It’s a wrap for Twin Cities Startup Week (TCSW), Minnesota’s largest annual startup event. How big is it? In 2019 the event attracted 17,000 people to over 200 sessions. This year, the event stretched nearly a month as it went virtual for the first time. 

Startup Competition Winners

One of two big competitions during TCSW is the MN Startup Awards, a joint venture between Tech.MN and TCSW. The winners this year included Canomiks (Emerging Startup), Maddy Kennedy (Impact Award), BetterYou (Operational Excellence) SayKid (Voyager Award), Black Tech Talent (The Inclusive Evolution Award), and Target Accelerators Team (Corporate Champion). 

Great North Labs sponsored the 10K Lakes Award for Greater Minnesota for the second year in a row, which recognizes work supporting startups in Greater MN. MN Cup took home the award this year!

We are proud to support MN Cup through our Founders Pledge, where Rob Weber also judges the High Tech division, and are pleased with the recognition of their success. MN Cup wound up their own competition on Sept. 23rd, with top honors going to BlueCube Bio

The winner of this year’s 10K Lakes Award for Greater Minnesota Startups is MN Cup. Director Jessica Berg accepted the award. 

The other big competition of TCSW is the BETA Showcase, which routinely attracts 800+ attendees. This year featured 21 startups, including 7 startups from Greater MN. The winner of the coveted Golden iPod was Bibliate, a Minneapolis-based provider of academic research summaries.

gBETA Greater MN-St. Cloud

The accelerator program gBETA Greater MN-St. Cloud has announced its fall class. The class includes startups from around the state. Sproutary is from Kimball, Shrpa is from Rochester, LegalMaps is from Edina, and Live.Give.Save is from Red Wing.

This class has some accomplishments under its belt already, as Shrpa took home 2 dedicated awards form MN Cup this year, and Live.Give.Save is the winner of last year’s inaugural 10K Lakes Award.

$2M Pitch Competition for Black founders

Revolution’s Rise of the Rest (ROTR) is partnering with Opportunity Hub, 100 Black Angels & Allies, and Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Innovation Lab to fund Black-founders via the “Rise of the Rest Virtual Tour: Equity Edition”. $2M in investments will go to the top 3 companies. 

Please share this event with your network! It’s a great opportunity for Black founders in the Upper Midwest to connect with investors and resources, and to have a chance at a big check! Great North Labs has partnered with ROTR to help connect capital with Black founders, and Rob Weber be taking pitch meetings during the event.

Great North Labs + Vikings Football = $$ for Minnestar

For every point the Vikings score this season, we are matching up to $5 in donations to Minnestar! Give as little as 10 cents per point, and know that it will be matched, benefitting one of Minnesota’s top startup support organizations. 

The campaign started on September 1st (when the Vikes were 0-0) and continues until the day after the Super Bowl, because hey, you have to believe! This campaign is through local startup ScoreSide, which connects sports with philanthropy.

It’s important to support the organizations that support our startups. Times are challenging. While we believe there’s a shortage of early-stage capital in the region, we also think that right now is a great time to build a startup

Events

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

Portfolio News

River’s Edge participates in new robotic technology pilot program for screening COVID-19. Misty the robot is being used to screen hospital employees for COVID-19. 

PrintWithMe Announces National Partnership With Trammell Crow Residential. PrintWithMe has inked a deal with one of the nation’s largest developers of multifamily apartments.

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring a Business Development Representative and Manager, Account Management in Bloomington, MN; a Ruby Developer and Senior Ruby Developer for Remote work. Also Territory Sales Managers in Arlington, VA, Baltimore, MD, and Washington D.C.

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 ishiring Regional Sales Directors on the East Coast and in Texas; AR/AP Specialist and Operations Lead in Chicago, IL; VS/SVP of Operations, Marketing Director, Part-Time Customer Service Representative, Inside Sales Executive and a Fall 2020 Strategy Intern (MBA) for Remote work.

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

Branch is hiring a Data Platform Manager, Senior Software Engineer, Customer Success Manager, Customer Support Rep, Enterprise Support Specialist, and Fraud Agent in Minneapolis, MN.

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

NoiseAware is hiring a VP of Global Sales & Customer Experience, Embedded Developer, QA Technician (independent contractor), Account Manager, and a Customer Advocate in Dallas, TX.

Today it was announced that last quarter’s drop in GDP was the second largest ever recorded. Overall US economic output fell by 9.5%. This dire news comes on the heels of fantastic news for the MN tech startup community: the largest IPO from a Minnesota company ever, Jamf’s $468M IPO and $4.7B market cap. 

Minnesota’s Resilient Startups


In good times, founding a startup is hard. Being a successful operator is even harder. Add in the challenging times and limited resources of a recession, and you wind up with a pressure cooker that will test teams, products, and people to their limits. 

There is a history of successful companies weathering recessions, however. While some startups crumble under the pressure, others become diamonds. We compiled a list of Minnesota’s Resilient Startups to showcase some of our state’s startup successes that not only weathered tough times, but were formed during recessions

Leveraging Resilient Founders


It’s no coincidence that many of our operating partners appear on that list. We believe that successful founders and operators make the best early stage investors because they’ve had to scale an emerging technology company before. Leveraging that experience to identify, invest in, and support startups is what makes Great North Labs unique compared to most seed funds.

Tech.MN recently interviewed Managing Partner Rob Weber about his own experience as a founder of a NativeX, which was founded in the wake of the dot-com bust. Rob also talks about what led him and Ryan Weber to found Great North Labs.

Managing Partner Rob Weber shares the vision of Great North Labs and the impetus for its founding on the Tech.MN podcast.

“For us, I have gotten to know a lot of other founders in Minnesota and the surrounding region and many of them, either through their business model or whatever, required more early-stage capital than we did. And I heard about how terrible it was for them to raise money the last 10-20 years.

I just thought, ‘We can do this. We can invest in these companies and we can make money doing so.’

And that’s what compelled me to write checks. It was almost a feeling of obligation. We got a little bit of capital, and great mentorship, from these guys from Silicon Valley and I just thought, ‘We could do this here.’” – Rob Weber

Even with the challenges of a recession, we are positioned to continue contributing to a cycle of growth. We continue to build capacity in the innovation ecosystem by cultivating, capitalizing, and contributing to startup successes in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. 

Events

Here are some interesting events rounding out the summer lineup. 

Portfolio News


“CCRCs to participate in $3 million test of robots to curb resident loneliness, apathy”– Misty is encouraging social interaction in retirement homes in this study with Misty Robotics.

“The Lowdown on Discounts”– OSU campus publication featuring discounts from Plyo.

“PrintWithMe Announces National Partnership With Invesco Real Estate”– PrintWithMe agreement with 28th largest apartment owner in the US.

“Property risk increases as booking behaviour changes” – Problem trend, with success stories from NoiseAware.

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring a Business Development Representative, Driver Engagement Agent, Inbound Marketing Specialist, Cloud Engineer, Data Engineer, Manager-Software Engineering, Quality Assurance Engineer, Software Engineer, and Support Engineer in Bloomington, MN. 

FactoryFix is hiring a Team Lead – Full Stack Developer, Full Stack Developer, and Infrastructure Developer- DevOps in Madison, WI; a Recruiter, Sales Development Representative, and Account Executive in Chicago, IL.

PrintWithMe is hiring a Regional Sales Director on the East Coast; AR/AP Specialist, Inside Sales Executive in Chicago, IL; ; a Software Engineer, Account Manager, and Marketing Director for Remote work.

Parallax is hiring a Growth/Experienced Business Development Representative in Minneapolis, MN. 

Branch is hiring a Data Platform Manager, Senior Backend Engineer, and Solutions Engineer in Minneapolis, MN or Remote; and a Customer Success Manager in Minneapolis, MN.

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

NoiseAware is hiring a COO, VP of Global Sales & Account Management, Back-end Developer, QA Technician (independent contractor), Account Manager, and Customer Advocate in Dallas, TX.

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. 

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

There are quality startups around the state that can use the exposure that comes with a slot at the top startup event of the largest startup gathering in the state (and one of the largest in the country!). This year Great North Labs has partnered with Beta to open up the Beta Showcase to Greater MN startups.

Beta Showcase


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

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

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

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

Events

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oct. 9-16th, Twin Cities Startup Week in Minneapolis, MN. This is the largest startup gathering annually in Minnesota, featuring dozens of events at multiple venues around the city, including: 

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

Portfolio News

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

Portfolio News

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

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

Job Board

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

CES, the massive annual Consumer Electronics Show, is taking over Las Vegas from January 8-11. This year there are 182,000 attendees, 4,400 exhibiting companies, 1,000 speakers, and more than 2.7 million square feet of exhibit space. Among the companies are two Great North Labs portfolio companies, Misty Robotics and Glowe.

Misty Robotics is a customizable personal robot that can be programmed by anyone from students to advanced developers. Misty is creating a developer community around their hardware, Misty II, which ships in April. Ben Edwards, the UMN-Carlson graduate who founded Refactr and Minnestar in addition to SmartThings, is the Great North Labs advisor who turned our team on to the potential of Misty. The all-star team previously worked on Sphero, Google Nest, and SmartThings.

Glowe is a social wearable. The set of wristband-mounted LEDs syncs with your various social media accounts to display unique and customizable notifications. A Minnesota company, Glowe has been an under-the-radar investment for Great North Labs until now.

This is the first Consumer Electronics Show since Great North Labs started investing, and we are excited to be represented at CES 2019 by two companies with transformative consumer products.  If you are in Vegas for the conference, be sure to check out Misty Robotics and Glowe.

Carried Interest: Top Posts from 2018

New Year’s means new content! But before we iterate based on feedback, let’s take a look at what the Great North Labs audience liked, with theTop Posts from 2018.

Top topics included Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, IoT, Venture Capital Investing, and the Midwest Startup Ecosystem, and encompassed white papers, articles, and blog posts.  

Read the full article here

Great North Labs at CES

The Consumer Electronics Show is a monumental gathering of the topnames and startups that takes over Las Vegas annually.

This year, two Great North Labs portfolio companies are present: Misty Robotics and Glowe. 

Misty has already garnered some big-time press attention fromTechCrunch. Their team, which includes Great North Labs advisor Ben Edwards, recently completed a round of funding and will be releasing their Misty II personal robot in April. 

Read more here.

Events

Jan. 9, Chicago. Tech Talent Showcase: Web Developers, Data Scientists + UX Designers is a prime networking event for startups looking to hire talent.

Jan. 21-22, Jamestown, ND. Precision Agriculture Summit 2019 offers hands-on and technical demonstrations of precision agriculture technologies, applications, and explanations of applications, procedures, and tools designed to lower producer costs and create a more efficient environment for farm production.

Jan. 22, St. Paul. MHTA’s Bi-Annual Legislative Reception is an opportunity for the science and tech community to connect with Minnesota’s elected officials and executive staff. “Members from both political parties and bodies of the Legislature, along with the Executive Branch, attend this reception and the event showcases the important role that innovation has played – and continues to play – in Minnesota’s economy.”

Feb. 2, Minneapolis. DevFest is hosted by Google Developer Twin Cities at St. Thomas, and features a keynote from Annyce Davis, the Software Lead of Mobile Development for Off Grid Electric. “DevFestMN is a one-day conference bringing together developers, designers and technology enthusiasts from the Midwest and beyond.”

Portfolio action

We have three new additions to the Great North Labs portfolio. 
Misty Robotics is a customizable personal robot that can be programmed by anyone from students to advanced developers. 
Pepr is AI-powered software that enables restaurateurs to increase profitability by providing a complete and unified picture of cost and budget data.
Glowe has been an under-the-radar investment, that is preparing for beta launch. Their new product video is live on the Great North Labs website. 
New advisors

Great North Labs recently welcomed four new advisors to the team.

Joe Francis- President and CEO of Central McGowan. Central McGowan is Minnesota’s largest independent and locally-owned distributor of welding andindustrial equipment, gases, supplies, abrasives, safety equipment, automation, and robotics.
Bryan Virnig- Director of Sales and Marketing at Virnig Manufacturing. 
Jeff Liebl- President and CEO, Atmosphere IoT Corp.
Jeff was previously the CMO at Digi International, VP of Sales & Marketing at SportsEngine, and VP of Sales at eBureau.
Dan Frankowski- Data Scientist at Pinterest.
Dan formerly worked in data science at Code42 and was a
software engineer at Google.

Job Board

Dispatch is growing and hiring for a variety of positions after their $7.8M Series A round. You could say they have a plethora of positions. 
Structural is hiring a Customer Support Specialist, and Account Executive, andan Office Administrator.
FactoryFix is hiring an Account Manager, Business Development Rep, andLegal Counsel
Team Genius  – watch for postings on the Team Genius website.
Pitchly – watch for postings on the Pitchly website
ZAPinfo – watch for postings on the ZAPinfo website.

July Newsletter
Great North Ventures

iraLogix closes $22M + Branch expands with Uber

iraLogix Closes Series C
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iraLogix closes $22M Series C

June Newsletter
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Flywheel lands Gates Foundation grant

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Venture Capital Analyst

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Executive Assistant – Venture Capital Firm

Great North Ventures Raises $40M Fund II
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Great North Ventures Raises $40 Million Fund II

Investment Thesis: Fund II Strategy
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Investment Thesis: Fund II Strategy

Investment Thesis: Community-Driven Applications
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Investment Theme: Community-Driven Applications

Fund II Theses: Solving Labor Problems
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Investment Theme: Solving Labor Problems

April Newsletter
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Trends in the Gig Economy + Work in the Metaverse

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Minnesota Innovation Collaborative
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Healthcare Innovation