful elements that are key to developing the tech community and innovation ecosystem. SingularityU, with 156 global chapters in 68 countries, is one of those organizations that we believe can be valuable to developing a transformative, globally competitive innovation ecosystem here in our region.

SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter  is an official member of the SingularityU global community, and is committed to inspire and educate leaders to solve Grand Challenges (e.g. Clean Water Access, Disaster Resilience) by leveraging Exponential Technologies (e.g. AI, blockchain, robotics).

Great North Labs Managing Partner Ryan Weber is an alumnus of the SingularityU Executive Program, and regularly speaks throughout the region on exponential technology. He is a founding board member and Co-Ambassador of the SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter (SU-MSP).

The chapter is holding its Kickoff this Tuesday, June 4th, from 5:30-8:30 at the Carlson School of Management. The event is to kick off greater collaboration and discussion around the use of exponential technologies for social good with local businesses, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Tickets are free and open to the public.

Speakers include:

MN DEED policy update

Speaking of innovation ecosystems, Google/YouTube alum Steve Grove is actively working to develop Minnesota’s. MN DEED will hold a legislative session wrap-up to talk about new initiatives coming with the new MN state budget. The wrap-up will be in a Facebook Live session on this Friday at noon:

In a series of Tweets, Commissioner Steve Grove said, ”The 2019 #mnleg jobs bill empowers @mndeed to help build future of MN economy:

-Angel Tax Credit is back
-New program “Launch Minnesota” to grow startups
-$40M in Broadband grants
@SciTechMN Internships & robotics programs
-Regional startup centers”

Events

June 4th– SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter (SU-MSP) Kickoff. This event will kick off collaboration and discussion around the use of exponential technologies for the greater good with local businesses, innovators, and entrepreneurs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Great North Labs Managing Partner Ryan Weber also serves as the Co-Ambassador of the SU-MSP chapter, and will emcee the event. 

June 6th– Polsky Innovation Showcase. Part of UChicago Innovation Fest, this event is the culmination of the New Venture Challenge at the University of Chicago, one of the top college startup accelerator programs in the country. Great North Labs Analyst Mike Schulte will be at the event and available for meetings. 

June 10-11th– 2019 Upper Midwest ACG Capital Connection. This gathering in Minneapolis is for middle market professionals involved in corporate growth and M&A.

June 19th– OnRamp Healthcare Conference. Put on by gener8tor, this conference is focused on healthcare innovation, and will be at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI.

June 20th– Initiative Foundation Lunch and Learn. Ryan Weber will be presenting on disruption and innovation in the nonprofit sector at this community event in St. Cloud, MN. 

June 21-23– ConnectUp!. “ConnectUP! MN is a two-day, culturally grounded gathering of curated underestimated entrepreneurs and investors that: learn and share with each other, engage in relationship-building, provide best and next practices from the field, as well as engage in active problem solving to build thriving, diverse, and sustainable enterprises and co-design an ecosystem that prioritizes equitable access to resources, capital and networks.” It is held in St. Paul. 

Portfolio

PrintWithMe is new to the Great North labs portfolio. PrintWithMe is mobile-first kiosk printing for coffee shops, residential buildings, co-working spaces and anywhere pay-to-print printers are offered. This user-friendly service simplifies printing for customers, and makes providing a printer amenity easy for businesses. 

Advisors

Three Great North Labs advisors are new to the team

Carson Kipfer is the Principal Designer and co-founder at SportsEngine. He is also the Co-Commissioner of the US Pond Hockey Championships. 

Andy Johnson is the former CEO of NativeX. Before that, he was the President of Fingerhut’s Ecommerce division. 

Patrick Riley is a film producer, and the former CEO and co-founder of Modern Survey Inc., and the former CEO and founder of Cyber Works Inc. 


Our advisor, Julie Novack, had her startup PartySlate featured in Newsweek recently.

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring all over the country (26 cities!) for Field Sales Representatives and Drivers. In Bloomington MN, they are hiring Software Engineers, Biz Dev, and a marketing intern. 

Structural is hiring a Node/JavaScript Engineer, a React Engineer, and a Digital Marketing Analyst.

TeamGenius is hiring a part-time Customer Success Associate in Minneapolis. 

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 and a Robot Repair Technician II to IV, in Boulder, CO. 

pepr is hiring for Biz Dev – Outbound Sales in Minneapolis. 

2ndKitchen is hiring a City Lead and a Full-Stack Developer in Brooklyn. 

PrintWithMe is hiring a Business Development Executive, a Customer Success Manager, a Strategy Intern, and a Marketing and Operations Intern

Entrepreneurship is a proven capital-efficient way to build economic value and transform regions. Great North Labs believes that venture investment guided by a policy framework is the most efficient way to develop regional economies across Minnesota and the upper Midwest. Locally employing tech natives entering the workforce, and retraining the current workforce into tech roles with on-the-job training, is the most durable and sustainable way to build the economies in the region. We are hoping to invest at least 10% of our investments in opportunities that can deliver high returns and serve social criteria. Let us know if you know of a high-return, high-impact startup we should look at.

The Minnesota Innovation Collaborative (MIC) is one of the most exciting items in this year’s budget. It is a program under the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), led by former Google/YouTube exec and Silicon Valley boomerang, Commissioner Steve Grove.

The program calls for $4.5M in 2020 and 2021 to grow the startup and innovation ecosystem, which is a critical part of our economic future. The MIC funding will support incentives, education, and outreach. Specific provisions include a MIC office where classes will be held and outreach will be headquartered, $5-50k grants for early-stage startups, and grants for organizations around the state that can provide training and outreach to greater Minnesota. Below is the executive summary of the program.

We fully support this initiative and encourage you to reach out to your state representatives and encourage them to support funding this program. Click on this link to find your state representative’s email and send them a quick note: “I support the Minnesota Innovation Collaborative!”

Improving the Culture for Entrepreneurship

Many efforts are underway to continue to improve the culture for entrepreneurship in Minnesota and other Midwest states, ranging from policy driven efforts to increase access to capital for startup founders to workforce development initiatives to ensure the right talent is interested and available in high growth startup jobs.

On the government side, forexample, the governor’s just-released budget includes funding for the creation of the Minnesota Innovation Collaborative, which is designed to accelerate the growth of the innovation ecosystem. Theproposed budget also includes thereturn of an Angel Tax Credit forMN. 

Walker Orenstein spoke with Great North Labs Managing Partner Rob Weber on the MN Angel Tax Credit for MinnPost: In a follow-up interview, Weber outlined his pitch for bringing back the tax credit. For starters, he said Minnesotans tend to take fewer chances when investing compared to tech hubs like California and Washington state.

An angel tax credit can make it easier for investors to take a leap of faith on the off chance they bet on, say, the next 3M, Weber said. “Government can play a role getting the culture to be a little more risk tolerant,” Weber said. He pointed to Finland, where the government has offered aggressive help to entrepreneurs, as an extreme example of prodding the private sector into building a robust technology industry.

On the workforce development side, over 200 startup enthusiasts attended a recent Beta.MN event, MN Tech – State of the State, where the role of stock options in startups was brought up by Rob Weber. Rob shared his ‘manifesto’ on why stock options need to be more prevalent in regional startups if they are to succeed, and why those options need to be valued by employees of early-stage startups.

Lee Schafer followed up on the topic with Rob for a column in the Star Tribune“What the Silicon Valley ecosystem has figured out is the top talent can bounce back and forth between high-paying corporate jobs with low upside, and riskier, earlier-stage jobs with more upside, assuming stock options are present,” Weber said. “The Twin Cities could potentially create the same kind of dynamic because of how blessed it is with large [corporations].” 

This opportunity architecture that Rob describes is a de facto talent exchange that brings experience to startups and innovation to large corporations. Workforce development occurs naturally in this system through existing incentives. 

Here in the upper Midwest, we can create an innovation ecosystem that promotes risk-tolerant investment and rewards risk-taking talent, and match the ongoing development and sustained economic impact of the cities with even the most successful startup cultures. 

MN DEED commissioner Steve Grove recently met with some of Minnesota’s top VCs (including Rob and Ryan Weber) to talk about how to grow the startup ecosystem. 

Events

February 20th, St. Paul, MN. Minne Inno’s first State of Innovation Meetup of 2019 will be held at Osborn370 from 5:30-8pm. It will feature trends in retail andtech with Branch Messenger CEO Atif Siddiqi, and pitches from the first cohort of Lunar Startups, the new accelerator based at Osborn370. 

February 21st, Minneapolis, MN. WE* Pitchfest is a pitch event held at UMN- Carlson from 5-7pm. Organized by the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, the event seeks to inspire more women to pursue entrepreneurship, and to connect those that do with the resources they need. 

March 6th, Fargo, ND. The Prairie Capital Summit will take place at the PrairieDen in Fargo. Great North Labs advisor Greg Tehven is the Executive Director of Emerging Prairie, the founder and host of the Summit. Emerging Prairiehosts recurring conferences and runs multiple events throughout the year in support of startups and the startup ecosystem, including the Prairie CapitalSummit, which is in its third year. Great North Labs Managing Partner Ryan Weber will be speaking.

March 7th, Eau Claire, WI. Intro to Exponential Technology and Leadership will be from 6:30-8pm at CoLAB. Ryan Weber, managing partner at Great North Labs and co-ambassador of Singularity University Minneapolis-St.Paul Chapter, will speak. The talk focuses on exponential trends in technology that are poised to disrupt our lives, work, and economy. The event is co-sponsored by UW-Eau Claire and CoLAB. 

March 8th, Minneapolis, MN. Tech Cities at UMN-Carlson. This annual event explores issues and topics surrounding business and tech in Minnesota, andaround the world.  

March 8-17th, Austin, TX. SXSW (South By Southwest). This annual event has turned into a cultural touchpoint for this generation, with high-level focus areas of Art, Film, and “Interactive” – which is sort of a Tech catch-all that includes startups, investing, marketing, coding, and more. The Entrepreneurship & Startups track is from Mar. 8-12th. The energy and impact of this massive event transcends the actual conference and city, so even if you don’t attend, you’ll be sure to hear about it during and after. 

March 14th, Fort Snelling, MN. Minnesota Entrepreneur Kickoff. The 9th incarnation of this annual event aims to celebrate and sustain local entrepreneurs. It is hosted by the Minnesota Entrepreneur Network, which supports local entrepreneurs and is committed to growing the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Ryan Weber will be speaking on Exponential Technology as an intro to the featured panel on Emergent Technology. 

March 19-20th, Kansas City, MO. “InvestMidwest is a venture capitalconference that showcases 40-45 companies from throughout the Midwest in the three industry tracks of life sciences, technology and food/ag/bioenergy.” The 20th annual event is expected to attract over 300 attendees, including a mix of founders and investors. 

Portfolio action

2ndKitchen is new to the Great North Labs portfolio. 2ndKitchen is a hyperlocal, food ordering fulfillment platform that enables businesses anywhere to serve food seamlessly using a custom menu from nearby restaurants .

Advisor news

Two Great North Labs advisors are new to the website!

Jack Dempsey is an investor, board member, and CEO mentor. He is a former senior partner at McKinsey & Co, and former President of Pentair, Inc.. 
Joe Sriver was the first UX hire at Google. He is a repeat founder, of startups Revirs and DoApp, and is currently the Chief Giver at 4giving.

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring Field Sales Representatives and Drivers in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Bloomington, Boston, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Columbus, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Nashville, New Brunswick, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Antonio, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa, and Washington, D.C.
Structural is hiring a remote Account Executive.
FactoryFix is hiring a Software Engineer in Madison, and a Business Development Specialist and an Account Manager in Chicago.
Misty Robotics is hiring a Developer Writer, Head of Hardware, and Head of Quality in Boulder. 
2ndKitchen is hiring for roles in Brooklyn, Chicago, and Milwaukee, including Director of Sales, Full-Stack Developer, Account Executive, and 2 Customer Success Managers

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