The past, present, and future of the Minnesota startup scene converged on the McNamara Alumni Center in the midst of the Twin Cities’ time in the Super Bowl spotlight.
The Startup Capital of the North Showcase, organized by MN Cup and Greater MSP and sponsored by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, celebrated Minnesota’s entrepreneurial landscape. The January 30 event featured past winners of the statewide startup competition that’s organized by the Carlson School of Management, sports ventures, student businesses, and craft brewers.
“Innovation and entrepreneurship is the secret sauce to Minnesota,” Shawntera Hardy, state commissioner of employment and economic development, told the packed crowd.
Carlson School alumni Jake Phillips, ’13 MBA and co-founder of Prep Hoops, Harsh Mankad, ’15 MBA and founder of Tenicity, and Jamie Glover, ’17 MBA and co-founder of Asiya, took part in the sports startup exhibition, while two MN Cup-winning alums also presented: Ping Yeh, ’05 MBA and founder of Stemonix, and Lee Jones, ’95 MEP and founder of Rebiotix.
Carlson undergraduates Niels Biehler, Saawan Patel, Aditya Siripragada, and Michael Wessels won the student startup competition for their venture, Fountane, which connects nascent companies with affordable software development.
“There were so many business leaders who came up to me and (said), ‘We had no clue this startup community was so big in Minnesota and we had no clue that it was so successful,’” Biehler said.
That sentiment reinforced a core mission of the event. In the words of John Stavig, director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School, Minnesota’s startup scene is “not appreciated in terms of the amount of activity that’s going on or the potential for it.”
The fact that the Carlson School is working to change that narrative excites Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the former CEO of Carlson and the daughter of the Carlson School’s namesake. She noted that her father “dreamt of (the school) being a center for entrepreneurship.”
“The exciting thing is how it’s grown and become much closer to his dream,” she said. “He would be thrilled that we’re here today.”