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

  • Angie Bastian, Co-Founder, Angie’s BOOMCHICKAPOP
  • 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
  • Mark Henneman, Chairman & CEO, Mairs & Power
  • Amy Langer, Co-Founder, Salo
  • Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director, Launch Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
  • 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.