Welcome to our last newsletter of 2020. It’s been a challenging year. We feel fortunate that the local early-stage startup scene has remained strong, and believe that investment in innovation and digital transformation will help fuel the post-pandemic economic recovery.

In 2020 Great North Labs invested a total of $5.8M, adding 14 startups to our portfolio for a total of 23. Most of the remaining capital in Fund I is allocated for follow on investing. That won’t slow us down with backing new startups as we intend to continue investing in new companies out of new funds. 

Before we look forward to new investing and ring the new year, let’s take a look at the top stories of 2020 for Great North Labs. These are the topics we wrote about that resonated the most with our audience. 

Top 5 Stories of 2020

1. COVID-19

The pandemic has forced sweeping changes around the world. We wrote about legislation that can spurn the economy to recovery and the increasing speed of digital transformation driving value creation in tech companies and the Midwest. We also tracked trends, curated startup resources for entrepreneurs, and encouraged giving to support local nonprofits in the tech and startup community. 

2. Capacity Building

As the startup ecosystem grows, with it grows the capacity to produce breakout startups. Those startups drive economic value creation, economic activity, and job creation. This year we laid out the cash and equity, time and effort donated, re-affirming the commitment laid out in our Founders Pledge and our give-first mentality.

Our piece on giving during the pandemic highlighted some of the contributions by our portfolio along with our own efforts.

3. Resilient Startups

Startups have to be capital efficient and nimble to survive a downturn. The Midwest in general is know for capital efficiency and the grit required. We dug up a list of resilient startups in Minnesota that not only survived, but thrived after coming through a recession. We also pointed out how to spot a good consumer app startup, and paired with CliftonLarsonAllen to explain how investors may be able to get 100% capital gains exclusion by investing in these startups as angels or through venture funds. 

4. George Floyd 

The American Dream is one of a meritocracy, where those who work hard and well are rewarded. This dream is still not a reality for many Americans who face systemic inequities. BIPOC individuals face economic deprivation due to these inequities, which have profound and compounding effects. The events surrounding the death of George Floyd drove home the fact that we need to continue to work to provide equitable opportunities for success through charitable giving, training, and mentorship, and track progress in the number of founders we see.

5. 2020 World Economic Forum

Great North Labs was honored to be invited to the 50th Anniversary World Economic Forum in Davos back in January of 2020. Managing Partner Pradip Madan spoke about our investment thesis, digital transformation, and increasing innovation in the private and public sector in front of leaders from around the world and appeared on CNN Money in Switzerland. Pradip also hosted roundtable discussions on “Business models and strategies that will hallmark the next phase of global economic transformation” with The Digital Economist, and participated as a sponsor for the International Women Business Leaders Reception.

Launch MN Expert Exchange

Launch Minnesota has put out a call for mentors and experts to join their Expert Exchange. “The Minnesota Expert Network is a statewide program to help entrepreneurs find the right support and bring avenues for engagement, networking, and project development for startups at different stages of growth.”

Interested subject matter experts, project supporters, and business mentors can find more information here

Events

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

Portfolio News

iraLogix is new to the Great North Labs portfolio! iraLogix is an advanced, institutional IRA record-keeping and trading technology offering web-based institutional IRA record-keeping services. We led a $7.5M round that included Circadian Ventures, Trog Hawley Capital, and Riverfront Ventures.

We needed a Plan B.” PartySlate, the visual platform for event planning, has moved into virtual events.

Plyo App Inspires Active Lifestyles.” Plyo is partnering with Big Ten Schools to promote active lifestyles. 

Study: Work From Home Transitioning Resident Amenity Needs at Apartment Communities.” PrintWithMe has expanded their self-service printer service to 49 states, while a study confirms that their service is an in-demand amenity for those who work from home in an apartment building. 

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring a Product Marketing Content Creator, and a Senior Ruby on Rails Developer for Remote work. 

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.

TeamGenius is hiring a Customer Success Manager, and Lead Engineer-Mobile Development based in Minneapolis, MN.

PrintWithMe is hiring Customer Support Reps in Houston, TX and Washington, D.C. Regional Sales Directors for East Coast, South Central, and South East regions; Director, Demand Generation, Operations Lead, and a Winter 2021 MBA Strategy Intern in Chicago, IL.

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

Branch is hiring a Senior iOS Engineer and Android Engineer for remote work. Also a Consumer Marketing Manager, Account Executive (Mid-Market), and Channel Sales Manager in Minneapolis, MN.

Inhabitr is hiring a Chief Growth Officer/Head of B2C Growth, Digital Marketing Lead, Operations and technology Associate, Operations Manager – B2B, and a Sales and Customer Experience Associate in Chicago, IL. Also, Product and Technology Associates in Miami, FL, Los Angeles, CA, Austin, TX, Dallas, TX, and Phoenix, AZ; a Junior Interior Designer in Los Angeles, CA, and a Product Manager in Alpharetta, GA. 

Clinician Nexus is hiring a Customer Success Manager in Minneapolis, MN. 

NoiseAware is hiring a VP of Marketing, a QA Technician (independent contractor), Senior Director of Software Engineering, People Operations Generalist, Account Manager, and a Customer Advocate in Dallas, TX.

Happy Thanksgiving, and welcome back to the Great North Labs newsletter!

This is the perfect time of year to reflect on what we are thankful for, and for giving back. We are most thankful for our investors, our advisors, and our portfolio companies, of course! They are the reasons we exist, work, and succeed.

We are also thankful for the developing startup ecosystem in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. There have been great developments recently like the Launch MN Initiative, the first Greater MN accelerator, and one of the largest seed funds ever raised in the Midwest

There is still a need to improve. There are valid and pressing worries about the creation, automation, and distribution of jobs. Innovation and startups are increasingly important to our future. Did you know that from 1980-2010 about half of all jobs created in the US were from high-growth startups? 
 

Founders Pledge


That is why we are challenging founders in Minnesota to make a Founders Pledge! The Founders Pledge is an international movement of founders dedicating equity to support nonprofits. This is a way for cash-strapped founders to provide impactful contributions to organizations they find important.

Local nonprofits stand to benefit greatly when pledging founders have big exits.

There are several existing structures and organizations, but basically, to make a Founders Pledge startup founders donate a portion of their future proceeds to local nonprofits. They give support to the organizations that support them. If the Founders Pledge becomes ingrained in the culture of our startups, it will create a virtuous cycle between successful startups and the people and organizations that help them succeed

Supporting the Startup Ecosystem


According to research on early-stage entrepreneurship from the Kauffman Foundation, Minnesota is lagging behind on 4 key indicators of success. Our rate of new entrepreneurs, opportunity share of new entrepreneurs, startup early job creation, and startup early survival rate are all below average, with our composite score putting us at 46th compared to the rest of the US.

Nonprofits are a vital part of supporting early-stage entrepreneurship, and creating favorable outcomes for founders. By contributing to their success, founders can increase the chances of their own and future startups’ success. Join the movement and Great North Labs in making a Founders Pledge!

Events

The holidays are a busy time for everyone! If you find some time between family and friends, here are some events worth attending: 

Portfolio News

Inhabitr closed a $4M dollar series A round, led by Great North Labs. The news of the Chicago-based furniture rental platform was covered in TechCrunch, and in this piece by ChicagoInno.

2ndKitchen closed a $4.35M round. This startup connects restaurant kitchens with kitchen-less venues, such as bars and breweries. Investors included Hyde Park Venture Partners, Math Ventures, and M25. 

Dispatch was named to CNBC’s Upstart 100, which includes “100 of the world’s most promising start-ups to watch in 2019”. Congratulations to the Dispatch team!

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring all over the country for Part Time Drivers and in Bloomington, MN for a Biz Dev Representative, HR Manager (Remote OK), Data Scientist, and CFO. 
Structural is hiring an Associate Software Engineer in Indianapolis or St. Paul, MN. 
TeamGenius is hiring a Sales Associate in Minneapolis. 
FactoryFix is hiring a Software Engineer, Product Designer, and UX Designer in Madison, and a Biz Dev Specialist and Account Manager in Chicago.
2ndKitchen is hiring a Customer Success Manager, Account Executive, and Director of Sales in Chicago. 
PrintWithMe is hiring a Customer Success Associate, Network Operations Specialist, and an Operations Lead in Chicago; Super User Technicians in Portland and Houston; and a Regional Sales Director for the West Coast.
Parallax is hiring a Customer Success Specialist, Quality Assurance Engineer, Senior Software Engineer, and for a Growth/Customer Acquisition role in Minneapolis. 
Branch is hiring a Content Marketing Manager, Settlement Analyst, Customer Support Agent, Customer Success Manager, and Senior Backend Engineer in Minneapolis. 

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.

May newsletter
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$40M Fund II Raised!

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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

Great North Labs Newsletter December 2017
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Great North Labs Newsletter – December 2017

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Rob Weber

A Letter To My Younger Self

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Great North Labs Newsletter