#Emerge Episode 20 with Andy Smith

This week on #Emerge we sit down with new-to-Rochester resident Andy Smith. Andy is a former teacher turned entrepreneur and owner of Gray Duck Theater, a microcinema opening in Rochester this October. Gray Duck Theater aims to provide a mid-level cinema experience with excellent audio quality at an affordable price.

“I think we have a handful of cinemas in the area, cineplexes I should say. But nothing that is…romantic, unique.” -Andy Smith, Owner of Gray Duck Theater

Press Release: Introducing the Assistive Tech Challenge A New Pitch Competition in Support of Individuals with Disabilities

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(Rochester, MN) August 20, 2018 - Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency is pleased to introduce the Assistive Tech Challenge - a pitch competition presented by Destination Medical Center’s Discovery Square in collaboration with The Arc Minnesota Southeast Region and the disABILITY Mayo Clinic Employee Resource Group to facilitate greater independence for individuals with disabilities and the daily challenges they face.


Saturday, November 3, 2018 at the Assistive Technology Expo

Heintz Center, Rochester, Minnesota

Expo Hours: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Assistive Tech Challenge Pitch Competition: 12 Noon – 3:30 p.m.


The Assistive Tech Challenge seeks solutions to:

  • Alleviating barriers to employment;
  • Reducing the need for and/or easing the demands of direct support on care providers;
  • Developing social skills that better enable people with and without disabilities to interact and cultivate meaningful relationships; and
  • Improving access to the community through public infrastructure.


Who can participate:

Anyone interested in forming a team and developing innovative assistive technology solutions that would allow people with visible and invisible disabilities to live more independently, engage in productive employment, and participate in community life.


There are two divisions:

Open (community-based teams and students)

Professional (corporations formed with annual revenues not exceeding $250,000)


Innovations in both personal technology and the public realm/public infrastructure will be encouraged. Teams will be asked to address the following questions in a five-minute presentation to an expert panel of judges, followed by three minutes of Q&A:

  • What problem are you solving?
  • How are you solving the problem?
  • Why is your team the one to solve it?
  • What do you need to develop a minimally viable product (MVP)?


$15,000 will be awarded by The Arc Minnesota to the first and second place winners in each division to further advance their idea.

First Prize: $5,000

Second Prize: $2,500


All first and second place teams will be eligible to participate in the Walleye Tank pitch competition in Rochester, MN on December 7, 2018.

All teams must submit an application to Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency by October 19, 2018.  Incomplete applications will not be accepted.

For more information, check out the Frequently Asked Questions. (FAQs)

Orientation and workshop sessions will be announced soon.

To learn more, visit dmc.mn.

Press Release: Medical Alley Investment Report – Strong Start for 2018, but Loss of AITC Seriously Threatens Job Growth

Medical Alley Association released their first half investment report Monday, drawing attention to key developments taking place in the health technology industry. Medical Alley companies had a strong start to 2018, buoyed by new investments in biotech, with 45 companies raising $234 million in the first half of the year. Similarly, Medical Alley’s biopharma community had its best first half ever with $51.8 million raised by 10 companies, more than double the prior record from 2015.

However, the loss of the Angel Investment Tax Credit (AITC) is threatening job growth in Medical Alley. The fewest companies since the passage of the AITC raised money in the first six months of 2018, following the credits expiration.

“Clearly the loss of the Angel Investment Tax Credit has been detrimental to job growth in Medical Alley” said Shaye Mandle, President and CEO of the Medical Alley Association. “Lawmakers need to act to reinstate the credit, so that life-saving innovations and critical job creation can continue in Medical Alley, the global epicenter of health innovation and care,” Mandle said.

34 companies raised $4 million or less, the AITC cap, a 20% drop from the prior year, and a new low since the credit was first instituted.

About the Medical Alley Association

Founded in 1984, the Medical Alley Association supports and advances the global leadership of Medical Alley’s healthcare industry, and its connectivity around the world. MAA delivers the collective influence, intelligence and interactions that support Medical Alley.


Questions with SCORE: Why do I need to keep accurate business financial records?

Today we link up with SCORE Southeast Minnesota to learn more about SCORE and how they can assist in the growth of your business. In the video today, SCORE volunteer Barm Alsbrook answers the question, “Why do you need to keep accurate business financial records?”

Good financial records not only help you understand how your business is doing, they are essential to know how much money is flowing in and out of the business and to recognize if you need to change your prices. Accurate financial records are also necessary to accurately prepare your business taxes to receive the tax return that you deserve.

SCORE is the largest organization in the world that helps people start and run businesses through their free consulting services. Find your mentor by clicking the button at the top of the page or by going to directly to the “Find Your Mentor” website: https://www.score.org/find-mentor.

Five Rochester Girls Seeking to Advanced their Mobile App to Final Round of Minnesota Cup

 B.A.S.I.C. BALSA Team. Back row (from left to right): Simran Sandhu, Anjali Donthi, and Alexandra Bancos. Front row (from left to right): Audrey Whitney and Bailey Klote. Photo courtesy of Technovation[MN],

B.A.S.I.C. BALSA Team. Back row (from left to right): Simran Sandhu, Anjali Donthi, and Alexandra Bancos. Front row (from left to right): Audrey Whitney and Bailey Klote. Photo courtesy of Technovation[MN],

Five Rochester middle and high school girls are aiming to improve quality of life with their mobile phone application called Bridge. Team B.A.S.I.C. BALSA- comprised of Anjali Donthi, Simran Sandhu, Audrey Whitney, Alexandra Bancos, and Bailey Klote- placed first in the senior division of a state-wide tech competition. The girls are now making their way through the semifinal round of Minnesota Cup as the new school year approaches.

Bridge helps immigrants, refugees, and visitors locate necessary resources within their new communities like food, shelter, educational resources, and places of worship.

“Most of the members of our team, we have family who are immigrants. So that is how we chose to make an app that solved problems that immigrants faced,” explained Donthi, an incoming tenth grader at Century High School.

Users can search for resources within Bridge using six different languages including English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, and Hindi. Overall, the app aims to improve quality of life. The team hopes to scale Bridge to benefit other communities beyond Rochester.

The Bridge app was coded over fifteen weeks this past school year- primarily by sixth grader Whitney- as part of the Technovation Challenge. Technovation is a global competition that encourages girls to solve problems they encounter in their everyday lives with technology. Throughout the challenge, teams of five work with volunteer mentors to create mobile app “startups”; many teams have no coding experience prior to the competition.

Technovation has proven success of increasing young girls’ interest in coding fields. Fifty-eight percent of Technovation alumni enroll in additional coding classes after the competition. Twenty-six percent of alumni major in computer science in college, compared to the 0.4% national average of first year female computer science majors.

This year, ~19,000 young girls registered for the Technovation Challenge.

The Minnesota branch of the competition, called Technovation[MN], culminated in a statewide competition called Appapalooza in May, where teams showcased their mobile technology and business plan, which included marketing and financial strategies. This year, a record high seventy-five teams competed in Appapalooza, with nine teams moving on to the semi-final round of the global competition.

B.A.S.I.C. BALSA walked away from the state competition as the Senior Division winner, advancing to the Technovation semi-finals. Although their journey with Technovation this season ended in the semi-finals, the team spent the summer refining their business plan and pitch to compete in the Youth Division of Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide business pitch competition in the nation. The girls submitted their application to Minnesota Cup last week and learn if they will advance to the final round on August 21st.

Now, B.A.S.I.C. BALSA is refining their technology, building category filters for optimized searches, and adding additional languages to their app. The girls plan to ultimately turn over ownership of Bridge to Rochester’s Diversity Council for long term maintenance and support.

Overall, the girls of B.A.S.I.C. BALSA said they enjoyed the Technovation experience and plan to continue with the program throughout their middle and high school careers. In addition to learning coding, the competition also taught them teamwork, business development, and other valuable skill sets.

Plus, they just had a good time.

“[Technovation] is really fun and [other girls] should do it because it can be a really good learning experience. If you never ever thought of doing it and you try, maybe you’ll really like it and you can go into the field of coding someday,” said Klote.

Teams from Rochester and southeast Minnesota have historically performed well in the Technovation Challenge. Three years ago, a team of seventh graders from Kasson-Mantorville Middle School were one of four teams that qualified to compete in the Technovation finals in San Francisco. Last year, Rochester high school team SKeMAs finished as runners up in the global semi-final round for their app to minimize distracted driving.

New Childcare Facility Opens in Rochester


A new Rochester childcare facility has officially opened its doors. Eureka Kids- located on 9th Street NW- hosted its grand opening on July 24th, officially beginning childcare operations on July 30th.

This 7,600 square foot new build facility is owned by Mayo Clinic husband and wife IT specialists Hema Sai Kishore and Mangesh Mane.


Eureka Kids provides childcare and educational services to children aged six weeks to five-years-old. The center is heavily focused on early education, utilizing a STEM based approach- called S.M.A.R.T.E.R.- that encourages independent learning and creative thinking skills.

Eureka Kids can facilitate care and education for one hundred children. The center houses classrooms, a commercial kitchen, an outdoor play area, private nursing room for mothers, and much more.

Enrollment is currently open for infants, toddlers, and preschool aged children.

Where Are They Now: Carpet Booth Studios

 Photo courtesy of Carpet Booth Studios.

Photo courtesy of Carpet Booth Studios.

Today we check back in with local business Carpet Booth Studios!

Last July, we chatted with Carpet Booth Studios, a full production and recording studio in Rochester, a few months after their official opening. The studio is owned and operated by local entrepreneur Zach Zurn.

Zurn named the studio “Carpet Booth” in homage to the business’s humble roots, a makeshift production studio he and friends constructed in his mom’s basement as teens.

Carpet Booth has made significant strides over the past year, said Zurn. The studio has been working with local and non-local artists spanning most musical genres. The business currently has two interns on staff and celebrated their one-year anniversary this spring.

Carpet Booth has also moved to a brand new space in southeast Rochester over the past few months. Zurn aims to complete renovation of the new studio space by the end of 2018, for which the business is currently seeking funding.

Currently, Carpet Booth is “working to establish ourselves as the premier recording studio in the Rochester, Winona, La Crosse, and Mason City area,” explained Zurn.

Press Release: gBETA Medtech Announces Summer 2018 Cohort


Minneapolis, MN – gBETA Medtech, a program of the nationally ranked accelerator gener8tor, announced the six startups that were selected for its Summer 2018 cohort. gBETA Medtech is funded by Boston Scientific, with additional support from Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota, and Medical Alley Association.

gBETA Medtech is a free, seven-week accelerator that works with medical device, healthcare-related software, biotech and diagnostics startups. Each gBETA program is capped at six companies, and requires no fees and takes no equity. Participants receive intensive and individualized coaching and access to physicians, researchers, successful entrepreneurs, angel investors, venture capitalists and industry experts. The program is designed to help startups gain early customer traction on their product or idea, and establish metrics that can make them competitive applicants for full-time, equity-based accelerators or seed investment.

The gBETA Medtech Summer 2018 cohort consists of six startups selected from an international applicant pool. Descriptions for all six companies can be found below.

“As gBETA Medtech builds momentum with this second cohort, we’re encouraged by the increasing diversity of the applicants drawn to Medical Alley,” said Adam Choe, director of gBETA Medtech. “With companies from across the country focused on a wide range of patient needs, we’re confident that this group will maximize the opportunities to engage with mentors, investors and strategic organizations during our seven-week program and will bring the best of Minnesota’s medtech cluster back to their local markets.”

  • InterShunt (St. Louis, Missouri) designs and develops a catheter based minimally-invasive procedure, without an implant, to provide relief for millions suffering from heart failure.
    CEO: Harlee Sorkin | harlee@intershunt.com| www.intershunt.com

  • Lucia Health Guidelines (San Francisco, California) uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to facilitate clinician adherence to American Heart Association guidelines in order to close gaps in care.
    CEO: Mathew Rothway | mathew@luciaguidelines.comwww.luciaguidelines.com

  • Morari Medical (Minneapolis, Minnesota) is restoring confidence in male sexual health by eliminating the embarrassment and frustration of sexual dysfunction.
    CEO: Jeff Bennett | jbennett@morarimedical.comwww.morarimedical.com

  • Noleus Technologies (Houston, Texas) designs and develops a disposable device that mitigates postoperative bowel swelling to accelerate patient recovery after abdominal surgery.          CEO: Swarna Balasubramaniam, MD | swarna@noleustechnologies.com|www.noleustechnologies.com

  • Sunrise Health (Boston, Massachusetts) provides patients with mental health or substance use conditions 24/7 access to anonymous, text-based group support.                                          CEO: Shrenik Jain | shrenik@sunrisehealth.co| www.sunrisehealth.co

  • SuraMedical (Minneapolis, Minnesota) increases the consistency in chronic leg wound treatment by remotely monitoring critical aspects of chronic care.
    CEO: Marja Engel | marja.engels@suramedical.comwww.suramedical.com

    gBETA Medtech is now accepting applications for the Fall 2018 cohort. Applications are open to startups across the globe. Startups interested in applying should contact gBETA Medtech Director Adam Choe (adam@gener8tor.com). For more information on the program and ways to get involved, please visit www.gbetamedtech.com.

Press Release: Medical Alley Applauds House Passage of Device Tax Repeal – Urges Senate Action

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Golden Valley, MN- Today (July 24, 2018), the United States House of Representatives voted 283-132 to permanently repeal the Medical Device Excise Tax. The Medical Alley Association thanks those House members who voted to bring certainty to the healthcare marketplace and to prioritize health consumer access to the next-generation of medical technology solutions. The House has wisely voted to make permanent what Congress has suspended since 2016. We are encouraged that this strong, bipartisan vote will prompt the United States Senate to act quickly and move this legislation to the President’s desk for his signature. 

Medical Alley is especially grateful for the leadership that Congressman Erik Paulsen has provided on this issue. He has worked tirelessly, with members of both parties, to prioritize this issue and to eliminate this tax. Today’s vote would not have been possible without his hard work and dedication. 

Medical Alley is home to the most densely concentrated medical technology cluster in the world. We thank the other members of the Minnesota delegation who voted in favor of this legislation, Congressmen Tom Emmer, Jason Lewis, Collin Peterson, and Rick Nolan. 

About the Medical Alley Association

Founded in 1984, the Medical Alley Association supports and advances the global leadership of Medical Alley’s healthcare industry, and its connectivity around the world. MAA delivers the collective influence, intelligence and interactions that support Medical Alley. 

Questions with SCORE: Does SCORE Provide Loans or Financial Capital to Small Businesses?

Today we link up with SCORE Southeast Minnesota to learn more about SCORE and how they can assist in the growth of your business. In the video today, SCORE volunteer Brian Alwin answers the question, “Does SCORE provide loans or financial capital to small businesses?”.

SCORE does not loan capital or provide grants to small businesses. However, SCORE does have a partnership with the Small Business Administration, which does provide funds to people starting small companies. Learn more about these programs by visiting with a SCORE mentor or by participating in a SCORE workshop or webinar on this subject.

SCORE is the largest organization in the world that helps people start and run businesses through their free consulting services. Find your mentor by clicking the button at the top of the page or by going to directly to the “Find Your Mentor” website: https://www.score.org/find-mentor.

Press Release: Vyriad Announces Collaboration with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer to Evaluate Oncolytic Virus in Combination with Anti-PD-L1 Antibody in Phase 1 Clinical Study

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ROCHESTER, Minn., July 18, 2018 – Vyriad Inc., a clinical-stage, privately held biotechnology company focused on the development of powerful first-in class oncolytic virotherapies, is pleased to announce a collaboration agreement with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer to expand its ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial program in solid tumors to include a combination study of its lead asset, Voyager-V1, with avelumab*, a human anti-PD-L1 antibody. For more information on this novel immuno-oncology combination study, please see clinicaltrials.gov.

“We are delighted to be working with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt Germany, and Pfizer on this innovative combination treatment approach,” said Stephen Russell, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of Vyriad. “Voyager-V1 is being administered to inflame the tumors, and avelumab has been shown to release the suppression of the T cell mediated antitumor immune response in preclinical models.”

“We are encouraged by the potential of Voyager-V1, which has demonstrated early clinical activity in patients with solid tumors,” said Alise Reicin, Head of Global Clinical Development at the Biopharma business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, which operates in the U.S. and Canada as EMD Serono. “We look forward to investigating how combining Voyager-V1 with avelumab may advance patient care.”

“A primary focus of our clinical development program for avelumab is to evaluate the role and potential of immunotherapy combination regimens, in an effort to support patients with challenging cancers,” said Chris Boshoff, M.D., Ph.D., Senior Vice President and Head of Immuno-Oncology, Early Development and Translational Oncology, Pfizer Global Product Development. “We look forward to working with Vyriad to explore this novel combination for patients with solid tumors.”

Avelumab has received accelerated approval** by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of patients with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC) and previously treated patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC), and is under further clinical evaluation across a range of tumor types under a global strategic alliance between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer.

*Avelumab is under clinical investigation for treatment of various solid tumors and has not been demonstrated to be safe and effective for this indication. There is no guarantee that avelumab will be approved for specific solid tumors by any health authority worldwide.

About Voyager-V1
Voyager-V1 (VSV-IFNβ-NIS) is derived from Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV), a bullet-shaped, negativesense RNA virus with low human seroprevalence, specifically engineered to replicate selectively in and kill human cancer cells. Voyager-V1 encodes human IFNβ to boost antitumoral immune responses and increase tumor specificity, plus the thyroidal sodium iodide symporter NIS to allow imaging of virus spread. Three first-in-human Phase 1 clinical studies of Voyager-V1 are exploring intravenous and intratumoral routes of administration.

About Avelumab
Avelumab is a human anti-programmed death ligand-1 (PD-L1) antibody. Avelumab has been shown in preclinical models to engage both the adaptive and innate immune functions. By blocking the interaction of PDL1 with PD-1 receptors, avelumab has been shown to release the suppression of the T cell-mediated antitumor immune response in preclinical models.1-3 Avelumab has also been shown to induce NK cell-mediated direct tumor cell lysis via antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) in vitro.3-5 In November 2014, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer announced a strategic alliance to co-develop and cocommercialize avelumab.

Avelumab is currently being evaluated in the JAVELIN clinical development program, which involves at least 30 clinical programs, including seven Phase III trials and nearly 8,300 patients across more than 15 different tumor types. For a comprehensive list of all avelumab trials, please visit clinicaltrials.gov.

Indications in the U.S.**
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted accelerated approval for avelumab (BAVENCIO®) for the treatment of (i) adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older with metastatic Merkel cell carcinoma (mMCC) and (ii) patients with locally advanced or metastatic urothelial carcinoma (mUC) who have disease progression during or following platinum-containing chemotherapy, or have disease progression within 12 months of neoadjuvant or adjuvant treatment with platinum-containing chemotherapy. These indications are approved under accelerated approval based on tumor response rate and duration of response. Continued approval for these indications may be contingent upon verification and description of clinical benefit in confirmatory trials.

Important Safety Information from the U.S. FDA-Approved Label
The warnings and precautions for avelumab (BAVENCIO®) include immune-mediated adverse reactions (such as pneumonitis, hepatitis, colitis, endocrinopathies, nephritis and renal dysfunction and other adverse reactions), infusion-related reactions and embryo-fetal toxicity.

Common adverse reactions (reported in at least 20% of patients) in patients treated with BAVENCIO for mMCC and patients with locally advanced or metastatic UC include fatigue, musculoskeletal pain, diarrhea, nausea, infusion-related reaction, peripheral edema, decreased appetite/hypophagia, urinary tract infection and rash.

For full prescribing information and medication guide for BAVENCIO, please see www.BAVENCIO.com.

Alliance between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer Inc., New York, U.S.
Immuno-oncology is a top priority for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer Inc. The global strategic alliance between Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and Pfizer Inc., New York, U.S., enables the companies to benefit from each other’s strengths and capabilities and further explore the therapeutic potential of avelumab, an anti-PD-L1 antibody initially discovered and developed by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. The immunooncology alliance will jointly develop and commercialize avelumab and advance Pfizer’s PD-1 antibody. The alliance is focused on developing high-priority international clinical programs to investigate avelumab as a monotherapy, as well as in combination regimens, and is striving to find new ways to treat cancer.

About Vyriad
Vyriad is a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing novel oncolytic virus therapies for the treatment of cancers that have significant unmet need. Vyriad’s oncolytic immunovirotherapy product candidates are based on the company’s engineered Oncolytic Vesicular Stomatitis Virus (VSV) and Oncolytic Measles Virus platforms that enable selective destruction of cancer cells without harming normal tissues.

Vyriad’s product development pipeline encompasses multiple clinical- and preclinical-stage programs that target a broad range of cancer indications, as well as programs that pair the company’s oncolytic viruses with other cancer immunotherapy modalities, traditional cancer therapy, and newer targeted therapies. Vyriad’s lead program, Voyager-V1, is in Phase 1 clinical research in solid tumors and hematological indications (please see
clinicaltrials.gov). In addition, Vyriad is developing novel diagnostic/theranostic tests for more accurate prediction of immunovirotherapy response.

1. Dolan DE, Gupta S. PD-1 pathway inhibitors: changing the landscape of cancer immunotherapy. Cancer Control 2014;21(3):231-7.
2. Dahan R, Sega E, Engelhardt J et al. FcγRs modulate the anti-tumor activity of antibodies targeting the PD-1/PD-L1 axis. Cancer Cell 2015;28(3):285-95.
3. Boyerinas B, Jochems C, Fantini M et al. Antibody-dependent cellular cytotoxicity activity of a novel anti-PD-L1 antibody avelumab (MSB0010718C) on human tumor cells. Cancer Immunol Res 2015;3(10):1148-57.
4. Kohrt HE, Houot R, Marabelle A et al. Combination strategies to enhance antitumor ADCC. Immunotherapy
5. Hamilton G, Rath B. Avelumab: combining immune checkpoint inhibition and antibody-dependent cytotoxicity. Expert Opin Biol Ther 2017;17(4):515-23.

Titus Plattel
Chief Operating Officer

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Lessons Learned from Kauffman ESHIP Summit


This past week, I had a great time in Kansas City at the Kauffman Foundation’s ESHIP Summit. The purpose of the summit was to bring together entrepreneurial ecosystem builders to solve the most pressing issues facing today’s entrepreneurs. The summit was intended to take place in three phases: discover, design, and deliver. During “Year One” of the summit, in 2017, over 450 entrepreneurial ecosystem builders convened to discover the most challenging issues facing entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders. During “Year 2,” over 600 entrepreneurial ecosystem builders gathered in Kansas City last week to design real, tangible steps to work toward solving these challenging issues.

But first, why should we care about entrepreneurs? Why do entrepreneurs matter?

Entrepreneurs are the doers, makers, and dreamers who turn ideas into reality and create things of value to address societal and community challenges. Entrepreneurs start businesses and grow businesses. Entrepreneurs drive progress; they are diverse in gender, race, religion, age, and background.

The entrepreneur of today looks nothing like the entrepreneur of yesterday.

Entrepreneurship can be a solution to some of the most pressing issues facing today’s society. Entrepreneurs are nimble and move quickly, creating wealth, jobs and value in their communities. Entrepreneurship can pave the way out of poverty for an individual and that person’s family.

But there are significant barriers to entrepreneurship, especially for women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals, older Americans, people with disabilities, and veterans. Although entrepreneurship has increased interest in the US, entrepreneurial activity in this nation is in a 30-year decline. Voices and talent are being left from the innovation table and there is no level playing field. Ninety-five percent of venture capital money goes to white and Asian men. Women are half as likely as men to own businesses, with only 2.7% of venture capital going to companies with female CEOs in the US. Only 0.2% of these funds go to companies with black female founders, even though these individuals comprise the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. Minorities own half as many businesses as non-minorities. These businesses are more likely to start small and stay small.

When everyone cannot participate in an entrepreneurial ecosystem, that ecosystem fails to meet its full potential.

The ESHIP Summit suggests that we may need a new economic development model, one that’s more human-centric and aligned around individuals in the community who are developing economic value organically: the entrepreneurs.

One way to accomplish this change is through the fostering and nurturing of entrepreneurial ecosystems. These communities are inclusive and allow for “talent, information, and resources to flow quickly to entrepreneurs as they need it.”

An entrepreneurial ecosystem, or entrepreneurial community, is “a group of people that trust each other and believe they belong together,” according to Fabian Pfortmueller, a Swiss community builder.

An entrepreneurial ecosystem consists of many interconnected pieces which allow entrepreneurs to find the resources they need quickly at each stage of their company’s growth. These pieces include: entrepreneurs, talent, people and institutions, champions and conveners, onramps, intersections, stories, and culture.

People are always at the center of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem.

These ecosystems are built and nurtured by entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, which, admittedly, are novel and innovative positions themselves.

Ecosystem builders foster human-to-human connections and “connect, empower, and collaborate with others to build the system.” These people often work behind the scenes to foster trust and collaboration, functioning as a kind of invisible infrastructure.

Anyone can be an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder. The only requirements are patience, understanding, and true dedication.

Seven best practice design principles exist to build healthy entrepreneurial ecosystems:

1.     Put the entrepreneur front and center. Entrepreneurs should lead entrepreneurial ecosystems. They know what is needed and what will work. Find people leading in the community and support what they are already doing.

2.     Foster conversations. Connect people with the resources they need.

3.     Enlist collaborators. Welcome everyone.

4.     Live the values. This is a network, not a hierarchy, although there are leaders. Dream, listen, rethink failure, and give before you get.

5.     Tell a community’s authentic story. Don’t try and be anyone else. Tell your true narrative and showcase your leaders.

6.     Connect people.

7.     Just start, and then be patient. Ecosystem building takes time and patience.

The ESHIP Summit served as a Firestarter for entrepreneurial ecosystem builders to learn from each other and co-create ways to best position our individual communities, and the ecosystem as a whole, to create a new economic development model focused on entrepreneurship and building real solutions.

Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is Rochester is young and we have a unique opportunity right now to build it into something that can work for everyone. Each of us has an important role to play in that process. I challenge all of you to be innovative and be collaborative. Create. Talk. Share. Trust and believe. Speak the truth and speak that truth loudly. Don’t shame or hide failure but learn and grow from it. If you want to create a group, event, or start an initiative in the community, don’t wait for somebody to tell you that you can do it. If you want to build something in this community, then just start. #StartSomething

******Reference: ESHIP Playbook Version 2.0*********************  

It's Our Two-Year Anniversary!


Today, I am pleased to say, is the two-year anniversary of Rochester Rising. This online news platform was officially launched on July 12, 2016 to fill an unmet need in the community: to amplify stories of Rochester entrepreneurs that would otherwise remain untold. Since our launch date, Rochester Rising has told the stories of over 143 unique startups, innovative small businesses, and entrepreneurial initiatives in the community.

Last year, we threw a party to celebrate our one-year birthday. This year is a bit of a different occasion as I attend the ESHIP Conference in Kansas City over the next two days to collaborate and learn from other entrepreneurial ecosystem builders from around the country. The name “entrepreneurial ecosystem builder” is certainly a nebulous, relatively new term. For a generally introverted person, it’s something that I never envisioned myself doing. But today, as the conference opened, I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be- with Rochester Rising and other efforts in the community- even though this realization has taken ­a very long and non-linear path. ­­ I’ve learned many lessons even in the half day that I’ve been at ESHIP so far that I’m excited to bring back to the community.

Building and developing Rochester Rising has been a passion of mine and something that I think is of great value. This would not have been possible without an immense amount of help and support from several close friends, family members, mentors, and collaborators, for which I am truly grateful.

And of course, Rochester Rising would not be possible without all of you, the community. The people who read the stories, listen to the podcasts, watch the videos, and provide me with support and encouragement.

Thank you.

Here’s to another year of amplifying stories of Rochester entrepreneurs.

Questions with SCORE: Why Do I Need a Business Plan?

Today we link up again with SCORE Southeast Minnesota to learn more about business plans and why they are recommended for your company. In this video, SCORE volunteer Brian Alwin answers the question, “Why do I need a business plan?”.

Business plans are encouraged for any business and serve as a place where you can lay out your ideas in a single document. Information in a business plan can include your products, services, price point, potential clients, and financials. Business plans do not need to be extremely in-depth or complicated; they can even be a single paged document, called a lean canvas.

SCORE can help anyone create a business plan with their mentoring services and workshops. SCORE additionally has online webinars about business plan writing on their website that can be perused at your convenience.

SCORE is the largest organization in the world that helps people start and run businesses through their free consulting services. Find your mentor by clicking the button at the top of the page or by going to directly to the “Find Your Mentor” website: https://www.score.org/find-mentor.

Questions with SCORE: Meet Your New Mentor

Today we continue our “Questions with SCORE” series, talking more about the benefits of using the completely free SCORE business development program, with a focus on mentor matching and business plan writing.

Today on the video with speak with local SCORE Mentor Stephen Troutman, a former U.S. Naval Reserve Commanding Officer who holds an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Venture Management from the University of Southern California.

SCORE is a completely free small business service that was formed in 1964 and is supported by the Small Business Administration. SCORE has over 11,000 mentors nation-wide across 300 different chapters. The local chapter, SCORE Southeast Minnesota, has twenty-five different mentors spanning multiple different industries. The acronym SCORE previously stood for “Service Corp of Retired Executives.” However, this name is now defunct as SCORE has incorporated many mentors still in business, as well as retired professionals, to increase the value of their service. 

SCORE Southeast Minnesota has particular interest in connecting with the local innovation and entrepreneurial community.

Throughout this series, SCORE Southeast Minnesota will be taking your questions about business development or how SCORE can be of value to your business endeavors. If you have questions for SCORE, please leave them in the comments below.

“If you’re an entrepreneur thinking about starting a business, you can talk to us. If you’re someone who’s been in business for a while and wants somebody to come and talk to you how to improve your business, you can talk to us.” -Stephen Troutman, Mentor with SCORE Southeast Minnesota

Where Are They Now: Stewartville Business Incubation Program

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One year ago, the Stewartville, Minnesota Economic Development Authority (EDA) was awarded a $9,000 Incentive Grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) to implement a brand-new business incubation program in that city.  The program allowed new businesses to lease eligible, vacant properties within the industrial and commercial districts of Stewartville, with decreasing rates of rental assistance offered to these businesses for eighteen months. This incentive was meant to lower barriers to starting a business in the city and to encourage the creation and launch of new, for-profit businesses.

This grant was primarily authored by Joya Stetson, a business development specialist with Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) who serves the Stewartville EDA.

Recipients of rental assistance through the program were also required to attend entrepreneurial education classes, which were primarily designed and taught by CEDA. These courses were also open to any other existing business owners in the community, free of charge.

One year later, the Stewartville EDA is still offering the business incubation program in the community. Over the past twelve months, the EDA has admitted one new business into the program, Thrivent Financial, allowing the business to create two new jobs in the city.

Local Thrivent Financial owners Nick Johnson and Nic Hale found the program extremely beneficial to grow their business.

“Our team has been humbled by the tremendous support we have received from the City of Stewartville. We have received education and funding, which helps at a business level, but also gives us encouragement and great motivation to serve this great town. …The community members and its elected leaders have given us a great head start on that dream, and for that, we are extremely grateful,” said Johnson.

About twenty-nine different local entrepreneurs also participated in the education classes offered.

Over the next year, the Stewartville EDA will continue to evaluate and assess the impact of the program for the local entrepreneurial community. The incubation program has continued financial support for the program from SMIF and technical assistance from CEDA to continue the educational classes and rental assistance. Now, the EDA is seeking ways to market this unique business development opportunity to the entrepreneurial community, particularly those seeking to grow their business in Stewartville.

Five Legal Issues for all Healthcare Entrepreneurs

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A few weeks ago, the Rochester startup community heard from Fredrikson & Byron healthcare attorneys Ryan Johnson and Marguerite Ahmann for “Health Law 101: Key Legal Issues for Health Care Companies.” This event was hosted by the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator and Collider Coworking.  

Here are five key legal issues that Johnson and Ahmann believe all healthcare entrepreneurs should have on their radar.

1.     False Claims Act (FCA). The FCA is the primary mechanism used by the government to combat fraudulent claims to the federal government. The FCA was originally enacted in 1863 to protect against fraudulent suppliers to the Union Army during the Civil War. This statute holds any person liable who knowingly submits false claims to the government and can result in payment of treble damages- or triple the amount of the actual damages- plus a $5,000-10,000 penalty for each false claim. This statute applies to many areas of healthcare, especially billing and coding and off-label marketing of drugs. It does not hold persons or entities liable for mistakes, including coding errors.

2.     Qui Tam Provision. This is a provision included in the FCA, which allows people not affiliated with the government, called “relators,” to file false claim accusations on behalf of the government.

3.     Anti-Kickback Statute. This statute makes it illegal to offer, solicit, or receive any payments intended to induce a referral of a federal healthcare program business. Safe harbor regulations outline financial transactions that would not be regarded as offenses under the statute. These specific allowances involve transactions at fair market value.

4.     Stark Law. These are a set of federal laws originally intended to protect against unnecessary testing and services that could increase healthcare costs. These laws prohibit a physician from self-referring Medicaid/Medicare patients for a Designated Health Service (DHS) to an entity in which the physician or an immediate family member has a financial interest. This is a strict liability statute, meaning proof of intent to violate the law is not necessary. Violation of Stark Law is a civil, not criminal, penalty of up to $15,000 per claim.

5.     Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Enacted in 1996, HIPAA is a federal statute that safeguards Protected Health Information (PHI). PHI broadly refers to any information about the state of health, healthcare treatment, or healthcare payment that can be linked to a specific individual. HIPAA applies to “covered entities” – healthcare providers and health systems- and “business associates” – third parties who are contracted to work with the covered entities and have access to PHI. HIPAA provides patients with certain rights over their PHI and who can access these data. Sometimes state laws are more strict than federal HIPAA regulations. In these cases, the more restrictive law must be followed. This is the case in Minnesota, where the Minnesota Health Records Act places additional obligations on healthcare providers not covered under HIPAA. 

For more information about healthcare law, please check out these web resources:

·      U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

·      Office of Inspector General

·      Minnesota Department of Health

Local Musician Launches GONE Clothing to Bring Classic, Quality Clothing to Rochester

 Photo courtesy of GONE Clothing.

Photo courtesy of GONE Clothing.

After making waves in the national music scene, Rochester native Chris DeWerd has his eye on design. This local entrepreneur officially launched his clothing brand business GONE a few months ago to bring modern, high-quality clothing to the city.

DeWerd’s journey to the big stage began back in 1999. While attending the ninth grade at Mayo High School his band, Mr. Completely, won a contest to open for a Minneapolis punk rock group, called Flipp. Four years later, Mr. Completely signed a record deal with major label Capitol Records.

“We got real lucky, basically. We played the high school homecomings and stuff in town before that and the pool halls back then,” DeWerd laughed.

After the record deal, the group rebranded as The F-Ups and toured the country for two years, playing with names like Papa Roach and making appearances on the Vans Warped Tour. The band was best known for their song “Lazy Generation,” which appeared on two video games: NHL 2005 and Burnout 3: Takedown.

After moving to Las Vegas in 2006, The F-Ups broke up. After the disbandment, DeWerd stayed in the Vegas area to pursue a degree in music business. Eight years ago, he returned home to Rochester with his girlfriend and her daughter, seeking a better education system for the young girl.

Although DeWerd spent much of his young adulthood in music, he’s always had an interest in clothing and design.

“When I was younger…I would patch the word ‘GONE’ on all my clothing,” he explained.

DeWerd enjoyed cutting letter designs out from one shirt and sewing them onto another to create something new and fresh. During his early youth, he even had experience printing shirts for his father’s band.

“I thought that was so cool that you would just take a plan black T-shirt and some logo and once you put it together, it was like magic,” he said. “You had this whole new thing that was cool all of a sudden with very little effort.”

Prior to launching the clothing brand, DeWerd created his own shirt designs, posting the images on his Instagram account and YouTube channel. After operating in this manner for some time, he bought a sewing machine, taught himself how to sew, and officially launched GONE as a business this past December.

Now, DeWerd designs everything for GONE on his computer, presses the images onto the shirts himself, and sews on the tags. As a solo entrepreneur, he’s learning by doing. Besides teaching himself the essential sewing skills needed for his business, DeWerd is also learning web design and running his own social media marketing.

While GONE has a website, DeWerd does most of his sales directly to consumers through Instagram and Facebook messaging.

To distinguish himself from other clothing brands, he’s also developed a deeper meaning for GONE, encouraging people to “be the best you” or be one of the “Great Ones” (GONE) while wearing his T-shirts, tanks, and jackets.

Now, DeWerd is raising awareness of the brand and getting more people to experience the look and feel of the product. He’s showcasing GONE clothing at several local events, including the Minnesota Disc Golf Tournament in Stewartville in May and the Salute to the 4th in July. Consumers can also find the shirts at the Melting Clock Smoke Shop right in Rochester.

DeWerd spent a lot of time and effort finding the highest quality materials for GONE. Besides elevating awareness of the clothing, he now is also creating more customized and unique products.  

To keep your eye on the newest GONE merch, check them out on Instagram @gone_inc.

Press Release: Halcon Furniture Announces Expansion

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STEWARTVILLE, MN, JUNE 7TH, 2018 – HALCON announced today the acquisition of additional manufacturing facilities in Stewartville, Minnesota and the creation of at least 50 new, full-time positions.

HALCON has purchased a 57,500 square-foot manufacturing facility and 10.5 acres of property from neighboring Becton, Dickinson and Company. The facility, constructed in 2014, and property are adjacent to HALCON’s existing headquarters and manufacturing operations.

“The location is ideal, allowing us to expand operations now, and in the future, with all employees continuing to work at a single, unified campus,” said Ben Conway, President.

With more than 330 current employees, HALCON will expand operations in Stewartville to meet demand for their award-winning office furniture product lines, which includes executive desking and conference room solutions.

“We are hiring now, continuing to invest in Stewartville, and very proud to be providing careers in manufacturing,” said Peter Conway, Chairman.

Founded in 1977, HALCON Furniture is a recognized leader in design, quality, and innovation for the contract office furniture industry.

For more information, visit www.HALCONfurniture.com

#Emerge Episode 19 w/ Solomon, Ken, D'Angelo, and Haron

This week on the #Emerge we sit down with Solomon Antoine, Ken Nguyen, D’Angelo Tines, and Haron Arama of SolKen Technology. These young entrepreneurs are local high school and college students focused on building their current product FAVR. This web-based platform matches freelancers with jobs, such as yard work and errand-running, in the community.

“You have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. It takes a lot to start a business and you have to have a lot of confidence.” -Solomon Antoine