“I think we can all agree that what we’ve built over the last 10 years, 15 years here is wonderful, but we can also all agree that it’s something we want to make better.”

-Damola Ogundipe, Civic Eagle

Two years ago, a ragtag group from the startup community began to meet over happy hour. They wondered how they might partner to improve the ecosystem for entrepreneurs.
There was no plan. They didn’t agree where to start. But they all shared a genuine desire to solve problems. After all, solving real problems is what Minnesotans do. It’s how we invented the thermostat, pacemaker, supercomputer, & so much more.

“We solve global challenges from here. It’s a pretty good business model. So we have a lot of momentum in our startup ecosystem today, in our innovation ecosystem, but we know that we have an opportunity for global leadership.”

-Peter Frosch, GREATER MSP Partnership

The problem solvers who built Forge North imagine Minnesota emerging as the problem-solving capital of the new economy. 

Over the past few years, our community has seen 40% growth in business creation and a 90% increase in venture capital. We boast a dozen new accelerators and are gaining significant national attention. Yet, we continue to lag peers on these indicators and nearly all metrics of inclusive growth.

What more are we capable of achieving? We are formally launching Forge North by issuing a challenge to the entire community: Let’s set goals. Click here to get started.

“Over 16,000 Minnesotans have participated in our competition. And on top of that we have given away $2.9 million in seed funding to early stage companies. That said, we are just one piece of a much bigger story of the whole ecosystem and the whole fabric of support for startups and founders in Minnesota.”

-Jessica Berg, MN Cup

Leaders like Jessica work every day to support local  innovators, including folks from groups like these below who built Forge North.  If you lead an entrepreneurial support organization, please click to learn about an upcoming workshop at MEDA.

“All these venture capital funds are really coming together and they’re meeting, and they’re focused on how do we get together and do our part to build and grow this ecosystem. That’s something I’m also really excited about.”

-Brittany Clements, Allianz Life Ventures

Allianz Life Ventures is one among many groups investing in the next wave of growth. Brittany is building Forge North by connecting with leaders in other venture funds like those below. Is your firm actively investing in local startups? Let us know so we can plug you in.

“We sit here with big, big scale problems. And if we’re going to solve these problems, it’s going to take scale. Scale comes from big companies, but it’s also going to take innovation. And often innovation is done in small companies. The coupling of these two is what ultimately I think is going to bring the big solve.”

-Doug Baker, Ecolab

We’ve been solving problems for a long time. Did you know 50 Fortune 500 companies began as Minnesota startups? They did it by solving problems and scaling their impact. Today, many of those companies continue to innovate. Forge North supports the Minnovation Collective to help peers find each other across companies like those below. Are you an active member of a corporate innovation team? Sign up to learn about our next workshop this fall at Securian.

“When you ask founders, how do they find out about opportunities or programs to take advantage of, you’ll hear themes around happenstance and luck or a mentor, introduction and referral or potentially a personal invitation to participate. If you come to the table with a robust social network, those pathways to success are more accessible and somewhat straight forward. If you don’t come to the table with a strong social network and social capital, that process of getting doors opened and keys made is arduous.”

-Danielle Steer, Lunar Startups

No two entrepreneurs are the same. They travel different paths and face different obstacles. Hence, all the local resources.Forge North partners worked with Startup Space to design this new Compass tool. We’re working to reveal more local assets so people can inclusively connect. Already featuring more than 150 resources, the tool allows a user to search by their stage, industry, problem, and geography.If you’re an entrepreneur looking to connect, this is a great place to start. 

“Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Minnesota has been one of the greatest communities that we could have ever been a part of.”

-Tyrre Burks, Players Health

Forge North partners have been out around the world, proudly celebrating our community everyhere from Austin to Italy. This spring, Tyrre joined a delegation of eight tech startups representing the region at Collision festival in Toronto.Not only did Tyrre and his peers get to sell the benefits of the good life in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, they got to pitch to investors, meet with customers, and connect with peers. Where else could we go next? We’re looking to you for ideas.

Thank you for attending HORIZON. Stay tuned next week for more fun announcements.

Thank you to our event sponsor:

Special thanks to Forge North founding investor:

Forge North is a coalition-based effort to build the problem-solving capital of the new economy. The initiative is designed to align partners who work across industries and communities to start ventures, solve problems, and scale impact. It’s now a strategic initiative of the GREATER MSP Partnership, the Greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul region’s 501c3 public-private economic development partnership.

The Forge North Leadership Council will steer this effort to proudly celebrate, inclusively connect, and dream bigger across a vibrant ecosystem. It will be comprised of entrepreneurs, investors, corporate innovators, leaders of entrepreneurial support organizations, educators and other key stakeholders working in alignment with GREATER MSP Partnership Board and Staff.

Specifically, the Council will work to:

  • Engage a diverse ecosystem in setting clear and ambitious goals (e.g. startup rates) and consistently tracking progress through shared indicators
  • Use goals to rally partners around transformational ideas that accelerate risk taking and ignite inclusive growth
  • Establish annual objectives for the initiative itself, in service of broader ecosystem goals
  • Prioritize support for peer groups & projects, global outreach & PR, and local events
  • Support and amplify local and statewide efforts (e.g. Full Stack Saint Paul, Launch Minnesota)

Founding members in the Forge North coalition worked with the GREATER MSP Partnership to design this Leadership Council and took input from a Design Team of local entrepreneurs, investors, and community builders. A minimum of six and maximum of eight Council Members will be selected through this open application process.

The Leadership Council will operate with by-laws approved by its members. Council members will be expected to identify with the Operating Principles established by Forge North’s founders, as well as the values of the GREATER MSP Partnership. Specific logistics, including frequency of meetings, will be determined by Council Members based on the goals & objectives they set. Full-time staff will manage the Council, with additional support, as necessary. 

This background document provides additional details. Thank you to the dozens of founding members who built Forge North, volunteer council Design Team members, and thousands of people across the ecosystem for working every day to start and scale ventures and solve important problems.

You are encouraged to apply or to nominate someone else.

CLICK HERE TO FIND THE APPLICATION FORM. YOU HAVE UNTIL JULY 29, 2019 TO APPLY. APPLICATION DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO SUNDAY, AUGUST 4.

Have questions? Feel free to contact Matt Lewis, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at GREATER MSP at matt.lewis@greatermsp.org, or reach out to interim Forge North co-chairs Jessica Berg, Director of MN Cup, and Maria Ploessl, Executive Director of Minnestar.