Welcome to the May edition of the Great North Labs newsletter. In this time of economic change, entrepreneurial skills, advancing technology, and its new applications will drive the innovations and evolving business models necessary to spurn economic growth and prosperity on the other side of the downturn.
Great North Labs recognizes the importance of seeding investable startup opportunities, and endeavors to be a VC leader in the cultivation of robust early-stage startups in the region. That said, there are opportunities for learning necessary skills for startup entrepreneurs coming up soon, for high school students, college students, and entrepreneurs of all ages.
Today is the deadline to sign up for Jumpstart’s 3-day startup intensive for students! Jumpstart is structured like a hackathon, but with the focus including product and business instead of solely on coding and building. The program starts on Friday and goes through the weekend. Sign up by midnight with your own team, or as an individual. Each team will include technical and non-technical roles.
Jumpstart is virtual, free, and includes a day of workshops, speakers, and Q&A to learn from various startup ecosystem leaders. If you know any students in high school or freshmen in college interested in a startup, check it out. We are proud sponsors of this inaugural event by Futurist Academy, and are excited to see this kind of programming becoming more prevalent and widely available in Minnesota and the Midwest.
For entrepreneurs beyond high school, the Startup School is back! This collaboration with ILT Studios, Great North Labs, E1 Ecosystem Builders, and MN DEED has gone virtual. Startup Course 01 | Customer Driven Innovation – Module 101: Opportunity Identification is June 6th! This first of three modules is aimed to take entrepreneurs from idea to investable product. The module is available in two separate 2 1/2 hour time slots, is open to anyone, and, like the entire program, is free.
“Most good ideas do not come fully formed. Even the best ideas need to be iterated, explored, and refined before they have a chance at becoming great business ideas. What most people don’t tell you is that there is a process that can be taught and practiced to sharpen an idea–taking it from good, to better, and then to great.“
Support Startup Education
Silicon North Stars is a program founded by Mary and Steve Grove that takes high-potential ninth-graders from economically underserved communities in Minnesota, and exposes them to startup training, local tech mentors, and the culture of innovation born in Silicon Valley.
Usually the program takes the students out west to visit tech companies, but this past year was the first time the program was run entirely in Minnesota! With the evolving Minnesota startup ecosystem there was no shortage of resources, people, and companies for the students to engage with.
If you’re interested in joining us in support this program and its alumni, Silicon North Stars is currently raising $10,000 via GoFundMe for their inaugural alumni scholarship program.
The summer event season is getting rolling, with many large conferences moving to a digital format.
- June 4th is the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. This virtual conference will include sessions focused on providing small businesses guidance on COVID-19, and will also highlight the Wisconsin Business Plan Competition winners.
- June 4-5th is Entrefest 2020. Based in Cedar Rapids, IA, this year’s conference is virtual. “EntreFEST is a two-day conference, celebrating the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation where professionals at every level come together, share ideas, and own their success.” Great North Labs’s Mike Schulte will be speaking.
- June 23-25th is Collision. Described by Politico as “The Olympics of Tech”, this massive annual tech conference is going virtual this year. With SXSW canceled this year, this may be the top tech event of 2020 after CES. Great North Labs’s Pradip Madan and Rob Weber will be attending and available through the event app.
- June 24-25th is Fund xChange in Chicago, IL. “FUND xChange is assembling the entrepreneurs, industry leaders, and experts, in the banking and finance industry to explore the innovations in value exchange. Meet the community improving how we bank, pay, and invest.”
Branch won a Webby! First awarded in 1996, the Webby Awards are, according to the New York Times, the “Internet’s highest honor”. This year the competition garnered over 13,000 entries. Branch was 1 of 2 winners in the “Banking/Financial Services Apps” category. Congratulations to the Branch team for this international recognition!
Dispatch is hiring a Director of Sales, Product Manager, Product Owner, Quality Assurance Engineer, Senior Software Engineer, Content Creator, Business Development Rep., and Software Engineering Manager in Bloomington, MN. Territory Sales Manager positions are open for 16 states!
FactoryFix is hiring a Team Lead – Full Stack Developer, Full Stack Developer, and Infrastructure Developer- DevOps in Madison, WI; a Recruiter, and Business Development Rep in Chicago, IL.
TeamGenius is hiring a Customer Success Associate in Minneapolis, MN.
PrintWithMe is hiring a Regional Sales Director on the East Coast; a Software Engineer, Summer Strategy Intern (MBA), and Summer Strategy Intern (undergraduate) for Remote work.
Parallax is hiring a Customer Success Specialist, and Growth/Customer Acquisition in Minneapolis, MN.
Branch is hiring a Channel 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.
NoiseAware is hiring a COO, VP of Global Sales & Account Management, Product Marketing Manager, UI/UX Designer, Account Manager, and Customer Advocate in Dallas, TX.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Beta Showcase on Oct. 14th. This year’s Great North Labs partnership with Beta will bring Greater MN into the metro startup ecosystem! Plan to showcase, sponsor, or attend!
- SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Exponential Medicine on Oct. 14th. This 2-part event features local speakers who are using exponential technology in the medical field, followed by a Moonshot Workshop to develop ideas for applying exponential tech in transformative ways in the medical field! Great North Labs Partner Ryan Weber will be running the event along with Great North Labs Marketing Manager Josef Siebert.
Oct. 10th, Innovation Expo inSioux Falls, SD. Great North Labs partner Ryan Weber will be speaking during the Finance Panel.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.