Last year, Forge North partners attended Collision in Toronto alongside 8 incredible startups from our region. This year, we’ve decided to go virtual and will be attending Collision from Home with a new group of startups!

A total of 30,000 attendees will join Collision from Home to meet the most important people in their industry, share ideas, and make lifelong connections. Hosted by the team at Web Summit, Collision is working to build a custom platform and app to ensure the virtual experience will allow attendees to learn, connect, and build awareness for their work. The conference platform boasts an incredible lineup of keynotes, panels and workshops, while also unlocking a world of networking opportunities.

Three days. 100 hours of content. Thousands of valuable connections.

For startups, Collision has developed a startup program to shine a spotlight on early-stage startups with outstanding potential, connecting them with the world’s most influential investors, corporate representatives, and potential customers. Last year, participating startups raised over $5M in capital to help them scale. It is our hope that by attending Collision and other events we can continue to shine a light on our fastest-growing startups and bring additional capital to the region as we seek to double the number of MSP-based ventures that raise an early-stage round of funding each year by 2023.

This year, we are excited to announce the following 8 companies will be attending Collision as part of our MSP-based delegation:

BackpackEMR by Binary Bridge targets medical teams working in rural areas and is fully supported by Binary Bridge, a Public Benefit Company with a specific mission to improve access to healthcare and increase the quality of care in underserved locations by providing software solutions for mobile clinics in remote, low-resource areas.

Canomiks is the first technology company using Genomics, Bioinformatics, and an AI-based technology platform to test and certify biological efficacy and safety of ingredients and formulations. They have built exclusive IP and groundbreaking technology that is transforming the functional food and dietary supplement industry.

MoneyVerbs helps you build your best life and stop stressing about cash. A gamified platform, MoneyVerbs helps you get good at money – so you can skip the mistakes in real life. If you want to avoid the roller coaster of financial instability, you need to know how to save, spend, and invest your money.

NightWare helps people suffering from traumatic nightmares to get a more restful night’s sleep. A wearable technology, NightWare learns your sleep patterns and customizes a treatment for each individual, interrupting nightmares so you can get an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

Otrafy is an AI-powered supplier management system that manages and optimizes supplier quality assurance, helping food production facilities by providing actionable insights to mitigate vendor associated supply chain risks.

SayKid has developed the world’s 1st screenless, play-based learning platform. We combine voice tech in the form factor of a plush robot to help children learn in a safe, natural, and engaging way – children play the role of teacher and we promote group play to build those critical early relationships.

Virtue Analytics manages college recruitment, admissions, financial-aid on AI. An end-to-end SaaS platform improving student outcomes and increasing college revenue.

We Sparkle Co. helps businesses save time and increase revenues via a white-labeled conversational AI assistant that takes care of tedious administrative and marketing tasks so they can spend more time doing what they love.

Keep an eye on our social channels (@forgenorthmn) in the coming days to learn more about these startups and our experience at Collision from Home. Have questions? Email hello@forgenorth.com

It is a painful week for our community in Minnesota as we mourn the loss of George Floyd. Our broken hearts go out to his family and friends and we stand in full support of seeking justice, and an end to injustice.

In a week where racial injustice is so prominently visible, we are speaking out to address the incident that occurred when Tom Austin, who has been associated with the venture capital community, racially profiled a group of black entrepreneurs on Wednesday. 

We, the Minnesota Venture Capital community, reject Tom Austin’s actions. We are writing to publicly affirm our values and our commitment to building an inclusive entrepreneurial community, with access for all. We are committed to broadening and demystifying the closed networks that usually accompany venture capital. Our doors are open, and to our communities of color and all underrepresented entrepreneurs – we stand by you. And we intend to work tirelessly to continue to level the playing field for access to capital in our community.

With our support:

Some members of the Minnesota Venture Capital Community

Tanmay Agarwal, Atland Ventures
Hunter Babcock, Atland Ventures
Greg Beaufait, Dundee VC
Jenna Bosell, Atland Ventures
Brett Brohl, The Syndicate Fund
Ryan Broshar, Matchstick Ventures
Brittany Clements, Allianz Life Ventures
Cathy Connett, Sofia Fund
Lisa Crump, Sofia Fund/Cairn Ventures
David Dalvey, Brightstone Venture Capital
Andrew Felbinger, Urban Innovation Fund
Mary Grove
Jeff Hinck, Rally Ventures
Michael Hoffman, Excelsior Ventures
Joy Lindsay, Sofia Fund/StarTec Investments
Pradip Madan, Great North Labs
Kevin McArdle, SureSwift Capital, Tech.MN
Patrick Meenan, Arthur Ventures
Andrew Murphy, Loup Ventures
Mike Proman, Scrum Ventures
Matthew Risley, QED Investors
David Russick, Gopher Angels
Josef Siebert, Great North Labs
Dee Thibodeau, Sofia Fund
Rob Weber, Great North Labs
Ryan Weber, Great North Labs

If you are part of the VC community and would like to sign on to this post, please submit your info here.

On March 25, 2020, we kicked off an investor-led series developed to help achieve our goal of doubling the number of local ventures that raise an early-stage round of funding. Co-hosted by Brett Brohl of Syndicate Fund and Mary Grove of Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, the following topics were discussed:

  • What is VC and when is it right for my business?
  • How does venture capital work?
  • What do early-stage investors look for?
  • The process of fundraising: strategy & tactics
  • Raising/investing in a COVID-19 climate
  • How to prepare your business to navigate COVID-19
  • Resources in MN + overall resources

A full recording of the session is available below or here if you were unable to attend live, want to revisit the content or have folks you’d like to share the session with.

Click on “Ask a Question” to view which questions were asked live and go directly to that portion of the video. Any issues? Email hello@forgenorth.com.

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TOPICS COVERED

  • What is VC and when is it right for my business
  • How does venture capital work (give an example of ownership/dilution etc)
  • What do early stage investors look for
  • The process of fundraising: strategy & tactics
  • Raising/investing in a COVID-19 climate
  • How to prepare your business to navigate COVID-19
  • Resources in MN + overall resources

ATTENDEE QUESTIONS ANSWERED

  • When VCs express an interest in investing but you haven’t launched a formal process, what’s the best way to respond? I’ve heard some folks say, “you should always be fundraising” and others say, “avoid the time suck until you’re ready to maximize leverage?”
  • Like any industry, there are likely better VCs than others. What should you look for as a good fit or good partner other than their investing type?
  • Assuming we’re entering at least some sort of recession, will the way that you evaluate early stage companies change at all?
  • Any advice for an aspiring entrepreneur moving from MN to the Bay Area?
  • Do you have any recommendations for help with financial modeling for both founders and aspiring VC’s themselves to help manage the portfolio?
  • In light of COVID-19, are there ways that the MN investing ecosystem can better support entrepreneurs through this difficult time? How will we measure the impact on the community?
  • We are a social enterprise (in market 1.3 years, in revenue, bootstrapped with happy customers). Appears that we are not a “fit” for VC’s (feedback has been that we give too much of our revenue to the charities we serve). We have 2 large global companies that want to work with us, we need to raise ($1m) to scale-up & meet these opportunities – do you have any suggested paths for us to fundraise?
  • What are the most important metrics to track when validating an MVP? And how do you know when it’s time to go beyond word of mouth marketing?
  • I’ve been avoiding VC’s that have been actively reaching out to me that have lead rounds with some of my direct competitors. The concern is that they are looking for intel to apply towards the businesses they have already invested in. However, maybe I’m completely off-base here. Any thoughts?
  • Is there such a thing as an advisor who can represent our high-tech startup and advise us on what is or isn’t a good deal for us?
  • Brett, what value did an MBA provide for you from an entrepreneurial perspective?
  • Does it make any difference (other than they are ‘close by’) to do business with VCs in MN versus VCs in other markets?
  • Do you have a successful pattern laid out for meeting investors? As in, where to find enough that are a good fit?
  • Are you currently considering any investments in companies that have pivoted to support covid-19 related efforts in the health care arena?

A top goal the Forge North coalition set for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region over the next three years is to double the number of local ventures that raise an early stage funding round.

We’ll be working towards that goal in all sorts of ways, from helping bring more investors from around the world to our region’s local startup events, to expanding efforts to help local entrepreneurs visit leading investor events across North America. Throughout 2020, the Forge North Leadership Council will source all kinds of other ideas from the startup ecosystem.

One such idea came from a group of leaders at local venture capital firms right here in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. (There are many great firms here in our region that you can discover using the MSP Startup Compass.)

Throughout 2020, we will support a series of free, accessible educational events to help demystify venture capital – both for current and prospective entrepreneurs as well as prospective investors.

The series won’t focus on any one firm or topic, but instead will provide a range of views and ideas covering topics like: Pre-seed and Seed Valuations, Pitch Decks, Managing Boards and Investor Relations, Becoming an Accredited Investor, and much more. By opening up the dialogue, we hope to foster a culture where more people share their questions as well as their ideas.

The first session was held on March 25, 2020 and led by Brett Brohl and Mary Grove, whose conversation targeted to entrepreneurs looking to Fundraise Faster. Check out a recap and recording by clicking here.

The second session was hosted on May 6, 2020 and led by Eric Kijak of 3M Ventures and Andrew Felbingerof Urban Innovation Fund focused on asking entrepreneurs “Is venture capital right for you?”. View the recording here.


We will make each installment of the series available to download and will share these resources with the region’s entrepreneurial support organizations. Forge North Leadership Council members Mary Grove of Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund and Brett Brohl of The Syndicate Fund took the lead to get this series started. Over the coming months, they will be joined for installments by colleagues at firms like Great North Labs, Allianz Life Ventures, Dundee Venture Capital, Capita3, Sofia Fund, Invenshure, Urban Innovation Fund, and others to follow.

While we intend for most events to take place in the community to help foster new relationships, in light of ongoing public health concerns we are currently hosting all sessions virtually.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul is the startup capital of the North. Our entrepreneurial community is growing by leaps and bounds. But what’s on the horizon?

Our ambition is to make this region the best place for people from every background to start & scale ventures that create wealth by solving global challenges. But where do we start?

Today, we’re establishing a bold set of 3-year goals. Many issues matter. In fact, we will soon publish the new MSP Innovation Dashboard that tracks 20 key indicators critical to the health and vibrancy of our startup ecosystem.

But to set some priorities, the Forge North Leadership Council has been engaging the region’s diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, enterprise innovators, and community builders. More than 500 people shared their insight in late 2019 via surveys, focus groups, and in-person events. The council worked to consolidate all these ideas and focus on the three areas with the greatest interest from across the ecosystem.

Here are the three areas where the Forge North coalition will focus its efforts:

Every business needs fuel – but not necessarily the same type or same amount. (And here in the North, we pride ourselves on fuel efficiency.) Great news: The total amounts of venture capital, grants, and other dollars deployed in our ecosystem has been on the rise. However, over the next three years, we are focused on the number of companies getting funded.

Our goal is to double the number of MSP-based ventures that report raising an early stage round of capital.

More companies raising will lead to more companies growing. That volume will create an even more vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. To effectively capture our baseline and raise the bar, we are currently auditing Pitchbook data, local grants, and reports across specific industry sectors. The MSP Innovation Dashboard will also continue to track other key indicators like total capital raised and number of venture rounds.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul is a hotbed for headquarters. The region boasts some of the nation’s highest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies as well as large private enterprises. In fact, there are nearly 50 companies headquartered in MSP with annual revenues of $1 billion or more. Many of these firms are customers, investors, mentors, and connectors for local startup companies, whether directly or via their contributions to funds, accelerators, and other programs.

Our goal is to ensure that 100% of these billion-dollar businesses are making significant investments in MSP-based ventures.

To effectively document our baseline and raise the bar, enterprise executives are working to complete a peer-to-peer audit. We’ll also continue to track other key indicators, like the number of local Fortune headquarters, the number of Inc. 5000 fast growth companies based in MSP, and the vibrancy of local accelerators and programs.

If you follow trends across the U.S., you know the numbers aren’t good when it comes to women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ communities, and other underrepresented groups seeking financial and social capital to start and scale their ventures.

Here in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, we face those same challenges – magnified by the acute and persistent challenge of experiencing some of the country’s largest economic disparities by race. Our ambition is to be the best place for people from every background to start and scale ventures. As we start, the Forge North coalition will be focused on racial equity.

Our goal is to see leaders with an equity stake in MSP-based ventures reflect the region’s populations of Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

While we know the region’s overall population of color will surpass 30% in the next 3-5 years, we do not currently understand the disaggregated rates of ownership across our startup community. To effectively understand our baseline and raise the bar, we will be working directly with entrepreneurial support programs throughout the region in the coming months to better document the current state as well as improve it.

So, what’s next?

The Forge North Council did not set these goals because members know how to achieve them. Rather, these were the areas where local problem solvers said we need to act.

None of these goals can be accomplished in isolation. No single individual, program, or organization has all the answers. Progress towards these goals requires many solutions – with a willingness to try things, take risks, and fail fast in order to eventually succeed.

Now, we’re turning our attention back to the community. In March, we will roll out a local roadshow, visiting and inviting networks throughout the region to share ideas and understand where there might be leverage to rally our community. Those ideas could come from anywhere.

Do you want to participate or discover how you can join or re-affirm your commitment to the Forge North coalition and these bold goals for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region? Click here to sign up and you won’t miss a thing.

Starting and scaling a venture can be both rewarding and fun. But it certainly isn’t easy. Fortunately, founders and their teams don’t have to go it alone here in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. There are more than 500 formal resources available in our community, from accelerator programs, to funds and competitions, events and trainings, mentor networks and so much more.

However, it turns out these resources can feel a bit scattered. Every startup’s journey is unique, and entrepreneurs can spend far too long discovering a resource that was here waiting for them all along. Partners in the Forge North coalition wanted to help reduce that friction and make the search for solutions a bit easier and a lot more transparent.

Consider the founder and their team. Depending on the solutions their venture provides, the industry they are in, the stage they are at, the next big hurdle they are facing, and countless other factors, they don’t need just any resource. They need the right ones at the right times.

The Minneapolis-Saint Paul startup ecosystem is changing every day. With so many new resources, it can be hard to keep up – even for the professionals who lead many of these programs, funds, events, co-working spaces, and more. These leaders share some of the same pain points when referring startup teams to other resources besides their own.

As it turns out, the team at Startup Space was thinking through the same problems. Through One Million Cups and the network of the Kauffman Foundation, Forge North team members met entrepreneur David Ponraj. David, Lily Shaw, and the entire Startup Space team have been working tirelessly to help thousands of entrepreneurs make better, quicker connections across 150 cities and 60 countries.

Working together, we’ve been busy customizing and populating this tool for our own community, with 537 unique local resources listed. We have already made improvements based on the first thousand users testing the experience. Now, we’re excited to officially launch and promote this expanded MSP Startup Compass.

Our commitment is to continually improve this community resource while making it free and available to all. Users can not only search for a local resource, but also find events, follow news, and use the tool to ask questions. It’s available through your browser or via an app.

In addition to helping entrepreneurs make quicker connections, we’re also aiming to help local leaders throughout the ecosystem by enabling them to more easily share their latest offerings and even embed the Compass within their own websites. (Special thanks to the Social Enterprise Alliance, Small Business Administration, Social Impact Strategies Group, and EdNorth for helping pilot the tool within their own websites and networks.) And additional thanks to the Bush Foundation for investing in this ecosystem building work.

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to get connecting.

People built the Forge North coalition to go further together. And those people have a bold ambition here in the Startup Capital of the North.

By 2030, the Greater Minneapolis-Saint Paul region will be the best place for people from every background to start & scale ventures that build wealth by solving global challenges.

To realize this ambition we need a big tent. Today, we’re excited to announce the creation of a team committed to realizing inclusive growth and expanding that tent.

The Forge North Leadership Council represents diverse networks across a big ecosystem – including entrepreneurs, investors, corporate & government innovators, and community builders. This team, powered by the GREATER MSP Partnership, will look to the community to set goals & take action at scale.

“We must dream bigger to achieve the next iteration of ourselves,” said Brett Carter, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer & Innovation Officer at Xcel Energy. “Working in partnership gives us a chance to be competitive in the new American economy. The strong base of established large companies and the vast number of entrepreneurs is a great basis for a new platform.”

Forge North Leadership Council members

  • Jessica Berg, Director of Minnesota Cup, Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship
  • Jason Breen, Senior Director, Enterprise Accelerators, Target
  • Brett Brohl, Managing Director, Techstars Farm-to-Fork Accelerator; Managing Director, The Syndicate Fund
  • Brett Carter, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer & Innovation Officer, Xcel Energy
  • Mary Grove, Partner, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund
  • Brian Gustafson, Managing Director, Investments, Tonkawa, the Carlson Family Office
  • Amy Langer, Co-Founder, Salo
  • Anisha Murphy, Director of Community Engagement, Northside Economic Opportunity Network; Owner, Just Law LLC
  • Sam Ndely, Business Consultant, Metropolitan Economic Development Association; co-founder, Graveti
  • Damola Ogundipe, Co-Founder, Civic Eagle

This team isn’t alone. They stand with dozens of partners that worked to build the Forge North coalition, including many who worked to design and recruit this council. Leaders from organizations like Minnestar, Gener8tor, BETA and Twin Cities Startup Week, and others are already directing teams and projects of the Forge North coalition. More opportunities to join in will be announced this winter.

“We’ve seen how the wisdom of crowds has helped improve society and decision making,” said Damola Ogundipe. “By working in partnership, we’re harnessing that wisdom to create a region that looks, feels, and acts inclusively while creating opportunities.”

To help the Council and this growing coalition take its next steps, you can weigh in on big goals for the local ecosystem in 2020 and beyond. You can vote on specific options or add your own by clicking here. The Council’s survey will remain open until December 8.

“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:

Today, Inc. and Startup Genome put out a report on the 50 Best Places in America to Start a Business. Minneapolis-St. Paul was ranked #21 on the list, which analyzed seven key indicators. See how Minneapolis-St. Paul stacks up below and learn more by checking out the complete Surge Cities Index.

Shout out to all the Minnesota companies mentioned. It’s absolutely incredible the caliber of startups, corporations and support organizations like these that make Minnesota such a great place to start and grow businesses. Learn more about these amazing organizations below.

According to a 2017 report by Chartio, looking at five years of VC funding data Minnesota jumps 13 spots to the 15th best market for venture capital in the United States. This happened while states like Colorado, Tennessee, Texas, and Illinois lost market share.

Read more from our friends at Medical Alley or take a look at the full report here.