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.

Welcome back to the Great North Labs newsletter! We are excited to announce that signups for the new, Greater MN-focused startup school initiative are live, and will kick off on March 7th in St. Cloud and March 14th in Red Wing. 

Red Wing Ignite Startup School

The Lean Startup School is a partnership led by Red Wing Ignite, with partners including Great North Labs and ILT Studios. Disciplined startup education is in short supply in Minnesota, and we are addressing the shortage with this accessible program. The first workshop in the series, Program 01: Customer Driven Innovation – Module 101: Opportunity Identification will be held in St. Cloud on March 7th at 9am and 1pm. A second cohort will be based in Red Wing, with the same workshop kicking off there on March 14th, at 9am and 1pm.

“What most people don’t tell you is that there is a process that can be taught and practiced to sharpen an idea, iterate on it, and then pair it with an initial business strategy to go validate,” says, Nick Tietz, Founder and CEO of ILT Studios. “We believe that there are hundreds of unused ideas just waiting for a clear path to success and this Opportunity Identification Course is designed to help entrepreneurs to unlock these ideas, nurture their development and help them to have a chance at becoming a great business idea.”

The Red Wing Ignite Lean Startup School begins on March 7th in St. Cloud, and on March 14th in Red Wing.

We wrote about our involvement and the genesis of the Great North Labs’s startup education initiatives here. If you want to sign up, follow this link to for St. Cloud,  and this link for the Red Wing course! The program is FREE for anyone with an idea, including the spectrum from students to seasoned entrepreneurs. 

World Economic Forum

Managing Partner Pradip Madan went to Davos for the annual World Economic Forum gathering, which focuses on entrepreneurship in the global public interest, and shaping global, regional, and industry agendas. As part of the Digital Future Board room, Pradip spoke after the session “Unlocking Global Corporate Performance with a Family-Friendly Business Code” about investing in the Upper Midwest, and how we are poised for success. 

“In today’s conversations folks talked about support, and a kind of environment which is collaborative, and has longevity in its loyalty to the institution and the organization,” said Pradip. “All these things are true for the Upper Midwest, and that gives us the environment for our entrepreneurs to succeed, and for Limited Partners – our investors – to succeed as a result. 

See Pradip here in this clip from CNN Money.

Events

Here are some upcoming events related to tech startups. Where our attendance is noted, feel free to reach out or connect at the event: 

Portfolio News

PartySlate is new to the Great North Labs portfolio. PartySlate is a visual platform for event planning that is free to use for people who are looking to throw a party, while vendors and event planners can pay a premium for improved placement. Great North Labs led this $5.5M round into this visual event planning platform. With $11M raised to date, CEO Julie Novack and PartySlate are #3 in funds raised by a female founder in Chicago in the last 10 years. Read more in Crain’s.

Job Board

FactoryFix is hiring a Product Designer- Customer Growth, two Full Stack Developers, and a Infrastructure Developer- DevOps in Madison; a Recruiter, and a Business Development Representative in Chicago.
TeamGenius is hiring a Customer Success Associate. 
Pitchly is hiring a remote Legal Marketing & Sales Content Specialist
Misty Robotics is hiring a Lead Qualification & Inside Sales Specialist, and an Inside Sales Specialist (contract) in Boulder, CO. 
2ndKitchen is hiring a Customer Success Manager – Events & Popups, Production and Inventory Associate, Operations Associate, Business Development Representative, and an Account Executive in Chicago. 
PrintWithMe is hiring a Customer Service Representative, Web Developer (Python), and an Inside Sales Executive in Chicago; Super User Technicians in Portland and Houston; and Regional Sales Directors for the Southeast and 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 Sales Operations Manager, Sales Development Manager, Field Marketing Manager, Software Engineer, Customer Support Agent, Account Executive – Enterprise, Sales Engineer, IT Coordinator, Lifecycle Marketing Manager, DevOps Engineer, Jr. Visual Designer, Sr. Backend Engineer, Demand Generation Content Manager, Account Executive – Mid-Market,Growth Marketing Inter, and Growth Marketing Analyst in Minneapolis; a remote Sr. Android Engineer; and an Operational Data Scientist in Minneapolis or remote. 
NoiseAware is hiring a Global Supply Chain Manager, Product Marketing Manager, and UI/UX Designer in Dallas.
PartySlate is hiring a Marketing Coordinator, HR Manager, Account Executive, Product Marketing Manager, Senior Product Desinger (UX), Senior Software Engineer (Front End), all in Chicago.

Welcome back to the Great North Labs newsletter! 2020 kicked off to a fast start. We were invited to participate in the World Economic Forum, and we announced the next chapter in our Startup School. There’s also a new advisor on the team, and a new portfolio company.

World Economic Forum

Managing Partner Pradip Madan went to Davos for the annual gathering, which focuses on entrepreneurship in the global public interest, and shaping global, regional, and industry agendas. On and off stage, Pradip spoke about investing in the Upper Midwest, supporting and growing the ecosystem, and of course, the promise of the Upper Midwest region.

Pradip spoke on the Global Citizen panel hosted by Minneapolis AI company PinkLion.AI titled Innovation in Tech: Leveraging unexplored areas and geographies to increase scale and innovation in the public and private sector, and hosted an hour-long roundtable for The Digital Economist on Business models and strategies that will hallmark the next phase of global economic transformation.

Great North Labs was also proud to sponsor the International Women Business Leaders Reception and the Digital Future Board Room. Inclusion and digital transformation are both important topics that we are glad to support and help elevate on the world stage. 

The Global Citizen Panelists: Patricia Simmons, M.D., Maria Dayton, Pradip Madan, Karen Korponai, Jennifer Bonine, and Dean Costakis

There was a strong regional contingent involved with and leading these events, including Jennifer Bonine of PinkLion.AI, Patricia Simmons of Mayo, and Maria Dayton, Ambassador of SingularityU Minneapolis-St.Paul. Maria and Jennifer were instrumental in organizing these events, and are strong representatives for Minnesota and the region. 

One of the ecosystem building efforts that Pradip highlighted at WEF was our Startup School, which is currently undergoing a reboot. We have new partners, expanded curricula, and greater reach!

Startup School Reboot

Started in 2017, the original Great North Labs Startup School offered bootcamps covering Lean Startup and Agile Scrum, and additional offerings over the years included education on digital disruption and exponential technologies. Roughly 200 students went through the school. 

Now, we are working on an expanded offering with new partners Red Wing Ignite and ILT Studios. While the new initiative will no longer be wholly owned and operated by Great North Labs, it will be greatly expanded, able to reach more of Greater Minnesota, and hopefully scale across the entire state. You can read more about it on our blog, or in this article by Minne Inno. 

Classes will begin in March, and sign-up will be live in February. Contact us to get on the mailing list and stay informed, and to find out when you can sign up.

Events

Here are some upcoming events related to tech startups. Where our attendance is noted, feel free to reach out or connect at the event: 

Advisor News

Steve Schmidt is new to the Great North Labs team. He is the Founder and CEO of Abetech, a company that creates bar code and RFID systems and solutions that increase productivity.

Portfolio News

NoiseAware is new to the Great North Labs portfolio. NoiseAware provides a real-time noise monitoring solution for the rapidly growing short-term rental industry. According to property managers, the biggest challenge they face is party prevention. This is likewise a major concern for major rental platforms such as AirBnB. NoiseAware’s solution includes options for indoor an outdoor monitoring, in real-time, with historical data and trend tracking across properties. 

Job Board

FactoryFix is hiring two Full Stack Developers and a UX Designer in Madison, and a Business Development Specialist and Account Manager in Chicago.
Pitchly is hiring a remote Legal Marketing & Sales Content Specialist
Misty Robotics is hiring a Lead Qualification & Inside Sales Specialist, and an Inside Sales Specialist (contract) in Boulder, CO. 
2ndKitchen is hiring an Account Executive, Business Development Representative, Operations Associate, Operations Intern, and Design Operations Intern in Chicago. 
PrintWithMe is hiring a Customer Success Associate, Customer Service Representative, Web Developer (Python), Inside Sales Executive, 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 Revenue Operations Manager, Sales Development Manager, UX Designer, Senior IOS Engineer, Customer Support Agent, Account Executive (Enterprise), IT Coordinator, Data Engineer, Devops Engineer, Jr. Visual Designer, Senior Backend Engineer, Senior Android Engineer, and Account Executive (Mid-Market) in Minneapolis. 
NoiseAware is hiring a Back-end Developer, Embedded Developer, Front-end Developer, Mobile Developer, Site Reliability Engineer, Global Supply Chain Manager, Product Marketing Manager, and UI/UX Designer in Dallas.

With approximately 500 attendees, uber-founder and CEO Navroop Sahdev and VP Heidi Cuppari conducted the outstanding The Digital Economist Roundtable at the World Economic Forum 2020 at Davos. Great North Labs was invited to the event to discuss the role of venture capital in economic impact, and I shared the fund’s experience and strategy.

Pradip Madan speaking at the World Economic Forum
Pradip Madan speaking at the World Economic Forum 2020.

The strategy starts with Fund I. The plan for Fund I is to invest in roughly 30 companies. We anticipate these portfolio companies will raise a total of ~$200M from co-investments as they grow. With that total and, for example, a 500% return over the life of the fund, we would build ~$1B in market value. By motivating LPs with successful exits to reinvest in subsequent funds, this builds a cycle of growth.

In the course of raising and investing Fund I, we gained valuable experience in developing relationships and aligning incentives. Great North Labs built an ecosystem of 200+ investment partners, 60+ advisors, and developed relationships with universities, regional economic development organizations, government, and innovation catalyst organizations such as Singularity University. To develop local talent, we founded a startup school that educated 200+ on startup entrepreneurship, regularly provide office hours and mentorship to entrepreneurs, and worked with, trained, and hired college students.

Regional entrepreneurs prefer to raise money and grow in their communities, and investors prefer to invest within the region where regional VCs are available. By leveraging our foundational work from Fund I, our second fund could bring 2-3X the co-investment dollars and returns. Over 3-4 decades, this is how investors built fortunes and turned the farm economy of Silicon Valley into one of the world’s most prosperous regions. 

While continuing to lead and co-invest in Seed Stage through B Rounds in Fund I, we will raise Fund II. This will create investing continuity and maintain dealflow, synchronicity with the local ecosystem, and co-investor relations. By creating a cycle of growth and re-investment, our goal is to create prosperity in a similar fashion as Silicon Valley, here in the Upper Midwest.

Great North Labs will be participating in a couple of events at the World Economic Forum this year, where we have been invited to talk about our work investing in early-stage companies in the Upper Midwest. The Forum (WEF) is an annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland, of business, political, academic, and other leaders.

The purpose of the forum is to engage with leaders, and to help inform and shape global, regional, and industry agendas. According to WEF:

“The Forum strives in all its efforts to demonstrate entrepreneurship in the global public interest while upholding the highest standards of governance. Moral and intellectual integrity is at the heart of everything it does.” 

Great North Labs Partner Pradip Madan will be speaking about investing in the Upper Midwest, supporting and growing the ecosystem with initiatives like the Startup School, and of course, the promise of the Upper Midwest region.

Like Steve Case said at the Greenwich Economic Forum in November, there is a tremendous opportunity for venture capital within the coasts. 

“To me, it feels a little like the Internet 35 years ago when nobody, other than a few…believed in the idea of the internet. And people, when I was talking about it, were skeptical.”

“Over time, I think you’ll see venture capital shift. The coastal investors will need to have regional investment strategies.”

-Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of Revolution, and founder of Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund

Here are the events where Great North Labs will be speaking.

1. Global Citizen Panel sponsored by Pink Lion

PinkLionAI Panel WEF

TIME: Wednesday, Jan. 22, 5-7pm.

LOCATION: Promenade 52, 7270 Davos Platz, Switzerland.

TOPIC: “Going Off Road Innovation in Tech: Leveraging unexplored areas and geographies to increase scale and innovation in the public and private sector.”

Attend this panel to understand methods and ways you can leverage untapped resources that are sitting available to you all around the globe.  We will look at how this works from the startup innovation perspective, through funding and the venture firm perspective, and out to the large corporate entity with innovation and human capital that is an underutilized resource in many geographies.  We will highlight this example specifically in how it is successful in the US and Minnesota and demonstrate and answer questions on how it applies to your specific use case. 

This panel has plenty of Minnesota representation with Pradip Madan of Great North Labs, Jennifer Bonine and Dean Costakis of Minneapolis’s PinkLion.AI, Patricia Simmons who is on the Mayo Clinic Board of Trustees, and Maria Dayton who is the Ambassador of SingularityU Minneapolis-St. Paul.

2. The Digital Economist Night in partnership with The Caspian Week

TIME: Thursday, Jan. 23, 7:30p-midnight.

LOCATION: Promenade 61, 7270 Davos Platz, Switzerland.

TOPIC: Business models and strategies that will hallmark the next phase of global economic transformation.

Distilling the cutting edge tools from economic science, with hands-on industry experience, The Digital Economist roundtable series convenes enterprises, startups and innovators to explore, discuss and steward the business models and strategies that will hallmark the next phase of global economic transformation.

Pradip Madan will be hosting a roundtable for this, the inaugural summit for The Digital Economist, in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

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