The nation’s largest statewide, industry-agnostic business plan competition.

MN Cup is a community-led, public-private partnership that brings together corporations, VCs, foundations, government and skilled volunteers to support Minnesota’s entrepreneurs. The core of our programming is an annual competition that reaches emerging entrepreneurs from across the state and connects them with education, mentorship and resources to launch and accelerate the development of their new ventures. The competition inspires entrepreneurs to begin their startup journey, supports them as they develop a solid business plan, provides exposure for their ideas and offers numerous opportunities to expand their networks. In 2020, MN Cup gave more than $500,000 in seed capital directly to founders, taking no equity in exchange. MN Cup is a program of the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. To learn more visit

Entity Type: Nonprofit
Full time staff: 2
Number of individuals served annually: 202
Number of startups served annually: 90


  • Type of support most needed: Funding (9)
    • Total overall funding decrease due to COVID – do we leave this out and just list a combo of the next 4 questions to outline immediate needs? (Something like: What immediate support do you need, how much, for what?)
  • What amount of money would help bridge the funding gap you’ve incurred in 2020?:
    • $75,000
  • When do you need it? Do you have a specific hard deadline?:
    • Ideally by December 15, 2020. Hard deadline of 12/31/2020
  • What would this additional funding support?:
    • This immediate funding would take us out of the red for the year – we opted to fully-fund our $500,000 prize money despite the loss of grants & sponsorships due to covid-19 in 2020. Will allow us to continue/ not cut programming in 2021.
  • Support needed in next 3 months:
    • $75,000 to meet our 2020 budget shortfall so that we don’t go into 2021 in the red.

LONG-TERM VISION (building capacity for long-term success)

  • Support needed in 12-18 months
    • 1) Sponsors interested in financially supporting one of our nine divisions, or funding a cash prize for entrepreneurs – the divisions most in need of funders include: – Education & Training – Student – Youth – General (typically CPG, heavy-industry) – High Tech 
    • 2) New grant partnerships/opportunities to replace lost grant revenue in 2020 – focus for these grants could include (but not limited to) improve our recruitment & retention of volunteers of color to serve as mentors & judges, increased education sessions tailored to Greater Minnesota audience, more programming & resources for founders before and after our competition season.
    • 3) Referral to subject-matter experts of color (could be national, not just in Minnesota) that would be willing to serve as a volunteer judge or mentor.
  • Looking ahead, beyond your most immediate financial need, we’d love to know more about your long-term vision as we approach sponsors for sustained, multi-year contributions. If you had an additional $500,000 in your budget, what would you use it for and why? What’s your big vision for what your organization can accomplish with adequate funding?
    • Our big, long-term vision is to offer the best possible resources & education to Minnesotans interested in starting a business, for free. We want to create the highest quality content and resources , and open-source it. We also want to give away $1 M in cash prize money to Minnesota entrepreneurs. We’d need an additional $700,000/ in one year to accomplish this, followed by an additional $600,000 YoY, but it’s very do-able.
  • What specific outcomes/impact is your organization working to achieve in our ecosystem? Ie, if you were to receive the funding listed above, what would you hope to accomplish?
    • Our impact focus since our founding in 2005 is to make Minnesota a more supportive place to found a business. We leverage the format of our competition to serve 90 companies each season, and give away more than $500,000 in cash prizes directly to founders, taking no equity in exchange. As we look to the future, we want to keep our reach broad – we want to be a platform for as many types of entrepreneurs as possible. We’re striving to improve the experience of all founders via additional education sessions, tailoring those sessions by industry/ company stage, diversifying the mentors & judges that volunteer in our process, and offer resources & support to companies outside our competition season. We want founders (particularly founders of color, veterans, women & those from Greater Minnesota) to have the strongest possible applications to our process so that our Semifinalist pool reflects the diversity of our applicants.