Jamie Sundsbak has been dreaming about this moment for a long time.
“Collider’s always existed off and on in a notebook that I had, I would say sketched out about four years ago.”
Jamie’s concept is finally coming to fruition as he moves into a role as Community Manager at a new business incubator in town. This 3000 sq. ft. space in the Conley-Maass Building, called Collider Core, opens later this month to grow and support Rochester’s entrepreneurial community.
“We have to acknowledge that entrepreneurs have always been a part of Rochester,” Jamie said. At their very core, William Worrall Mayo and sons William James and Charles Horace Mayo were entrepreneurs. The Conley-Maass Building itself is steeped in innovation. The Rochester Woolen Manufacturing company first occupied the building in the early 1900s. They were followed by Conley Camera Company, a competitor to what was then Eastman-Kodak. Around 1910, a plumbing and mechanical contract company, called Maass and McAndrew, occupied the space and routinely developed products for Mayo physicians and researchers.
“But in terms of what I would call more modern entrepreneurship, your tech scene, your biomedical companies, things like that. When I arrived ten years ago, it was pretty lacking.”
Entrepreneurship may have thrived in Rochester in the early 1900s, but in the early 2000s, the scene was pretty slim. Large, internationally known organizations like Mayo Clinic were essentially offering people their dream jobs.
“People who are in research or medicine dream of coming to the Mayo Clinic to practice medicine and do research. And that leaves a smaller proportion of people that may be comfortable sort of jumping off and becoming entrepreneurs,” Jamie explained.
He started assessing holes in Rochester’s entrepreneurial scene, searching for missing pieces he observed in other successful communities across the country. It all came down to a central gathering space.
“What I conceived of was an area, which ironically is about the size of this area, that would serve as a hub or core for a space. I called it Collider.”
He envisioned several different entities radiating off of the core space including a wet lab, tech, and maker space. Jamie mentioned the idea to former University of Minnesota Rochester Capstone and Community Engagement Relationship Manager Jenny Hegland, and the two started the shell of what was to become Collider.
Jamie formed a group with Rochester entrepreneurs AJ and Becky Montpetit, Dave Beal, and Jim Pringnitz. “We assembled a group of people of very interesting walks of life. People who had dreams and ideas and really just hadn’t been able to take that leap into entrepreneurship or into embracing social causes.” The met at Cube and called themselves Collider.
The group worked with motivational and leadership coach Travis Wilson to navigate through their personal fears in a moving and powerful month of classes.
Jamie took the lessons he learned from this experience, his observations from other entrepreneurial communities, and his experience with BioAM, an entrepreneurial group that supported biobusinesses in Rochester, and weaved them together to create perhaps what we can call Collider 2.0.
Jamie met and forged a bond with Hunter and Traci Downs during this formative time. A few years later, the Downses acquired the Conley-Maass building. The couple hoped to set up a coworking space in the facility and were looking for someone to run it.
“So all the ideas that had been kind of running around in my brain just suddenly came out. And [Hunter and Traci] kind of loved that high level summary of what I was thinking. And it really started from there.”
The Collider that will open its doors soon is actually two entities: Collider Core and Collider Community.
Collider Core is the physical piece on the second floor of the Conley-Maass Building. “We just wanted a great space in an old, historic building where we can push entrepreneurship forward, have great events, and really get people to work on creating the businesses of the future here in Rochester,” Jamie explained.
Collider Core is a blend between a traditional co-working facility and a business incubator.
“And so really the mission of Collider Core is to provide that physical space for someone to get started with an idea or a small business that they already have and plug them into the community in any way, shape, or form.”
The first piece of Collider Core is the physical space were businesses can grow side by side. There are several pricing options for entrepreneurs interested in Collider Core. For $100 a month, the “toe in the water plan”, members can be in the space eight hours a week at a non-dedicated desk. For $220 a month, members can use a “hot” desk five days a week. Finally, for $325 a month, members receive a “dedicated” desk and can leave their tools, things like monitors and office supplies, in the space. Collider Core also has security with 24/7 access, a kitchen, and a dedicated assistant.
The second piece of Collider Core is business development. This portion will be the focus once the Collider Core doors have opened.
“We talked about Destination Medical Center and we talk about all the initiatives. But I think what we really miss sometimes is the fact that entrepreneurship around the world plays a major role in the economy. More and more people are starting to embrace entrepreneurial philosophies, even in large corporations and intrapreneurship movements within large corporations. And I want that, the Core, to sort of be the hub for all of that.”
Collider Community makes up the final piece of this puzzle. Collider Community is similar to Jamie’s former group, BioAM. Just bigger. “What we’re doing with the Collider Community is where we’re taking that one step further and we’re encompassing all entrepreneurship here in the city of Rochester,” he said. Collider Community will support all types of entrepreneurship in Rochester, beyond just the life science and medtech spaces.
“We don’t want to be about selling desks and things like that. We want to be about growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in Rochester and we think that’s what the Collider Community will be all about.”
In the past three years, Rochester’s entrepreneurial community has changed almost on a logarithmic scale. First, we had the growth of spaces for entrepreneurs in Rochester. Cube, Rochester’s original co-working and event space, was the pioneer in 2012. Then the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator opened its doors in 2013. Now, the community has a third option with Collider.
“I don’t think we see ourselves as competitors. We see ourselves as a community,” Jamie explained.
The next piece to growth are more entrepreneurial events. We’ve brought Startup Weekend and Global Entrepreneurship Week to Rochester. Maybe a 1 Million Cups Rochester is in the near future. Jamie has a soft spot for events and sees them as one of the most important ways to become involved in the entrepreneurial community.
“We just want to continually have these events that keep people engaged, keep people motivated, and hopefully convert some people who may be on the fence with entrepreneurship into becoming entrepreneurs and realizing that they had some great options in town.”