With unemployment soaring, small businesses shuttering, and even some large chains withholding rent, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are reverberating through our communities. Many people wait on relief from the government in the form of stimulus payments and unemployment benefits. Businesses scramble to secure emergency loans, payroll support, and new ways to gain revenue. Oftentimes lost among other dire news is the plight of nonprofits and charities, who languish as donations dry up and revenue-producing events are put on hold.

Cash and Equity Giving

Jack Dorsey’s $1 billion equity pledge is an eye-catching reminder of how important it is to support these causes and organizations now if you are able to. Many are dependent on revenue from events that can’t happen and donations from disposable income that has evaporated. Our Founders Pledge is built on the idea of baking giving into your venture as part of your short-term and long-term financial plans, to support your community, and to support the organizations that support you with a mix of cash and equity giving.

One nonprofit that can use your support at this time is the CentraCare Foundation. From now until May 30th, your donation to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund will be doubled, due in part to a gift from our partners Ryan and Rob Weber.

Time and Effort Giving

During this time many businesses and leaders have risen to the challenge to support their communities through non-cash/non-equity donations. Our portfolio companies are also active in the fight, supporting local businesses, hospitals, and healthcare workers on the frontline. Here are four examples of their work.

1. Dispatch launched same day delivery for local businesses. This service aims to help alleviate supply chain difficulties during the pandemic

2. 2ndKitchen launched a new service to offer delivery for bars and breweries. This is a lifeline for these businesses when they have to be closed, with 2go allowing bars and breweries to sell beer, food, and merchandise for pickup or delivery- for free.

2ndKitchen's 2Go

Clinician Nexus partnered with MN COVIDsitters to provide the technology platform that connects volunteer medical students with healthcare workers to provide free childcare during the pandemic.

4. PrintWithMe is holding a Face Mask Drive. The face masks, unused N95 masks as well as simple surgical masks, are being supplied to Chicago-area hospitals.

Giving for a Better Future

In consideration of the pandemic, the Webers have expanded the list of colleges they support to include North Hennepin Community College (NHCC), one of the largest Minnesota State colleges serving a very diverse student body with many low-income students. Ryan and Rob are alumni of NHCC, where they gained the skills that helped them bootstrap their own startup.

The Webers have donated $10,000 to NHCC’s Foundation to directly aid Graphic Design students studying product design, a program they see as well-positioned to fill the large UI/UX design talent gap in Minnesota and the surrounding region. Their support of this program goes beyond money to include volunteering as mentors, promoting awareness of NHCC’s Graphic Design program, and using their networks to help students connect with internships and employment opportunities.

We continue to support and evolve our own educational initiative aimed at filling the gap of disciplined startup education in the region, formerly known as the Great North Labs Startup School. The programming is now known by a variety of names, and collectively as the Lean Startup School. The new iterations have come about by partnering with Red Wing Ignite and ILT Studios. These partners have allowed us to develop the programming as a white-label offering to communities around the state, with a particular emphasis on Greater Minnesota. There are two cohorts currently, in St. Cloud and Red Wing, with more planned for the future.

Lean Startup School

We will get through this crisis, one way or another. Whether or not the federal government gets behind legislation that supports startups with an influx of capital, such as the New Business Preservation Act, there is a broad community of entrepreneurial support and a healthy, growing startup ecosystem in the region. We will continue to cultivate transformative innovations, successful entrepreneurs, and tech startups in the Upper Midwest!

Valuable startup ecosystem organizations we support include MN Cup, Beta.MN, Minnestar, SCSU University Foundation, College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation, gBETA Greater MN-St. Cloud, SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Silicon North Stars. If you also find them valuable and you are able, please consider giving to them during this time of need!


Twin Cities Startup Week kicks off tonight, and goes until October 16th! This is the biggest startup (event? happening?) anything in Minnesota every year, and TCSW 2019 is bigger than ever, with over 300 events. So what does a venture fund like Great North Labs have to do with it? Are we just wandering around writing checks? 

Oh, no. Oh ho ho ho ho NO.

1. BETA Showcase

Oct. 14th, from 7-9 pm at the DQ Club Room at TCF Bank Stadium

When Reed Robinson at BETA approached us about including Greater MN in Twin Cities Startup Week (TCSW), we had some ideas.

This year, we helped BETA source and vet startups from around the state for the BETA Showcase, which regularly sells out (and which attracted 800 attendees last year!). For the first time ever, this premier event of TCSW will include 10 startups from Greater MN, in addition to the 14 from the BETA cohort. Who will take home the Golden iPod this year?!

While many demo events are industry or metro-specific, this will truly be a celebration of the state’s entire ecosystem. Come to eat, drink, and talk one-on-one with some of the hottest new founders in the state!

2. Greater MN Meetup

Oct. 14, from 5-6 pm at the “M” Club Room at TCF Bank Stadium

2019 is the first year focused on including Greater MN, so Great North Labs decided to help organize the Greater MN Meetup, with sponsors EPIQ Partners and Moss & Barnett.

This invite-only (request and invite at the link if you haven’t received one) pre-event gathering before the BETA Showcase will be a place for policy folks, business leaders, economic development pros, entrepreneurs, and investors interested in supporting the innovation and startup ecosystem statewide. It will also give all of the Showcase newcomers a place to gather with likeminded people before the craziness of the BETA Showcase.

Join us to connect with Greater MN stakeholders, and have a drink and snacks before the BETA Showcase!

3. Exponential Medicine

Oct. 14, from 1:30-2:30 pm at Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest

Ryan Weber is not only a Managing Partner at Great North Labs, but he is also the Co-Ambassador at SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul (SU-MSP), where he keeps up on digital transformation and exponential technologies.

The mission of SU-MSP includes educating people in the community around these topics. Exponential Medicine is part of the featured Health track, and we have gathered 3 cutting-edge local companies to speak about what they do, where they see the tech going, and the impact that will have in the future.

Come to learn about advanced tech in local medical companies StemoniX, Recombinetics, and Miromatrix Medical.

4. Exponential Medicine Moonshot Workshop

Oct. 14, from 3:00-4:00 pm at Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest

Another part of the mission of SU-MSP is to promote local moonshots using exponential tech to take on the world’s most pressing problems! This Moonshot Workshop will work on generating some of these big, transformative ideas with a health focus.

Ryan Weber will co-facilitate this workshop with fellow SU-MSP leadership team member Nick Tietz, Founder and CEO of ILT Studios.

Want to think outside of the box while brainstorming BIG ideas to make the world a better place? Join us for this session to not only learn how to generate these ideas, but to generate some yourself!

5. TCSW Awards Ceremony

Oct. 16, from 6-9 pm at the Science Museum of Minnesota

The Closing Party of Twin Cities Startup Week is going to be a blowout at the Science Museum. This will be the last hurrah of TCSW 2019!

Sign up separately to attend the TCSW Awards Ceremony from 6-7 pm. There are a variety of awards given out, and this year we are proud to be sponsoring the 10K Award. The award is for recognizing an organization, team, or individual fueling Minnesota’s startup ecosystem outside the greater MSP Area.

Vote for the 10K Award recipient here, and attend the event for the last goodbye to TCSW until 2020!

6. Partnerships Matter: Why Go it Alone if you Don’t Have to?

Oct. 11, from 10 am-12 pm at EPIQ Partners

Managing Partner Rob Weber will be speaking at EPIQ Partners alongside Neela Mollgaard, Director of Launch MN, and Matt Meents, former CEO of Magnet 360.

“Success rarely happens as a solo effort. Every entrepreneur must find and nurture partnerships along the way. From co-founders developing trust in early stages to finding the right advisors to track towards an exit, partnerships matter. Come and absorb from an informed group of experienced partners.” – from the event description that was so right-on it had to be directly quoted

Come to hear about the value of partnerships, and valuable partnerships.

7. Kind of all over the place

Great North Labs contributes to many organizations that are important to the local startup ecosystem including MN Cup (Final Awards ceremony on Oct. 14th!), Minnestar (Minnedemo 33 is Oct. 10th!), BETA (operational support for all of TCSW), and SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul.

A healthy ecosystem produces more startups, and we hope to grow it locally, while continuing to invest in early-stage startups throughout all of Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. We are glad to see Twin Cities Startup Week growing in attendees, events, and sponsors, and by including startups from Greater MN!

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.

Is it spring already? Where is the late-April blizzard? Ah well, there’s always a surprise October snow to look forward to. 

MinneBar 14 was this past weekend, with 1700+ tech enthusiasts gathering at Best Buy HQ for the best local tech event this side of Twin Cities Startup Week. As they say, a good time was had by all. Our recap will walk you through the highlights and show you why we love it.

Speaking of Twin Cities Startup Week, mark your calendar for this October 9-16th. It’s going to be a good one this year. And hopefully snow-free!

Rob Weber has been supporting entrepreneurs in St. Cloud and hanging out with the GovernorRead all about it on the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation’s website.

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

While you’re at it, do a little supporting yourself by contacting your state rep about supporting the Minnesota Innovation Collaborative. Steve Grove, MN DEED’s commissioner, has some big plans, and he knows a thing or two about both public policy and supporting entrepreneurship. 

Mary Grove does too, as the former director of Google for Entrepreneurs. She was on-hand at MinneBar to present “VC Reverse Pitch” with Rob Weber, where they shared metrics and qualifications they look when investing as VC’s. Mary, a partner in Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, also spoke about partnering with Great North Labs, “One of the reasons we like co-investing with Great North Labs is because Rob and Ryan have the experience of building, growing, and exiting a company.” 

Speaking of ecosystem building, a great article came out comparing Sioux Falls and Fargo. Sioux Falls and Fargo: Two Approaches to Building Startup Ecosystems. It’s a great intro for anyone interested in the tech and entrepreneurship communities in the two cities, or for anyone interested in practical examples over theory.

Upcoming Events

Beta Showcase Spring 2019-May 8th, Minneapolis, MN. It is “a science fair for startups, with beer and music”.  

Minnesota Entrepreneur Kickoff – May 14th, Fort Snelling, MN. This annual event is devoted to growing the MN entrepreneur ecosystem. Ryan Weber will be presenting on Exponential Technology. 

5 Lakes Forum– May 14th, Milwaukee, WI. “5 LAKES Forum is a launchpad for tech and startup leaders from the Great Lakes region to create meaningful connections and navigate high-level business and technology topics.”

EntreFest – May 16-17th, Cedar Rapids, IA. A two-day conference for entrepreneurship and innovation professionals. Ryan Weber will appear on two investor panels, and will also be speaking on Exponential Technology.

Drone Focus – May 29th, Fargo, ND. This conference is expanding their focus to include the infrastructure, software, systems, and resources for autonomous systems. It is put on annually by Emerging Prairie.

Lean Startup Bootcamp – May 29th-June 19th, St. Cloud, MN. Join Great North Labs for our Lean Startup Bootcamp to level-up your skills as an entrepreneur, a product manager, or student of innovation. This work-friendly training is from 6-8:30 p.m. for four consecutive Wednesdays. 

SingularityU Minneapolis-St.Paul Chapter Kickoff – June 4th, Minneapolis, MN. Join chapter co-ambassador Ryan Weber for the inaugural event of this organization, one of only 2 Midwest chapters of a total 142 chapters in 66 countries worldwide. SU-MSP is focused on education, networking and community, with a mission to work to solve the world’s most pressing problems with exponential technologies. (Signup and Speakers TBD).

Portfolio Action

ZenLord Pro is live with a new website. The landlord management software startup also has a flashy new explainer video, in case you’re looking for an easy way to manage your rentals or just need to understand what it is, exactly, that they do. 

New Advisors

Six Great North Labs advisors are new to the team

Nick Tietz is the former Director of New Business Development and Innovation at Life Time Fitness, and is a co-founder of VariAware, LLC and Vitals Aware Services. Nick is the founder of The Sota Enterprises, where works with companies and startup founders to turn ideas into assets. Among other things, he partners with Great North on Innovation Workshops.


Aaron Kardell is Founder & CEO of HomeSpotter, which is a “relationship engine” for brokers, real estate agents, and clients. 
He is the former founder & CEO of Mobile Realty Apps, and co-founder of Deals.by.


Casey Carl is CEO and founder of North Coast Ventures, a strategic advising and early stage venture investment company. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Directors at Minnesota health nonprofit MATTER.


Thompson Aderinkomi is co-founder and CEO of Nice Healthcare, which is a primary care clinic that provides care through in-home and remote video visits. He also co-founded Relate, and is a former co-founder and board member of Healthcare.mn.


Bryan Laskin is the founder of Operability, LLC, which is leading development for cloud based communications for the healthcare industry. He is also the SVP of Innovation for Dental Care Alliance, and co-founder of Talentship.


Scott Resnick is theCOO of Hardin Design & Development, and is the current Entrepreneur is Residence at StartingBlock Madison. He is also the former Executive Director of StartingBlock, which is an entrepreneurial hub in Madison (similar to 1871 in Chicago).

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring all over the country for Field Sales Representatives and Drivers and for a variety of positions in Bloomington, MN. 
Structural is hiring a Digital Marketing Specialist in St.Paul.
TeamGenius is hiring a Part-time Customer Success Associate in Minneapolis. 
FactoryFix is hiring a Software Engineer in Madison, and a Business Development Specialist, Business Development Manager, and a Key Accounts Manager in Chicago.
Misty Robotics is hiring a Head of Hardware and a Manufacturing and Repair Engineer in Boulder. 
Pepr is hiring for Business Development – Outbound Sales in Minneapolis. 
2ndKitchen is hiring a City Lead and a Full-Stack Developer in Brooklyn, NY.

The annual MinneBar event, hosted by non-profit Minnestar, is the largest bar camp-style conference in the country. Saturday, April 27th was the fourteenth incarnation of this highly anticipated event, and it did not disappoint. How highly anticipated was it? Tickets were released in two waves this year, and the first wave sold out in under 7 minutes. Total attendance for the 165+ sessions at Best Buy HQ in Richfield was 1,700.

Minnebar has become Minnesota’s version of South by Southwest

-random Minnebar14 attendee

As one passerby put it, MinneBar has become Minnesota’s version of South By Southwest. Don Ball, cofounder of coworking space COCO (now Fueled Collective) credits Managing Director Maria Ploessl and her crew for keeping it a “pure experience”. “Lesser minds would kill it off through monetization,” said Ball.

Becky Lauseng, Director of HR at the ag-tech software company Conservis and a Minnebar newbie, shared her glowing review with Great North, “This year was my first time attending Minnebar and wow, was I impressed! I’m already looking forward to next year!  From the variety of topics offered in the breakout sessions, to the passionate and forward thinking presenters, this event was so valuable to me.  For someone who supports a local technology company and its employees, I gained a lot of insight on current trends, ideas and technology advancements that I can take back to work and apply.  I can’t wait for next year!”

Great North Labs is a proud supporter of Minnestar and Minnebar. Our advisors Sona Mehring and Alex Ryan are board members, while advisor Ben Edwards and Great North Labs Managing Partner Rob Weber sit on the Advisory Board. Edwards is actually the co-founder of MinneBar and Minnestar, and he returned this year to represent his current startup (and Great North Labs portfolio company) Misty Robotics. We were glad to be a part of another successful Minnebar, and to see a strong showing from the MN tech community. Here are some of the highlights.

Diversity and Inclusion in Tech

The day started as it always does with Session 0. This year’s presenter was Sharon Kennedy Vickers, Chief Information Officer for the City of St. Paul. Vickers is a 2018 Bush Fellow, and is the co-founder of Techquity, and co-organizer of CodeSwitch and Open Twin Cities.

Rob Weber at the opening remarks

A key point from Vickers’s speech was that one of tech’s greatest pitfalls is in overvaluing “outputs” of users and workers compared to their inputs. She is working towards an inclusive innovation economy, and making Minnesota a great place to launch tech products with social impact.

“Diversity is the invitation into the room. Inclusion is the offer to dance.”

Elliot Payne

Later in the day, Jeff Lin hosted a panel on the importance of diversity in tech, with Antoinette Smith, Jenessa White, Elliott Payne, and Philip Xiao. As Elliott put it, “Diversity is the invitation into the room. Inclusion is the offer to dance.”

At Great North, we believe that founders in rural areas also work at a disadvantage, especially when it comes to accessing capital and receiving strong mentorship. We work with these founders through the tech and entrepreneur communities in cities like Sioux Falls, Fargo, and St. Cloud. So we were glad to see Caitlyn Casper from St. Cloud State’s Entrepreneurship Club taking part in her first Minnebar!

VC Reverse Pitch

Our team’s first presentation of the day was voted into the largest room, the Theater. Great North Labs Managing Partner Rob Weber presented “VC Reverse Pitch” alongside Mary Grove, partner in Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund (ROTR). The session shared a fund manager’s perspective on what they seek to know when determining whether a startup is worth investing in and how a VC can help a founder grow their business. It was packed with founders looking for inside knowledge on securing investment.

“They are good friends, co-workers, and partners.”- Mary Grove, ROTR partner

Among his opening remarks was a tidbit of valuable advice for founders. Rob talked about how important it was for a founder to be knowledgeable and able to provide an overview of their total addressable market (TAM) as experts in that industry. Weber also frequently encountered founders being unable to explain how their startup’s primary distribution model connects to their serviceable market (SAM).

Mary Grove later seconded this notion, as she said that many times what got ROTR excited was when they could look at a fleshed out growth plan, charted out for months in advance. She recommended that founders provide quarterly follow-ups to fund managers with key progress updates.

“One of the reasons we like co-investing with Great North Labs is because Rob and Ryan have the experience of building, growing, and exiting a company.”

Mary Grove, Partner, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund

Grove highlighted the importance of finding good, trustworthy co-investment partners to complete a successful venture round, and talked about why Revolution like to partner with Great North Labs on deals. “One of the reasons we like co-investing with Great North Labs is because Rob and Ryan have the experience of building, growing, and exiting a company.” She had more glowing words for the Weber twins early on, saying, “They are good friends, co-workers, and partners.”

She also stated that it is time for the Twin Cities to be nationally recognized, and we at Great North Labs agree with this wholeheartedly. We think that Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, and their mission of driving economic advance and funding great startups in states outside of traditional VC funding, is the ideal partner in driving this national recognition.

Intro to Exponential Technology & Leadership

Ryan Weber, Great North Labs managing partner (and Rob Weber’s brother), opened by explaining what compelled him to help establish a new chapter of Singularity University’s global community. After attending their executive education program in Silicon Valley, he returned home inspired by the future changes around the corner, and the possibility for global, positive impact by using these technologies for good. He joined the founding team of SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul in hopes of educating and inspiring others to work on moonshot projects aimed at changing the world instead of simply solving problems. 

Weber shared local startups that are using exponential technologies

The local tech community has gone through extensive growth in the past 5 years, and is becoming one of the best places to form a startup in the country. However, Silicon Valley is far ahead of us when it comes to startups with grand, world-changing visions. Weber believes that to take the tech community even further, we need to study the world’s greatest challenges, and see how we can exploit new exponential technologies to provide solutions that are ten times or more better than what is currently available. 

Weber’s presentation included an introduction to the concept of exponential thinking, a review of a few of the most promising new technologies with examples of local startups going after moonshots utilizing them, and closed with a call-to-action to join the movement by joining the chapter. Membership in SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter is free. The chapter’s kickoff event is at UMN-Carlson on the evening of June 4th, and non-members are welcome to attend.

Creating a MoonShot

Ryan Weber and The Sota Enterprises CEO (and Great North Labs Advisor), Nick Tietz, facilitated a working session focused on design to promote moonshot thinking and the new SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter. In 45 minutes they took a packed room of about 75 people through a structured process to generate a moonshot project.

Participants chose a Grand Challenge to work on, then used two methodologies, “Question Storming” and “Future Wheels”, to crystallize a moonshot statement that embodied the key elements of a world-changing project. Each participant left with a self-generated moonshot idea to solve a major problem facing the world that they would be interested in tackling.

Work Space Selection: Aligning Work Space With Your Company’s Growth

While MinneBar is rife with practitioners teaching multiple skill levels in technical niches, it has really broadened its offerings compared to the early days. This year included a presentation on Korean Skin Care, Personal Finance for Programmers, and even one unlisted, pop-up session titled “How I Accidentally Started a Bank in Nigeria” [Or was it Angola? I forget the country].

One interesting, non-technical session addressed the workspace needs of companies with rapidly expanding employee numbers. David Anderson (Frauenshuh commercial real estate service provider) and David Paeper (HGA architects) provided great advice for growth companies on how to align their work space with their company’s growth. “Your most valuable asset is your people so your space needs to make them your first priority” said David. 

David Anderson and David Paeper talked about tailoring work spaces for growing startups

Their presentation covered a wide breadth of topics including Location, Amenities, Value, Design + Culture, Well-Being + Safety, and Function + Aesthetics. Key takeaways include:

  1. Subleasing – Subleasing often provides the most flexibility and value.  Most, but not all, sublet space can be searched for on an exchange to help a tenant quickly find what’s on the market.
  2. Visualization Helps Determine Location – They showed examples with overlaid visuals on a map, used to explore where a companies staff live and where the transit options are, in order to determine the optimal location.
  3. Suburbs vs. Downtown – The costs for the same quality of space are typically similar downtown versus in the suburbs. However, parking typically is an added expense for being downtown. 
  4. Compression Planning – A growth company should utilize compression planning in their real estate plan to help them understand how they can utilize their space effectively from the onset and after they achieve their expected growth without incurring unexpected costs.
  5. Freestanding Furniture Is Best – Freestanding furniture has greater reusability and is becoming more strongly preferred compared to panel furniture for tech companies whose need to reconfigure frequently

Sharing the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Tech Community Story with the World

For the entrepreneurs and for the tech talent, what’s going on matters, the ecosystem matters, the way we tell our story matters.

Meg Steuer, Forge North

A panel of presenters including Tiffany Orth of Make It. Msp, and Matt Lewis and Meg Steuer of Forge North talked about the importance of storytelling when building and promoting the local tech and innovation ecosystem. While economic opportunity is first and foremost, the whole presentation served as a reminder of all the great reasons why the the area is a good place to work, live, and grow a business.

Moving Forward

Mary Grove’s husband, Steve Grove, is working to drive changes at the state level as the new commissioner of MN DEED. The Minnesota Innovation Collaborative is an important effort to inject some growth into Minnesota’s innovation economy. While the Twin Cities metro has the most Fortune 500 companies per capita among US cities, many of them are from the 1970s or earlier, and we aren’t generating new ones at a lead-sustaining pace. Many parts of the state, including declining rural areas and the Iron Range, are in dire need of economic innovation. While we believe that private investment (like ours and that of ROTR) can drive growth in these areas, we believe that the most impactful approach includes public action as well.

MinneBar is a welcome reminder of the power of community, and of the promise of technology to create a better life. Whether you want to create a moonshot, build an exponential tech startup, get funding for a high-growth venture, house your growing company, or attract out-of-state talent, it’s good to know you are welcome at MinneBar, and in the diverse, inclusive tech ecosystem that is growing here in Minnesota and the upper Midwest.

Great North Labs is proud to work with and support organizations like Minnestar, SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul, Forge North, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, and the Minnesota Innovation Collaborative. We are fortunate to be part of this growing, talented, and inclusive tech and innovation community that is among the best and most economically promising in the country. And we are excited to facilitate rapid, innovative growth in early-stage startups by bringing capital, experience, and our network to bear in this rich environment.

Exponential Tech with SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul

Great North Labs Managing Partner Ryan Weber is now co-ambassador for Singularity University’s chapter here in the Twin Cities! SingularityU Minneapolis-St.Paul is one of 126 SU chapters in 63 countries. 

Singularity University is a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. Through their Grand Challenges, SU provokes moonshot thinking with global impact. Headquartered at NASA in Silicon Valley, SingularityUniversity empowers individuals andorganizations across the globe to learn, connect, and innovate breakthrough solutions using accelerating technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, anddigital biology. 

“In venture capital, we are looking at the next ten years- Singularity is looking beyond that at the next hundred.” – Ryan Weber

Great North Labs is excited to be part of this accomplished global community of innovators, and we think Singularity University is an important addition to the local techand venture ecosystem. Like Ryan and Rob Weber’s (and our advisors’) involvement in local incubator/accelerator mentorship programs, this venture will help develop and support the tech andstartup ecosystem in Minnesota andacross the Midwest. 

Technology is changing at an exponential pace, and bringing exponential changes with it (think cell phones, or the internet). There are people on the coasts at thebleeding edge of this new tech, generating patents and research, and many of these advances can be used here to create value with new products and startups.  

“The Midwest is in a unique position because of the large incumbent industry players, so that even if most of the research and patents are being created on the coasts, we are in the best position to create applications to harness these technologies.” -Ryan Weber

For example, while it may have been a Stanford team that led the charge to create the first self-driving vehicles, guess where they are building self-driving tractors? In Fargo, the Grand Farms initiative has applied for a grant to build thefirst fully-autonomous farm by 2025. One of the leaders of this moonshot initiative is Greg Tehven, executive director of Emerging Prairie and a Great North Labs advisor

Tomorrow, Nov. 9, Ryan Weber is partnering with Tehven to bring Great North Labs and SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul to Fargo with an Intro to Exponential Technology & LeadershipThe talk is from 3-4 p.m. at Prairie Den. If you’re in Fargo andwant to meet with Ryan one-on-one, sign up for a meeting time

Events

Nov. 27th-28th, IoT Summit Chicago, Chicago. In its sixth year, IoT Summit Chicago is a convergence of IoT thought leadership and innovation from across the region.

Nov. 29th2018 Tekne Awards, Minneapolis. “Each year the Tekne Awards shine a spotlight on Minnesota’s science and technology community by honoring innovation across numerous industries.”

Dec. 4th, December “State of Innovation” Meetup, Minneapolis. MinneInno’s periodic exploration of Twin Cities startup and innovation scene features food, drink, and networking in addition to a speaker, panel, or showcase. 

TBD, Anderson Center Governance Forum, 2019 dates and locations are forthcoming for this St. Cloud-based, 3-day forum aimed at improving theperformance and effectiveness of directors and board members. Visit thewebsite for inquiries.


Portfolio action

Dispatch is enjoying some remarkable growth, including mulit-city expansion, which has also led to increased investor interest.   

Great North Labs is considering multiple investments for Q4, as well as follow-on investments with existing investees. More exciting announcements are to come!


New advisors

Great North Labs recently welcomed four new advisors:

Ann Rupnow is the Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Coordinator at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Greg Tehven is the co-founder and director of Emerging Prairie, an adjunct professor at North Dakota State University’s College of Business, curator ofTEDxFargo, and host of 1 Million Cups Fargo.

John Sheehan is the VP of Product Management at CA Technologies. He formerly was the co-founder Runscope, and headed Developer Evangelism at Twilio.

Daren Cotter is the founder & CEO of InboxDollars. 

Welcome to the team!


Job Board

Dispatch is hiring Drivers in Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando (and Ft. Mary), Fort Worth, and Minneapolis (and St. Paul and Golden Valley).
Structural is hiring an Account Executive and an Office Administrator.
FactoryFix is hiring a Vue.js Developer, and a Business Development Rep.
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.

SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul to explore and foster the use of Exponential Technologies for Good with local Fargo-area businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs

 

Fargo, North Dakota – November 9, 2018 – SingularityU Minneapolis-St.Paul will present an introduction to the exponential technologies that are rapidly shaping the future of humanity. These technologies are poised for quick growth and adoption, and have the potential to disrupt our lives in the next 20 years as much as the internet and mobile phones have in the past 20.

While business and technology leaders may wish to familiarize themselves solely to remain competitive and plan for the future, it is the mission of the SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter to connect, energize, and enable leaders in the region to create solutions to global problems using these transformational technologies.

“As our regional leadership teams build local communities in support of the development of exponential technologies, the ability for meaningful global and local impact grows,” said Dharmishta Rood, Senior Director of Community Leadership at Singularity University.

Intro to Exponential Technology & Leadership will take place from 3-4 p.m. at Prairie Den, 122 1/2 N Broadway Dr., in Fargo. Tickets are required and registration is available free. Greg Tehven, Fargo local and Emerging Prairie founder, is co-hosting the event. Ryan Weber, SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter co-ambassador, will present.

In addition to being co-ambassador of the SingularityU Chapter, Ryan Weber is a managing partner of St. Cloud-based Great North Labs, an early-stage venture fund and startup school. Weber often speaks on Lean Startup, exponential tech, and Midwest venture capital, and has presented at some of the largest games conferences around the world on mobile ad-tech as Chief Product Officer at NativeX, the company he co-founded with his twin brother, Rob Weber.

Singularity University (SU) is a global community with a mission to educate, inspire, and empower leaders to apply exponential technologies to address humanity’s grand challenges. SingularityU Chapters are created in partnership with local program participants and SU alumni, and are located in some of the most innovative and upcoming global technology centers in the world. To date, there are 126 SingularityU Chapters in 63 countries.

 

ABOUT SINGULARITY UNIVERSITY

Singularity University (SU) is a global learning and innovation community using exponential technologies to tackle the world’s biggest challenges and build a better future for all. SU’s collaborative platform empowers individuals and organizations across the globe to learn, connect, and innovate breakthrough solutions using accelerating technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics, and digital biology. A certified benefit corporation headquartered at NASA Research Park in Silicon Valley, SU was founded in 2008 by renowned innovators Ray Kurzweil and Peter H. Diamandis with program funding from leading organizations including Google, Deloitte, and UNICEF. To learn more, visit SU.org, read the SU Blog, join us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @SingularityU, and download the SU App.

 

WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

  1. Visit Singularity’s website to sign up to the global community here
  2. Request to join the SingularityU Minneapolis-St.Paul Chapter here
  3. You will be notified by email of our next chapter meeting! Until then, you can get up to speed on Singularity University at SU.org, the SU Blog, or on the SU App. Follow the SingularityU Minneapolis-St.Paul Chapter on Facebook.

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