As a tech founder and investor, I have spent a lot of time thinking about why some startups scale and why others fail. You have to when your livelihood is riding on whether or not you can execute. And when you’re putting other peoples’ money on the line, knowing what to do and being able to do it isn’t enough, but you have to be able to explain your decisions and actions.

When I made enough money as a founder to start angel investing, I was overly focused on the idea and strategy. Why? The business I had founded with my twin brother Ryan Weber was successful in terms of financial returns, but it lacked defensibility. In my opinion, that’s what prohibited our business from scaling to an even greater outcome- we didn’t have a great idea or strategy.

Learning from this lesson from my own business, I compensated by investing in founders who had a clever idea and a good strategy. Sometimes it felt like I was just investing in a nice pitch deck. Many of these teams just could not execute, and over time, they’d fail.

You can be a brilliant founder, with a clever idea and a good strategy, and still fail. It happens all the time. If you can’t attract customers, build a team, and set and achieve goals, you’re sunk.

As a VC, I’ve had to synthesize everything I’ve learned about operating and investing into a scalable, repeatable process- to turn these lessons into actionable guidance for conducting diligence. Founders who work towards these things increase their chances of reaching an exit, and investors who look for these things increase their chances of generating a return.

These are the top 5 signs a startup will succeed.

1) The startup has founders with great soft skills. Having a great idea or writing some really kickass code isn’t enough to scale a big business. Soft skills are even more important than tech skills or industry experience. A founder/CEO’s job includes sales, recruiting top talent, management, etc. All of these are soft skills.

2) The startup has a culture of accountability, and is focused on key growth metrics. Creating a metric driven, accountable culture is challenging. It is easier to do with a 4-person startup than a large-scale growth business so it is a critically important early piece.

3) The startup is good at new product development. Teams that are good at product development are analytical and creative. They run experiments before building a complete product which enables them to avoid focusing on building the wrong product with the wrong features.

4) The startup is focused on finding and perfecting one scalable customer acquisition channel. Experimenting is expected in the very early going, but eventually you need to bet on the one channel that can get you to scale. It could be digital media-focused customer acquisition, a referral program, or viral social strategy, anything that creates compounding returns. You need to be world-class at whatever your dominant channel is to succeed. For most of the best startups, growth is designed into the product or some other kind of clever growth hack is utilized. Look at Airbnb’s famous spamming of Craigslist (Airbnb Growth Study (benchhacks.com)) or DropBox’s famous early referral incentives. This is the scrappy team, focused on the right things, that has found the right product, and a way to scale.

5) The startup has an adaptable, entrepreneurial team. Early-stage is not the time for a team fixated on management systems. The time for investing more heavily in management systems is when your startup approaches 20–50 employees or more. In the beginning, you need a team with entrepreneurial skills, including customer empathy, product engineering strength, and go-to-market strength.

For former founders-turned-investors like myself, we need to be particularly aware of not being overly attracted to clever ideas in big markets, but instead focus on identifying the teams that can find their North Star to take them from point A to point B so the startup has an opportunity to start compounding. Execution is everything.

Tech Sector’s Growth has Accelerated

It is no secret that during the pandemic, the tech sector is delivering stronger returns than other sectors.

As examples, underlying the stock prices, Zoom sessions increased from 10M daily in Dec 2019 to 200M daily in March 2020. Daily broadband usage in the US jumped from 13.2GB in March 2020 to 15.3GB in August 2020. Over the 10 years from 2009-19, US e-commerce penetration went from from 5.6 to 27%. E-Books have been flying off e-library shelves. Doctors are seeing patients via e-health. E-ceremonies are delivering graduations, weddings, and birthday events.

Communications, software, biotech, and e-commerce have been among the best performers. On the other hand, non-tech sectors such as airlines, cruise lines, casinos, and automotive, have receded. And in low-growth or stagnant sectors, the tech-enabled disruptors have grown the fastest. For example, in entertainment, witness the growth of streaming media at the expense of cable services. Or in education, witness the growth of e-learning enabled enterprises.


“Dow Jones Industrial Average Compared to NASDAQ Composite” (Data from Yahoo Finance, as of 9.06.20)

Pandemic as Change Agent

Why have Zoom, Twilio, Shopify, and Atlassian become runaway successes? The COVID crisis has boosted them more than most other companies: Zoom for everyone to run businesses, schools, events; Twilio for cloud communications; Shopify to find online growth while controlling one’s destiny compared to selling on Amazon; Atlassian to manage projects; and several others.

As humbling as it is to acknowledge this fact, while venture capital and venture firms are recognized as drivers of digital transformation, the pandemic has been a much bigger factor in driving growth. At Great North Labs we terminated our office lease and deployed reporting methods for our portfolio companies that enable electronic data transfer and analysis. We conducted our own 2020 annual meeting as an e-meeting. In lieu of serving hors d’ouvres at a live event, we used a local startup to send Giftbombs. As much as we have pondered these ideas in times past, the pandemic is motivating this digital transformation.

Where to Invest?

So, in this mix, where should we invest?

Venture capital has the potential of highest value creation of any asset class. All the big tech companies started as venture-funded startups. Imagine if you had invested a few dollars in them when they were young. The negatives of venture investments are that they are not liquid for several years. So, if you can invest and wait, this is a good option. Another key negative is that many investments fail. For this reason, investing as family and friends from a limited pool you have access to is riskier than from vetting across a large pipeline by a venture fund.

It is also true that innovative companies get started at the highest rate during downturns and discontinuities, such as the pandemic crisis we are in now. As a result, more than ever, the world is now teeming with start-ups building solutions to make the world better with high capital efficiency. And they are targeting every sector: healthtech with new drugs and vaccines; supply chains with secure ledgers; insuretech with more tailored insurance; fintech with better access to and management of personal or enterprise capital; foodtech for better food and access; mediatech for pervasive information and media access…you see the picture. Then there are startups enabling these companies: companies enabling training and placement of specialized workers; companies delivering customer service more effectively; companies providing remote accounting, legal, and marketing; and companies training and retraining workers for the future – in product development, customer service, accounting, marketing, demand generation, or anything else.

The world does not need more brick-and-mortar businesses sustained by PPP loans. They can reinforce or repair moats, but we will get better returns from supporting the young innovators. The world needs startups that build value in the post-pandemic world in capital efficient ways, and help the brick-and-mortar incumbents get a new lease on life.

The Decade Ahead

How long will this new wave of startups continue, and what is the period over which their value creation will deliver returns?

The impact of past pandemics – smallpox, yellow fever, bubonic plague – rippled through economies for decades, and caused permanent changes. Among other things, outcomes of past pandemics included industrial equipment for productivity increases to offset population losses, vaccines for health, social safety nets, and new fiscal and monetary policy. Many of these changes have now been part of our lives for decades and in some cases centuries.

In the current pandemic, we have already seen seismic shifts. Post-COVID, the seedlings of Silicon Valley are sprouting at an ever-faster rate in Middle America and many other locations worldwide. At Great North Labs, we believe venture investing and the creation of new enterprises will spawn a new productivity cycle that will permeate economies across the globe over the coming years and decades. In the widespread, tech-enabled economic recovery that we are already seeing, the current venture investment cycle which will seed new startups may well be among the more productive than its recent predecessors.

NOTE: THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN OFFER OR SOLICITATION WITH RESPECT TO GREAT NORTH FUND INTERESTS IN ANY JURISDICTION IN WHICH SUCH OFFER OR SOLICITATION WOULD BE UNLAWFUL. 

Over 10,700 venture-backed companies received a combined $136.5 billion in funding in 2019, and the year saw double the exit value of 2018.[i] As stocks, real estate investments, and venture capital reach record highs, what are investors thinking about where to invest?

The answer depends on the type of investor:

Is this a good time for venture investing?

If the economy continues to do well, venture investments will do well. If the economy falters or if there is a stock market correction, this may still be a good time to invest in venture capital.

This is because stock market corrections (and corrections in the real estate market, which usually follows the stock market) follow business cycles, which can last 4-7 years. Venture funds usually invest over a 9-10 year investment cycle (i.e., a 5-6 year investment period followed by a 4-5 year harvest period). A slower business climate or stock market correction ahead could well be bracketed within the life of a new fund. And if needed, with due approvals from the limited partners, venture funds can extend their term to time their exits better.[vi]

Is there benefit in investing in venture funds in down cycles?

Let us look at the dynamics of different asset classes in downturns.

  1. Real estate – During the 2008 financial meltdown, real estate crumbled. As people lost their jobs, renters could not pay their rents, and property owners could not cover their mortgages. As defaults grew, real estate prices dropped. The Case-Shiller index dropped from 195 in 2005 to 116 in 2011.[vii] Considering the leverage of real estate investments, the losses for investors were much higher.
  2. Stocks, ETFs – The stock market similarly took a serious hit. The DJIA dropped 54% from 14,164 to 6,469 over 17 months.
  3. Venture capital – From Q1 2008 to Q1 2009, venture funding fell by 50% nationally to $3.9 billion (Dow Jones Venture Source).

Why did venture capital fare better than real estate or stocks?

First, lean times promote capital efficiency. As is often heard, recessions are the best time to start new companies, which is where early-stage venture capital is focused.

Second, venture capital firms mark up or mark down their investments over their life cycle. However, as actual valuations are pegged only by liquidity events, the real IRR is not known until the investments achieve liquidity. During the holding period, capital-efficient companies, and venture companies that focus on capital efficiency, do well, i.e., are counter-cyclical. They suffer fewer dislocations during downtimes. They can maintain their strategies, continue to do business as usual, and get ahead of those that slow down. Employees of such companies are more secure and loyal. And if needed, high-quality talent not available during good times can be hired, with loyalty that again pays dividends over the long term.

The capital efficiency of the upper Midwest

Companies in the upper Midwest inherently tend to be capital-efficient because there is less capital available. Similarly, smaller funds such as there are in the upper Midwest are inherently more capital-efficient, as they have less to invest.

44% of venture capital flows into Silicon Valley.[viii] This sets the consumption set-point of Silicon Valley companies at much higher burn rates than in regions where availability of venture funds is limited. The relative lack of available capital in other regions, including the upper Midwest, instills caution in spending.

Employee wages

While most other expenses are comparable across the US, with legendary real estate prices, Silicon Valley employees cannot survive at less than Silicon Valley wages.

This is not true in the upper Midwest. Though other expenses are comparable, housing costs may vary from 1/3rd to 1/10th of the Bay Area, enabling much greater capital efficiency for employers. For example, Google employees can buy 5 houses for the price of one by moving to one of Google’s locations across the country.[ix]

Figure 1. The real estate cost advantage of the upper Midwest compares well against not only the most expensive regions in the US, but also against what may be incorrectly perceived as lower-cost overseas regions (e.g., China). Seven cities in China and an equal number of cities in the US are listed above Minneapolis.

Fold? Hold? Or double down?

Not only can capital-efficient companies continue without disruption during slow times, given the lag between investment and market benefit, those that increase their investment can emerge even stronger in a recovery.

Intel applied this counter-intuitive strategy across many recessionary cycles, and invested several billion dollars in down cycles.[x] When their new semiconductor fabrication capacity resulting from these investments came online a few years later, their timing coincided with market rebound. On the other hand, competition (e.g., Atmel, Fairchild, Intersil/GE, IBM, Motorola, Raytheon, and several others) weakened from retrenchment and lost market share. As the industry consolidated during down cycles, Intel gained market share, and cumulatively over several cycles, emerged as its leader.

Some investors may feel that liquidity is useful during a downtime. Others argue against it, as getting out of the game when entrepreneurs are especially capital-efficient has a higher opportunity cost, and to use the Intel analogy, puts the winners further ahead of the losers. According to a prominent Silicon Valley investor, “you got to stay in the game”. At these times there are opportunities to go one step farther and double down.

Are smaller funds better than larger funds?

The statistical odds of a unicorn (company valued at over $1B) are lower than, say, of a ‘deci-corn’ (company valued at over $100M). Larger funds invest larger amounts per deal. To return high multiples, they need unicorns, which are rare. Smaller funds invest smaller amounts and can get the same multiples from ‘deci-corns’, which are much more common.

Advantages for Midwest venture capital

There are other tactics used by, and attributes common to, small Midwest VC’s that safeguard against downturns:

  1. Global investments that require skills available in the upper Midwest. While staying abreast of the latest trends in Silicon Valley to stay competitive, Midwest VC’s can take advantage of expertise available in the upper Midwest to serve global markets. In so doing, they avoid the valuation markups and early-round dilutions of Silicon Valley yet seek global parity in later rounds and exits.
  2. Local investments, global exits. An emphasis on the upper Midwest inherently allows investing at a discount compared to the investments in overheated markets such as Silicon Valley. This roughly translates to a 60% discount in term sheets offered on companies in the Upper Midwest. Global businesses rooted in the upper Midwest still attain exit valuations that correlate with global valuations. Thus, if a down cycle may require 50% markdowns for some Silicon Valley funds, Midwest VC’s can still record a 10% (=60-50%) markup at the bottom of the trough, emerge stronger from uninterrupted progress from investees’ capital efficiency, and exit with a markup brought to parity with global valuations in strong economic times.
  3. Emphasis on product-market fit. With the reduced capital investment now possible in many tech businesses, the barrier to entry has been lowered. Smaller venture funds can adjust criteria to focus investments on product-market fit, early revenue, and early break-even and profitability, instead of being limited by the number of affordable investment options. Nothing demonstrates product-market fit and staying power than paying customers and profit; for customers, employees and investors alike, there is nothing more powerful than profitability. Judicious investment in such businesses and mentorship to focus teams on profitability facilitates survival in lean times.
  4. Operators as investors. Small venture funds are often started by former operators with past successful exits, and the Midwest is no different. Many Midwest VC’s have a history of building profitable businesses the old-fashioned way, a dollar at a time. This experience of running a company, of managing payroll through good times and bad, of knowing the revenue and cost management discipline required to make money operationally and sustainably (i.e., not with short-term financial engineering), is invaluable for VC’s to have. So much so, that even accomplished operators will supplement their teams with experienced industry advisors.
[i] https://pitchbook.com/news/reports/q4-2019-pitchbook-nvca-venture-monitor
[ii] https://www.bizjournals.com/twincities/news/2018/03/15/how-the-leader-of-the-university-of-minnesotas.html
[iii] https://www.wsj.com/articles/robert-f-wallace-named-ceo-of-stanfords-endowment-1427138729
[iv] https://news.yale.edu/2017/10/10/investment-return-113-brings-yale-endowment-value-272-billion
[v] http://www.pionline.com/article/20151014/ONLINE/151019943/university-of-minnesota-endowment-reports-57-fiscal-year-return
[vi] https://www.strictlybusinesslawblog.com/2017/06/29/the-life-cycle-of-a-private-equity-or-venture-capital-fund/
[vii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case%E2%80%93Shiller_index
[viii] according to the National Venture Capital Association website
[ix] https://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/07/you-can-buy-multiple-houses-for-the-cost-of-one-near-google-hq.html
[x] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-intel/intel-to-invest-7-billion-in-u-s-as-recession-deepens-idUSTRE5196WR20090210

Great North Labs Startup Ecosystem Kickoff

“It doesn’t take a lot of capital with early-stage tech companies to make a big impact.” – Ryan Weber

The Great North Labs Startup Ecosystem Kickoff brought together successful entrepreneurs and innovators to learn about the current state of the tech and investment ecosystem and network with like-minded professionals. 25 speakers, 6 portfolio startups, and over 250 attendees came together for the afternoon! The topics of education, community, fostering connections, economic impact, and the ripe opportunity for venture capital in the upper Midwest dominated conversations, as some of the area’s most innovative thinkers gathered, spoke, and networked.

Here’s what people have to say about the event:

“a fantastic event with great speakers” (@jmjhjr)

“pretty amazing turnout here at #SCSU (@graemethickins)

“Much appreciation to @mnvikingsfan and @robertjweber of @greatnorthlabs for spending their time supporting the startup ecosystem of MN. Great event today @stcloudstate #GNLKickoff – Thank You!!!!” (@jongoldsberry)

Continue the conversation on Twitter with the #GNLKickoff hashtag. If you missed the event, or want to see it all over again, watch it on YouTube!

Follow these links for more info for investors and startups. Or contact us!

Thanks to everyone for coming, and stay tuned for future events!

 

Events

Oct. 8th-14th, Twin Cities Startup Week (TCSW), Greater Minneapolis-St.Paul Area. Over 200 events scheduled!

Oct. 9th, “Minimal Lovable Product Panel” (part of TCSW). 3-5 pm, at the Baker Center, Minneapolis. FieldNation is hosting, and Ryan Weber is a panelist.

Oct. 10th, “Project North Fall Quarterly Roundtable“. 12-4 pm, at the Lumber Exchange Event Center, Minneapolis. Rob Weber will speak on the “State of the Twin Cities Innovation and Startup Community”.

Oct. 11thGreat North Labs Pre-TedX Happy Hour (part of TCSW), St. Cloud. From 5-6 pm, we’ll gather at Great North Labs’s headquarters for a happy hour, ecosystem talk and networking before TedX St.Cloud 2018: Cultivating, which will be held only a few blocks away at the Paramount in St. Cloud. This event recently sold out, so we added a few more tickets. Purchase them through Twin Cities Startup Week!

Oct. 24-25, 2018 FUND Conference, Chicago. “FUND Conference is the nation’s connector of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors, and industry experts with a focus on curated deal flow, captivating content and same day connections.” Pradip Madan is speaking.

Oct. 30, TalentMN Leadership Summit, Impact Hub, Minneapolis. Sponsored by Structural!

Portfolio action

CEOs from our portfolio companies presented at the Startup Ecosystem Kickoff, giving overviews, updates, and asks of the Great North Labs community. Visit the Startup Ecosystem Kickoff playlist on the Great North Labs YouTube channel to see presentations from Dispatch, Structural, TeamGenius, FactoryFix, ZAPinfo, and Pitchly.

New advisors

Great North Labs welcomed three new advisors in September:

Jason Heath is the CFO at Drip + LeadPages, and was formerly the VP of Business Intelligence & Analytics at GoDaddy.
Mike Bollinger is the Founder of Livefront and the Co-founder of TECHdotMN.
Graeme Thickins is the President and Founder of GT&A Strategic Marketing Inc. and is a MinneAnalytics board member. He also has a long career as a tech writer and analyst, and runs GraemeThickinsontech.com.

Welcome to the team!

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring Drivers in Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando, and Minneapolis.
Structural is hiring an Account Executive, Office Administrator , and a Senior Engineer (ReactJS).
Team Genius is hiring a Lead Full-Stack Engineer
Pitchly is hiring a UI/UX designer and Core engineer- watch for postings on the Pitchly website.
FactoryFix is hiring a Visual/UI Designer, Vue.js Developer, VP Talent, and a Business Development Rep.

Great North Labs’s August Update

Fostering Midwest success means making guidance and capital available for tech startups

Great North Labs got the front-page treatment in the Star Tribune Business section this Sunday. Former investment banker, consultant and corporate officer (and current business journalist) Lee Schafer talked about building successful tech companies with Ryan and Rob Weber– including the importance of providing advice and mentorship in addition to capital.

Rob also caught up with former advisor and mentor Young Sohn, President of Samsung, and former advisee and investee Mynul Khan, CEO of FieldNation. They illustrate the success that can come with “a little bit of money and a lot of advice”.

If a startup is considering moving from the Midwest to find that success, as Rob says in the article, “It shouldn’t be because the capital can’t find you. It shouldn’t be because you can’t get the mentorship you need.”

 

Events

September 17th, St. CloudGreat North Labs Startup Ecosystem Kickoff. This invite-only event is THE annual event for Great North Labs! We will hear from:
Mary Grove, Partner at Revolution/Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, formerly Director of Google for Entrepreneurs
Margaret Anderson Kelliher, President/CEO of Minnesota High Tech Association
Matt Lewis, Director of Make It MSP @ Greater MSP, team member at Forge North
Mynul Khan, founder/ CEO of FieldNation
Corey Koskie, former Minnesota Twin, Founder at Linklete
Mark Ritchie, former Minnesota Secretary of State
Talks include “Why the Future is Bright for Startups Across America” and an “Outlook for Minnesota Technology & Innovation”.

A panel discussion on Sports Tech features local startup executives from SportsEngine, SportsRadar, SportsHub, and Starting11, while an Outstate Entrepreneurship panel will feature leaders from local accelerators, investors and entrepreneurs who are actively involved in outstate, upper Midwest ventures.

Great North Labs portfolio companies will give updates, and will be available to connect with. These include: Dispatch, Structural, Pitchly, ZapInfo, TeamGenius and FactoryFix.

This is about building the startup ecosystem, so there will be plenty of time for some high-quality networking and hors d’oeuvres.

If you haven’t received an invite, go here to request one. Tickets are free, but the invite list is filling up fast! After you receive your invitation, tickets for you and up to 2 guests can be claimed via Eventbrite.

October 8th-14th, Greater Minneapolis-St.Paul Area. Twin Cities Startup Week. With too many events scheduled to list, we’ll just focus on our own:

Great North Labs Pre-TedX Happy Hour, St. Cloud. From 5-6pm October 11th, we’ll gather at Great North Labs’s headquarters for a happy hour ecosystem talk and networking, before TedX St.Cloud 2018: Cultivating, which will be held only a few blocks away, at the Paramount in St. Cloud.

Past Event: Forward Fest was a great event this year, with Ryan Weber in Madison for two days (Aug. 20-21) of the annual week-long Wisconsin startup gathering. The fun started at Starting Block Madison, where GNL Advisor Nick Kartos ( CEO-GymDandy) helped facilitate a meet-and-greet happy hour. The event pitted MN and WI microbrews against each other, while entrepreneurs and investors had a chance to check out Starting Block’s space and hear about Great North Labs. The next day, Ryan moderated a panel on Startup-Corporate Partnerships at the Forward Technology Conference (Forward Fest’s “headline tech conference”). Thanks to everyone who came out, and thanks for the help, Nick!

 

Portfolio action

ZAPinfo is new to the Great North Labs portfolio. Formerly WebClipDrop, ZAPinfo is an information automation and productivity tool that helps recruiters and sales professionals be more productive by capturing, enriching, and sharing data easily across the web and any web based applications. With one click, users can gather a plethora of information about candidates from a variety of web sources, and with another click export it to any web form or app, or to a CSV, PDF, or other data file.

ZAPinfo is led by CEO/founder Doug Berg, who previously founded Jobs2Web and techies.com, and is an expert on workforce and career trends.

New advisors

Great North Labs welcomed two new advisors in August:

Daine Billmark, Senior Manager at TransUnion (formerly eBureau).
Wade Beavers, President of Mobile at Newscycle Solutions.

Welcome to the team!

Job Board

Dispatch is hiring Drivers in Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Orlando, and Minneapolis.
Structural is hiring an Account Executive and a Senior Software Engineer.
Team Genius is hiring a Lead Full-Stack Engineer.
Pitchly is hiring a UI/UX designer and Core engineer- watch for postings or contact directly for details.

 

Great North Labs’s July Update

Where to Invest in the Midwest

At Great North Labs we are constantly making the case for investing in venture capital in the upper Midwest. Skepticism ranges from the size of the funds here, to the funding opportunities of the region, to the value of venture itself. GNL partner Pradip Madan addresses these issues in his latest piece “Where to Invest in the Midwest: Venture Across Asset Classes”. The article explores the popularity of venture investing with various types of investors, market timing, and the unique advantages of investing in a small venture fund in the upper Midwest.

 

Events

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Digital Transformation Summit on July 25th! Hosted by Great North Labs and Digerati, with speakers Gene Munster and Mark Ritchie, the Minneapolis event was a thoughtful collection of successful panelists and innovation professionals. With great food and cocktails, and VR demos by [x]cube LABS, the night was as fun as it was empowering.

August 16th-23rd, Madison. Forward Fest is an 8-day tech and entrepreneurship festival. It is a tremendous collection of events for startups and entrepreneurs. Ryan Weber will be attending from the 20-22nd, and will be holding office hours to meet with startups, entrepreneurs and investors while in Madison! Use the contact links below or tweet @mnvikingsfan  to set up a time to meet!

August 20-22nd, Grand ForksUAS Summit & Expo. What is UAS? Unmanned Aerial Systems: drones, their controllers and operators. This summit is in its twelfth year!

September 13th, Minneapolis.  Coolest Companies Fest is put on by the Minneapolis branch of the tech and entrepreneurship publication, American Inno. “Join us for drinks, music, fun and the Coolest Companies celebration in September! During the event, we’ll crown Minne Inno’s Coolest Companies.”

September 17th, St. Cloud. Great North Labs annual stakeholder meeting. Save the date! Invitations and details to come!

September 19-20th, Des Moines. Angel Capital Association (ACA) Midwest Regional Angel Meeting . A forum for Midwest angel investors to learn about latest industry trends and access the ACA “Best of the Midwest” investments for syndication opportunities.

September 27-28th, Chicago. Rise of the Rest CEO Summit. This is a private event put on by Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund. If you’re in Chicago and you want to connect with Great North Labs, Rob Weber will be in town for this event. Contact us through the contact links at the bottom of this email, or tweet Rob directly @robertjweber !

 

Portfolio action 

Pitchly is the newest addition to the Great North Labs portfolio. It is a content service platform for M&A professionals to organize and activate their intellectual property. Based in Des Moines, Iowa, Pitchly has developed a SaaS platform for professional service firms to aggregate information created during client engagements. Pitchly enables customers to conduct analyses on prior client services and easily turn data into content for marketing and business development activities. Pitchly is used in 35 countries to store more than 2 million client service data points for its customers.

Dispatch has closed their round of funding led by Great North Labs! The funding will be used to fuel an expansion to new markets. We had a strong showing for co-investors, with Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund and the Gopher Angels investing alongside in the over-subscribed round.

New advisors

Bonnie Speer McGrath is President of Speer McGrath & Co. and CHRO of the Timmaron Group. Both companies provide executive support, board work, investing and fundraising. She was formerly President of TruScribe Software (now known as Squigl) , and nonconcurrently, the Board Director. Welcome to the team, Bonnie!

 

Job Board

FactoryFix is hiring a Business Development Representative
Dispatch is hiring a Sales Manager
Structural is hiring a Back-end Software Engineer, and a Senior Software Engineer
Team Genius is hiring a Lead Full Stack Developer

The Industrial Internet is the future- and it’s being built now.

IoT and Analytics are transforming industry, and who know industry like the upper Midwest?

Add to the decades of institutional experience a community of educated tech adopters, then just add water (liquid capital) and stir. BAM!
Forget Silicon Valley, this is Silicon Lakes.

Read the Full Story

New Investment

TeamGenius is player evaluation software for managing tryouts, coach evaluations, camps, and more. Team Genius is focused on building stronger young adults and communities through their powerful, simple software tool. Streamline scoring with the mobile application, add transparency to the evaluation process, and ditch the paper evaluation forms, clipboards, and spreadsheets!

Browse our Portfolio

Minnebar 13

With no formal workshops, “BarCamps” are user-generated and participant-led by tech and business community leaders. Over 100 sessions were held this year at Minnebar13. Participants, speakers, and staff braved the ridiculous Minnesota blizzard to hunker down at Best Buy HQ for Minnestar’s premier tech conference.

MinneStar is currently running a 100 Day Challenge where the Board of Directors is matching donations by new community members. Join Rob and Ryan Weber and contribute to this important part of the Twin Cities tech community!

Great North Labs at Minnebar

Ryan Weber presented How Running Lean Can Help You Raise Capital, about how the stages of funding correlate to the phases of customer development. His Exponential Technology and Leadership talk delved into disruptive technology and innovation.

Rob Weber focused on How Entrepreneurs are Impacting Cities. Participants learned core concepts on entrepreneurial thinking and leveraging local industry expertise to create the next big thing.

Upcoming Events

EntreFEST May 17-18, Cedar Rapids, IA

State of Innovation: Ag-Tech May 22nd, Minneapolis, MN

Drone Focus Conference 2018 May 30, Fargo, ND

New Venture Challenge– May 30, Chicago, IL

 

Welcome New Advisors, to the Great North Labs Team!

Brad Lehrman – Attorney, Soffer Law Group, PLLC
Jeffrey Robbins – Attorney for Entrepreneurs and Angel and Venture Investors, Messerli & Kramer
Mitch Coopet – Co-founder of Aftercode
Paul Borochin – Assistant Professor of Finance at UConn School of Business
Art Rosenberg – President and Owner, Capital Commercial Realty Group, LLC
Shawn Teal – President, Forest Hill Capital

See our Team

Exponential Technology

Intel co-founder Gordon Moore famously predicted that computing power would grow exponentially by doubling every two years (“Moore’s Law”).  The implications of such rapidly improving computing power are now evident all around us, but back when Gordon predicted such growth it was hard to imagine a future with such incredible computing power.

In March, we held our first-ever Exponential Technology and Leadership workshop to address the inevitable trends that will disrupt many industries.

Whether it’s AI, IoT, medicine, space, or even blockchain, it was evident throughout this bootcamp that proactive, exponential thinking is necessary to maintain a competitive advantage in all industries.

Participants had the opportunity to hone in on their skills development through the process of question storming, developing moonshot ideas, and rapid prototyping.

If you were unable to attend, you can still sign up for our next workshop on April 23rd.

See Tickets for April 23rd Workshop

 

Welcome, new Advisors!

Candice Savino – VP of Engineering at Trunk Club; Formerly Senior Director of Engineering, Groupon

Nicolas Thomley – Henry Crown Fellow at The Aspen Institute, Co-Founder & CEO of Morning Sun Financial Services, Founder of Pinnacle Service

Suk Shah – CFO at Avant; Formerly CFO at HSBC

Paul Longhenry – SVP – Strategy, Corporate, and Business Development at Tapjoy; Formerly Venture Capital Investment Director at D.E. Shaw Ventures

See our Team

 

Top Midwestern Spots for Startups

It’s no secret that the startup ecosystem is rising in the Midwest. “…the amount of money being invested into startups is on the rise in the Midwest and throughout many other parts of the country, reaching fresh multi-year highs in 2017. Almost one full quarter into 2018, the trend appears to continue unabated.”

Read more from Crunchbase about why the Midwest is now being coined as a “goldilocks zone.”

Check out the Great North Labs Portfolio

 

Upcoming Classes

4/10 – Lean Startup Bootcamp

4/23 – Exponential Technology & Leadership Workshop –

4/28 – Agile Scrum Crash Course

See Startup School

 

Lean Startup Bootcamp 

Follow the Lean Startup Path to create your next startup, realize your potential in Product Management as a career, and master the skills needed to find winning business models through Lecture and Labs.
Our work-friendly bootcamp is over three Tuesday sessions: 4/10, 4/17, and 4/24 from 6:00 – 8:30 pm at Great North Labs in St. Cloud.

Exponential Technology & Innovation Workshop

The implications of rapidly improving computer power are evident around us – gain a competitive advantage and avoid disruption through this workshop. Become familiar through our Intro to Exponentials, review Disruptive Technologies, expand your Exponential Leadership, and develop skills to broaden your perspective.
Monday, April 23rd from 8:00 – 4:30 pm at Fueled Collective in Minneapolis.

Agile Scrum Crash Course

Learn and begin applying the foundational concepts of Agile Scrum to improve work transparency on your team. Review the history of Agile, problems that can be solved via Agile, and tackle software development complexity.
Saturday, April 28th from 9:00 – 5:00pm at Fueled Collective inMinneapolis.

 

Minnebar is April 14th

Great North Labs’s Managing Partners, Ryan and Rob Weber, will speak three times at this annual tech and software conference which has been a Twin Cities mainstay since 2006. The all-day event will be at Best Buy Headquarters. Tickets are free.

Tweet to Meet with Rob (@robertjweber) or with Ryan (@mnvikingsfan) at the event.

Check out more Events

 

Do you know any investors interested in sharing investment opportunities? Have them contact us!

July Newsletter
Great North Ventures

iraLogix closes $22M + Branch expands with Uber

iraLogix Closes Series C
Great North Ventures

iraLogix closes $22M Series C

June Newsletter
Great North Ventures

Flywheel lands Gates Foundation grant

We're Hiring
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Venture Capital Analyst

We're Hiring
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Executive Assistant – Venture Capital Firm

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

Great North Ventures Raises $40 Million Fund II

Investment Thesis: Fund II Strategy
Great North Ventures

Investment Thesis: Fund II Strategy

Investment Thesis: Community-Driven Applications
Great North Ventures

Investment Theme: Community-Driven Applications

Fund II Theses: Solving Labor Problems
Great North Ventures

Investment Theme: Solving Labor Problems

April Newsletter
Great North Ventures

Trends in the Gig Economy + Work in the Metaverse

Minnebar14
Josef Siebert

MinneBar 14 Recap

Minnesota Innovation Collaborative
Josef Siebert

Minnesota Innovation Collaborative

engineer and various business information. Internet of things industry.
Pradip Madan

IoT 3.0

Healthcare innovation image
Great North Ventures

Healthcare Innovation