“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:

The Startup Capital of the North is on the rise. People are starting more ventures, deploying more capital and solving more problems. People are taking risks. Founders usually take the biggest risks. But so do their team members, investors, mentors, and customers.

Still others take risks by devoting their careers and reinvesting their dollars towards building the ecosystem by launching or running an incubator, accelerator, educational group, fund, publication, or community space. We proudly celebrate these pursuits and encourage others to unleash their own ideas.

In 2017, a couple dozen folks from across this ecosystem started working together across different organizations. When they decided their shared work needed a name and direction, they brought in the creative team at Zeus Jones. And when they later realized that deeper partnership required stable support, they investigated their options.

The GREATER MSP Partnership provided backbone coordination with financial support from the Bush Foundation. For example, founding Forge North partners like Dakota Crow (then Optum, now U.S. Bank), Alisa Mulhair (then Target, now Sonder), and Santiago Vallejo (then U.S. Bank, now Carlson Wagonlit) built a peer group of dozens of corporate innovators, supported by GREATER MSP. Founding partner Brett Brohl (The Syndicate Fund) kicked off a growing table of active early stage funds and investor groups, coordinated by GREATER MSP. Founding partners Lauren Pradhan (Grow North) and Maria Ploessl (Minnestar) led their peers in an effort to share best practices and tools for entrepreneurial events and programming.

This work was not linear. In fact, it can admittedly progress at odds with the nature of its participants. After all, success within the startup ecosystem often comes from moving fast and breaking things. But success across a diverse ecosystem requires shifting gears. (You recall the adage about traveling “fast, alone” or “far, together.”)

What the work did most was foster new relationships and trust. Partners did find it challenging to execute projects and invite others in without consistent structure. So, a group of volunteers worked on a solution, led foremost by Starting 11 and Lunar Services founder Amanda Heyman, bSwing founder Jen Alstad, Yonder founder and Gener8tor Minnesota MD Adam Choe, Minnestar ED Maria Ploessl, Securian Director Liz Carraro, MN Cup Director Jessica Berg, and former Augeo executive Scott Moore.

GREATER MSP Partnership board members approved making Forge North a top priority of the Regional Economic Development Strategy. Now, to steer the ship we are building a Leadership Council, a combination of individuals from across the ecosystem working with organizational representatives of the GREATER MSP Partnership.

This coalition is called Forge North because it is about different organizations, networks, and individuals united by their pursuit of a shared ambition: to build the problem-solving capital of the new economy. (Some team members refer to this lovingly as “the Captain Planet thing.”) These lofty words are in need of clear and measurable goals. So, the very first thing this Council will do is set specific community goals to rally around, like the rate of new starts. Imagine what an entire community can do with intentional direction.

Meanwhile, the GREATER MSP Partnership will increase its support for these peer groups of investors, community builders, corporate innovators, and others. We will advance projects like this entrepreneurial resource guide and global outreach program. And we will use our platform to advance important work led by partners, like the state’s terrific new Launch Minnesota initiative, celebrations like BETA-led Twin Cities Startup Week and Grow North-led Food Ag Ideas Week, targeted programs like MEDA’s Catalyst and Million Dollar Challenge, and so much more.

We don’t necessarily know how to do this work together. Many of our peer communities have a head start. Not because they have more assets, but because they are taking risks. Indicators reveal where ventures are being started, capital is flowing, and shared prosperity is being realized.

However, the greatest collective risk we could take would be to do nothing. So, equipped with shared principles, existing momentum, grassroots leadership, and institutional support, we forge. We encourage you to join us, whether that’s by starting your own venture, increasing your support for the individual partners of this coalition, or by applying to the Leadership Council of Forge North and working in partnership with others.

Matt Lewis is Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at the GREATER MSP Partnership. To dive in and learn more, join founding Forge North partners and hundreds more on July 24 at the Palace Theatre for HORIZON, a Forge North event.

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.