Sometimes, timing is crucial. But so is trying again.

When Chad Halvorson was an hourly employee at a grocery store in the 1990s, he had to drive to work to check the weekly schedule, which was posted on a piece of paper. But he knew “there had to be a better way”—not just for him and fellow employees but for the manager, who juggled myriad schedules to make an ever-changing puzzle work.

Halvorson tried to start a business to streamline the process by moving it online, but he didn’t have any takers. He went on to have a successful career in software development before shifting over to design and finally running a consultancy in digital marketing and product development for 10 years.

With the advent of the iPhone, he decided the time was right to try again. This time it worked.

When I Work, which Halvorson founded in 2010, provides scheduling software that links hourly employees and employers. Managers can slot in the right person at the right time, and employees can request time off or trade shifts with other employees, all from their smartphones.

The next year, he entered MN Cup. He didn’t make it past the first round, but it was hugely helpful. “I’m a pure-blooded entrepreneur,” says Halvorson. “What MN Cup did was help round me out as an entrepreneur,” broadening his perspective on “all of the moving parts of building a software company.”

Two years later, the company entered again. This time, it won the High-Tech division.

Since then, Halvorson has passed two milestones: raising capital and setting up an advisory board. He says the visibility and connections he gained through MN Cup were instrumental to both. In fact, one of his board members is his 2011 mentor, John Tedesco. And in 2016, Halvorson paid it forward as a mentor in a MN Cup workshop. He’s also found great employees, directly and indirectly, through MN Cup.

The company recently moved to Minneapolis’ North Loop, a tech startup hub. He’s excited to be building a larger community but knows that goes well beyond a neighborhood; it’s part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem MN Cup has helped grow. “The more startups, the better,” he says. “It helps everybody.”

What's your big idea? Apply now for the Minnesota Cup 2017.