Minnesota is no stranger to big business. It’s home to such names as Target, Best Buy, General Mills, and Ecolab — all of which have made their homes in Minnesota for generations and have become a source of pride. But a new industry — technology — is taking Minnesota by storm, boosting the local economy and putting the state on the global map once again.
Minnesota has long been known for its high standard of living, agriculture industry, and flourishing community of performing arts. But over the past decade the Twin Cities area has made great strides to become a forward-thinking place for startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs.
The number of tech businesses in Minnesota has grown exponentially since 2010, adding more than 500 startups since 2015 alone. Following the charge, venture capitalists now invest more than $200 million in the region annually.
That Cool Minnesota Lifestyle
What attracts people to Minnesota? “Incredible career options with a world-class quality of life you can actually afford,” says Matt Lewis, Director of Make It. MSP., a collective that helps Minneapolis-St. Paul attract and retain top talent.
“It’s no coincidence that data-point groups like WalletHub and U.S. News rank Minnesota a best state or tops for working moms and dads. With Fortune 500 companies, amazing parks, a growing arts scene, and more, this place really surprises people.”
A strong city ambassador who knows what it’s like to be new, Lewis has moved to Minnesota twice, and now works to help welcome the 30,000+ working professionals who relocate to MSP each year.
But aren’t the winters cold? Absolutely. Luckily, Minnesotans are hearty folks who take pride in braving the elements. They bundle up for business, sporting, social events. It’s the same never-say-die spirit that makes them strong entrepreneurs.
A Collaborative Community
That enterprising attitude also drives groups like Forge North, a collective of entrepreneurs, investors, collaborators, and allies from all sectors working together to grow Minnesota’s startup ecosystem. The collaborative Forge North umbrellas smaller ventures like startup accelerator gener8tor and tech community Minnestar.
“Minnestar has grown steadily since we started in 2006. Now we have nearly a thousand attendees at each of our events; that’s a real testament to the strength of the tech community here,” says Maria Ploessl, Minnestar’s Executive Director.
And don’t overlook the MN Cup, a startup competition that seeks to bind Minnesota’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, create technology jobs, and grow the state’s innovation footprint.
“MN Cup is an effective way to bring ideas to life — but to us it’s more than a competition. Yes, we’re trying to fuel interest in entrepreneurship, but we’re ultimately focused on creating jobs and using technology to solve meaningful problems that impact lives,” says John Stavig, Director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota. “It’s our way of putting Minnesota on the map as an innovation state.”
Startup Success New and Old
It’s supportive groups like those that lead to the success rates and growth at companies like Foodsby, a startup that recently raised nearly $14 million to roll out its office lunch catering and delivery service. Food delivery groups have been big ventures, but their fragmented locations give Foodsby a leg up in the growing Minneapolis market.
But the new companies aren’t the only ones grabbing headlines. There’s also WolfNet, a 22-year-old real estate data aggregation company which was just acquired by OJO Labs, showing that growth and innovation is pervasive for longtime Minnesotan tech companies, in addition to the fledgling startups.
“WolfNet was early to the real estate data and tech scene in Minneapolis, and it’s been fun to watch the industry grow and change here. Now we have the chance to use what we’ve learned from decades of experience to create a ‘next level collaboration’ with OJO Labs’ incredible AI technology. It really is an amazing opportunity.” says Jennie MacIntosh, Chief Operating Officer at WolfNet.
Even old-school startups are joining the scene. On November 7 tech darling Salesforce brings its popular Growth Camp series to the Twin Cities. The free tech conference for small businesses and startups features local speakers, 1:1 tech tutorials, a keynote from acclaimed marketing evangelist Mathew Sweezey, and a networking happy hour. Perhaps best of all, this event is free for all registrants.
“One of the core values of our company is innovation, so we love the great things we’ve seen in the Twin Cities market,” says Marie Rosecrans, SVP of SMB Marketing at Salesforce. “We’re committed to entrepreneurs and small businesses, and we look forward to helping more of them use technology to grow and succeed.”
The influx of successful startups has even brought opportunities in the form of coworking spaces. The original player, COCO used coworking as a vehicle to build a grass-roots, authentic community of entrepreneurs; its success lead to a joint venture earlier this year, a national franchise play called Fueled Collective.
Don Ball, Co-Founder and Chief Social Officer at Fueled Collective, has experienced Minnesota’s growth firsthand and has a finger on the pulse of what might be the clearest sign of Minnesota’s entrepreneurial prowess: “Since 2010, we’ve been practically the only coworking game in town. But since 2017, the amount of coworking space has quadrupled with the addition of WeWork, Industrious, Spaces, Novel, and many more.” The growth of these tech-minded communities offers hard proof of a strengthening market in Minnesota as well as nationally.
Growing in Diversity
An increasingly diverse population also plays a part in Minnesota’s boom, and with new demographics come the added diversity of thought. Some people now refer to Minneapolis as a Hipster Haven, while others celebrate its efforts to host WE18, the largest conference and career fair for women engineers.
“New cultures and diversity of thought are huge drivers of innovation on a regional level,” says Jeff Lin, CEO of Bust Out Solutions. “Our increasingly diverse population only adds to our ability to attract and retain great people.”
The Land of 10,000 Startups
Minnesota will always be the land of 10,000 lakes, but thanks to the influx of technology, it’s now also the land of 10,000 startups. A welcoming vibe and generous spirit make it an ideal place for a new venture. Thinking of joining the in crowd? Just check out the resources from 2018 Twin Cities Startup Week or find expert help at that free Salesforce Growth Camp.