Starting Up North aims to tell stories, share insights and provoke interest in the innovation that goes on in Minnesota and surrounding communities
by Stephanie Rich
It can sometimes seem like the Minnesota startup community exists in another world. One that sits alone in the Minnesota economy, separate from the rest of what’s happening throughout the state.
It’s worth our time and effort to change this. When we have a startup and innovation culture that is more firmly integrated with everyone in Minnesota, it’s my belief we will see massive benefits for all sides. This means it (and by it, I mean startups and innovation happening in MN) is worth the time and attention of everyone, regardless of whether you’re a founder with one employee or a Director at a Fortune 100 or happily retired after a long career in public service.
What are the benefits of a more connected startup and innovation community?
Customers and clients
We have 17 Fortune 500 companies based in Minnesota. There is no reason that a startup with large enterprises as clients shouldn’t see our state as one of the top places to launch their company. But that’s not currently true. It’s difficult to land pilots, get introductions and sign contracts with some of the larger companies in town prior to having significant traction with other large companies; a catch-22 that necessitates looking outside the state for B2B customers leading to teams moving or launching elsewhere.
More knowledge, understanding and access to startup products hopefully results in more pilots and customers for startups, and access to innovative technology solutions, investments and acquisition targets for local corporations.
On a direct-to-consumer front, greater visibility of the products available from the startup scene here – from developmental toys for kids to rental camper vans to a new type of warranty provider – creates the ability to launch successful brands with Minnesota as a base market.
Yes, startups in this state need more talent to be willing to jump from a typical career to one in the world of entrepreneurship and innovation. But startups also need mentors, expertise and knowledge from those who are full-time at corporations, agencies and more. I’ve been able to see firsthand the value of having people from companies like Cargill, Ecolab and Target give their time to startups via the Techstars accelerators in town.
I also think that those at Fortune 500’s can also learn about innovating, speed and more from those of us in the startup community. Whether that’s via the mentorship mentioned about, advisory positions or talent moving from startups directly to roles within corporations, there’s tremendous value to be gained.
This is perhaps the area of most importance. There is wealth in MN, and for the economy to continue to grow we need to put more of that wealth behind seeding and growing our businesses. It’s my contention that better connection and knowledge within a larger part of the population will lead to increased angel investment in our early stage startups, and thus more successful companies that are started and grown here in MN (not to mention more people making money when those companies are successful).
There needs to be education not only about our companies and opportunities available but about the different types of investment and investment vehicles that are available. Yes, we could do with more later stage investing as well, but that will follow as we gain a population more educated, and perhaps more importantly, more comfortable with investing in the earliest stages of a company.
Starting Up North’s Role
Innovative and cutting-edge corporations, an engaged and excited workforce, increased wealth and numerous new and growing companies. That’s what happens when startups and innovation are fully integrated into our population.
How do we do that? There are many avenues through which we can better connect those in startups/innovation and those who are not. One of those avenues is via storytelling and communication. Starting Up North was born to try and provide interesting stories and insights about the startup and innovation world that appeal to a broad audience of Minnesotans. It is a window into what’s going on that is intended to excite, provoke interest and establish communication avenues throughout the state.
Now, Starting Up North isn’t going to make startups an integral part of MN culture on its own. It is one piece out of many that have an impact and bridge gaps throughout the community. But Starting Up North is an engine towards the situation depicted in this article. It is through stories that we engage, inspire and connect.
The way for you to help Starting Up North in our mission is to subscribe, read and share our content; but also to visit the sites of the startups we cover, the innovation we feature and the community that we will continue to highlight as it grows and spreads throughout our state.
Stephanie Rich is the founder and editor-in-chief of Starting Up North. She’s happy to have been involved with companies including Particle, Omnia Fishing, and Goby Partners. She can be found at the Techstars Farm to Fork office at Osborn370 and is passionate about Minnesota, startups, and dogs.