Business Development

Where Are They Now? Escape Challenge Rochester

 Photo courtesy of Escape Challenge Rochester.

Photo courtesy of Escape Challenge Rochester.

After first telling their story one year ago, today we check back in with family-owned business Escape Challenge Rochester. Escape Challenge is this city’s first locked room experience, where teams search for clues and solve puzzles to “escape” from the room in sixty minutes or less. The first Escape Challenge location was opened in downtown Rochester by mother and son team Nathan and Cindy Schroeder in 2015, with a second location in northwest Rochester opening one year later.

 Since we last spoke in fall 2017, two additional challenges have been added to the northwest location, while all the challenges were discontinued at the downtown Escape Challenge. 

“This was always part of the plan when we took on the lease at the north location,” explained Nathan Schroeder. “Escape rooms don’t have any replay value. After a person has done a challenge, they would never come back and do the same one again.” 


The original Escape Challenge downtown location, Schroeder explained, was smaller and more difficult to remodel, shifting the focus of the business to their current northwest Rochester location.

Escape Challenge has experienced a large increase in the amount of team building activities taking place at their current building. Now, they’ve added a meeting room to accommodate this need. The business can also facilitate large groups of up to forty-five people simultaneously performing challenges with the increased number of themed escape rooms at their northwest location.

Currently, Escape Challenge is in the final phase of construction in their current building.

“That doesn’t seem like much to some businesses, but we are a small business run by a mother and son. We built our business entirely on a bootstrap model since we started three years ago,” Schroeder explained. 

Once construction is finally complete, Escape Challenge will enter into a new phase of the business, where they can focus on enhancing the customer experience and capturing new market segments.

The business is focused on a sales and marketing push over the next year to attract more customers during the week days and to get more people through their doors who have yet to experience an escape room.

Escape Challenge has made it this far, Schroeder explained, by word-of-mouth and through providing “an amazing experience for every customer each time.” To capture more of the market and fill up time slots, Schroeder said the business will need to be more proactive with their sales efforts.

Gender Communication Differences: What Can We Learn?

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While most of us have observed communication differences between men and women, these discrepancies are also well documented by psychological and scientific research. This article is not meant to separate genders into strict communication buckets. And it’s certainly not meant to encourage readers to change their own behavior. Instead, this piece is meant to open up the dialogue about different communication styles to help us better recognize patterns within ourselves and to enhance our interactions with others in both our personal and professional lives.

Improved communication, or an elevated understanding of divergent communication methods, can help to manage confrontation, aid in conflict resolution, relieve stress and anxiety, build stronger relationships, and meet our needs as humans for social interactions. Strong communication skills can facilitate goal achievement and improve job performance, especially in customer service and management positions.

Research shows that men and women are more likely to exhibit different styles of verbal communication. Men are more prone to adopt what is called “report talk,” while women gravitate more toward “rapport talk.”

“Report” style of communication is driven by the exchange of factual information to solve a given problem. This type of communication is direct and typically does not include any personal anecdotes or stories, with limited emotional connotation. This type of communication is aimed at building relationships based on solving that task at hand. “Report” communication users typically tend to dominate the conversation and speak for longer periods of time than other types of communicators.

“Rapport” communication, on the other hand, is aimed at building relationships and problem solving with the aid of those relationships. This style of communication includes more listening than “report” communication and involves the inclusion of more personal feelings and past experiences to solve tasks. “Rapport” communicators tend to problem solve as they are speaking and are more concerned with everyone equally contributing to the conversation. 

When speaking, women typically utilize a wider range of pitch and tonal variations compared to men, incorporating five tones into their voice versus the three tones expressed by men. This increased variation may underlie the stereotype that women tend to be more emotional speakers than men. 

Non-verbal signals are also important contributors to communication. Similar to divergent verbal communication styles, men and women tend to gravitate toward different methods in this type of communication. 

In general, women tend to condense their bodies into as compact a space as possible. This involves tucking in elbows, crossing legs, and keeping any materials in stacked piles. Women also tend to display more animated facial expressions, smile more, and make more eye contact than men. Men, on the other hand, tend to expand more than women into physical space and normally resume a more relaxed body posture. 

Again, these data are generalized statements and are not meant to convey that all men fit into one type of communication category and all women into another category. This is also not meant to position one style of communication as superior to the other. This discussion, instead, is just meant to describe two very general forms of communication so we can recognize them with the goal to improve our own communication and relationship building skills. 

However, we can all set ourselves up to be better communicators in the workplace if we practice something called executive presence. You don’t have to be a CEO to implement this style of communication. Instead, executive presence just involves exhibiting confidence, communicating clearly and efficiently, and reading an audience or situation effectively. Executive presence includes eliminating behavior like questioning ourselves as we speak, laughing nervously while talking, overly apologizing, storytelling in excess, and being extremely deferential. Instead, executive presence involves listening, talking efficiently to forward the conversation, speaking firmly, and standing/sitting tall.

Highly important to executive presence is a skill set called emotional intelligence (or EI). EI is a concept pioneered in 1990 by psychologists John Mayer and Peter Salovey. This behavior involves high levels of self-awareness, including the ability to perceive, understand, and interpret emotional information.

EI is useful for relationship building; highly effective leaders also typically have elevated levels of EI. 

Overall, neither gender appears to have an advantage over the other in the ability to practice or develop EI. Some studies suggest that women might be slightly better than men at displaying emotional empathy, one aspect of EI.

EI has even been observed in chimps. While in this case, female chimps tended to exhibit higher levels of empathy than males when interacting with other chimps. However, alpha males, the troupe leaders, generally displayed higher levels of empathy than even the females.

Want to learn more about differences in gender communication? Take a dive into the references below and join us tonight for a roundtable discussion at Little Thistle Brewing around this topic.



1.     Capita3 materials and verbal communication. 2018.

2.     Kinsey Goman, Carol. “Is Your Communication Style Dictated by Your Gender?” Forbes. N.p., 31 May 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

3.     Nelson, Audrey. “Gender Communication: It’s Complicated.” Psychology Today. N.p., 24 June 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

4.     Graham, Debra. “Gender Styles in Communication.” University of Kentucky. 13 Sept. 2018.

5.     Mohindra, Vinita and Samina Azhar. (2012). Gender Communication: A Comparative Analysis of Communicational Appraoches of Men and Women at Workplaces. Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences. 2(1), 18-27.

6.     Goleman, Dan. “Are Women More Emotionally Intelligent Than Men?” Psychology Today. N.p., 29 April 2011. Web. 12 Sept. 2018.

7.     Barisco, Justin. “You Need to Learn How to Make Emotions Work for You, Instead of Against You. Here’s the Proof.” Inc. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

8.     Meshkat, Maryam and Reza Nejati. (2017). Does Emotional Intelligence Depend on Gender? A Study on Undergraduate English Majors of Three Iranian Universities. SAGE Open. July-September. 1-8.

9.     Lipman, Victor. “New Study Shows Women Consistently Outperform Men in Emotional Intelligence.” Forbes. N.p., 11 May 2016. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

10.  “Gender Issues: Communication Differences in Interpersonal Relationships.” The Ohio State University. Web. 13 Sept. 2018.

Questions with SCORE: Four Simple Marketing Questions for your Business

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 Cheryl Thode addresses four questions you should think about as you develop your business marketing plan.

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:

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.

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:

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

“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

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

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 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

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:

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 Olmsted County Teams Advance to Semifinal Round of Minnesota Cup


Last Thursday, startup semifinalists were announced in the 2018 Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the nation. These ninety companies will compete in nine different divisions: Education & Training, Energy/Clean Tech/Water, Food/Ag/Bev, General, High Tech, Life Science/Health IT, Impact Ventures, Student, and Youth Divisions.

Over $500,000 in seed funding will be awarded this season to companies participating in the Minnesota Cup business plan competition. In addition to financial capital, startups also receive mentorship opportunities, media exposure, and business plan feedback.

Applications for this year’s Minnesota Cup opened on March 26th. Over the next several months, finalists will be chosen in each of these nine divisions, earning a chance to win the overall $50,000 grand prize at the final awards ceremony at the McNamara Alumni Center on October 8th.

This year, Minnesota Cup received 1,661 applications from around the state, a twenty-two percent increase from last season.

Five teams from Olmsted country have advanced to the semifinal round of the competition including:

·      Oronoco-based Busy Baby LLC in the General Division. This company’s product, the Busy Baby Mat, can be utilized on any flat surface to keep babies busy and baby toys safe and clean. The mat is also portable.

·      Rochester-based LipiQuester LLC in the Life Science/Health IT Division. LipiQuester is a patent-pending nutraceutical that sequesters fat from the diet to prevent fat absorption, minus the negative side-effects experienced from typical anti-obesity treatments.

·      Rochester-based Mill Creek Life Sciences in the Life Science/Health IT Division. Mill Creek Life Sciences has developed the first human platelet cell lysate on the market, called PLTMax. The company’s additional product, PLTGold, is a media supplement for stem cell growth.

·      Rochester-based Thaddeus Medical Systems in the Life Science/Health IT Division. This startup has developed iGler, a smart hardware and software packaging solution to protect and keep medical and biological samples cold while shipping.

·      Rochester-based B.A.S.I.C. BALSA in the Youth Division. This team of young women is developing an app to connect immigrants to resources in their new communities to enhance quality of life. This product was developed as part of the Technovation Challenge, a global initiative that enables girls to solve real-world problems through technology.

Congratulations to all the advancing companies and best of luck in the remainder of the competition!

Local Resident Seeking to Grow Car Museum in Rochester

 Photo courtesty of the Musuem of AUtomotive History.

Rochester entrepreneur Eric Pool has always loved cars. From this first Matchbox toy to his earliest real vehicle, this deep interest has evolved and expanded over a lifetime.

“When I was finally old enough and had enough money to purchase a few [cars] I got to thinking, what’s going to happen to these long term?” Pool explained.

Pool had experience working with the Florence B. Dearing Museum, a Victorian-style home in central Michigan. He thought that perhaps an automobile museum might be the exact solution he was seeking.

Beyond a few mini-museums, particularly around the Minneapolis area, there were no dedicated car museums in Minnesota. Pool reached out to local car enthusiasts and clubs, receiving resounding positive interest in such an establishment.  He believed that Rochester was the perfect place to launch this vision.

“With DMC looking for more options [for patients] to do while they are here, the museum fits well with that,” Pool explained.

Now, Pool’s Museum of Automotive History is a tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit with a seven-person Board of Directors, of which Pool is President. The museum currently has amassed a collection of cars, which mainly belong to Board members, including Poole’s own 1981 DeLorean and 1963 Ford Galaxy. The Board also has a growing number of car memorabilia, books, and car-related toys, but not enough yet to require a dedicated physical space. The museum is gaining a reputation as the “go to” place for cars around Rochester, showcasing the vehicles and other car items around the community upon request.

Pool’s ultimate vision is to set up the museum as a type of car showcase for the community, where car enthusiasts could display their vehicles during poor weather months, similar to the lay out at a car show. Through this type of “loan program,” the museum could obtain cars at a relatively low cost and rotate the cars on display to keep the museum content from stagnating.

Pool’s vision for the automobile museum expands well beyond a basic car showcase.

“We don’t want it to be simply a car museum for the typical demographic to look at a car and leave,” he explained. “We want this to be a community component. We want to be able to bring in children of all ages to learn about cars.”

Now, Pool has his eye out for just the right space for the museum. He wants the gallery to remain “as diverse as possible” in the types of cars showcased, perhaps even broadening as a general transportation museum including cars, planes, and trains. Pool hopes to utilize a historic building in Rochester for the museum, but suggested the costs might be too high for this concept to come to fruition.

“We love the idea of sharing space with other museums. We would greatly entertain that with any other museum that has interest,” Pool said.

This “shared roof” concept would save costs for his museum, as well as provide a variety of options at one location, shopping mall style, where families could visit together and meet their diverse interests.

The Museum of Automotive History’s seven-member Board of Directors has been instrumental in the organization’s growth. Members include Pool’s father and wife as well as Tony Swann, a member who lives outside of Minnesota with experience in the car museum space.

“It’s been a fun road to travel with all these individuals who have been able to come in at certain points to help us get it off the ground,” Pool explained. “That’s part of what I’ve enjoyed the most, is working with the other individuals.”

As with many museums, funding has been a roadblock to growth of a car museum in Rochester. However, Pool said, the Board is not always looking for financial capital. Assistance is also welcome as donations of cars or car-related items.

“But another one that is often times forgotten are the right volunteers, the right Board members, the right interested parties who can make this happen,” Pool explained.

The museum is always searching for people who can donate their time, knowledge, and connections toward growth of this resource in the community.

While the Museum of Automotive History continues to move forward, Pool’s immediate goal is to become the voice in the Rochester community for all things car related. These efforts include maintenance of an in-depth calendar of car events on the museum’s website as well as the group’s car showcase program in the community.

“Minnesota is one of those states where we really need to have a presence here for more museums, not just cars, but museums in general, and Rochester is no exception to that,” Pool said.

Questions with SCORE: Meet SCORE Southeast Minnesota

SCORE Southeast Minnesota is a completely free, local business resource that offers one-on-one mentoring, webinars and online training, and more for any industry. Today on the video we talk with Kimberly Alwin, Volunteer with SCORE SE Minnesota to learn more about SCORE and what it can do for your business. Alwin describes SCORE as "your biggest fan and your biggest supporter."

This is the first video with SCORE Southeast Minnesota in a four part series to help the community learn more about SCORE and see if it is a good fit for your business.

As part of these videos, we will be taking your questions about SCORE in particular or about some aspect of business development. Select questions will be answered by SCORE Southeast Minnesota in upcoming videos. So here's your chance to ask SCORE a question!

Leave all your questions and comments below for a chance to have your question answered in our next video. Learn more about SCORE Southeast Minnesota by heading over to their website at:

Opinion Piece: How Smart Entrepreneurs Become Natural Leaders- Part 1


About the author: Graeme Thickins has been a marketing consultant to early-stage technology startups for three decades and is based in Minneapolis. He's also both a mentor and a coach and an angel investor. In addition to his own blogs, his writings have appeared in Chief Executive, The Angel Journal, Computerworld, CIO, eWeek, ReadWriteWeb, eContent, and elsewhere. Follow his latest writing on Twitter under the handle @graemethickins.

Does starting a company make you a leader? Not by a long shot. The journey may begin there, but unfortunately many never make the grade.

Why is it some founders excel at mastering leadership?

There can be many reasons of course. But a large percentage of entrepreneurs will tell you what made a difference for them was one particular thing: a coach.

Coaches are all about building leaders. Case in point: the late, great Bill Campbell, who established a reputation as “the coach of Silicon Valley” to such legendary founders and CEOs as Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt, and Larry Page. He held that only one thing determines whether or not you’re a leader: the opinions of those you’re supposed to be leading, as described in one media tribute to him.

Steve Jobs said about his early years at Apple with Bill Campbell as his coach and confidant: “He loves people, and he loves growing people… Apple is only its ideas — which is only its people.” And no one can argue that Jobs became a leader of people.

Mentors are about giving advice. Coaches are about asking questions.

Bill Campbell knew that he was often expected to have all the right answers, but that was not the way his coaching methodology worked, according to his friend and former colleague at Claris Corp., Randy Komisar, now a VC at Kleiner Perkins. (They worked together after Campbell left his role at Apple as VP of Marketing.) His coaching style involved a relationship with the founder or CEO, Komisar said, and an ongoing dialogue about self-development. He felt they should feel comfortable talking about anything. In a typical session, said Komisar, Bill would ask questions like these: “What are we trying to fix? What can we do? How much of it is people? How much of it is technology? How much of it is process?”

Is it common for entrepreneurs to have a coach? They may not speak openly about it but, if you ask them, most successful founders will say yes. Who are these coaches, and how do they differ from other types of coaches — like executive coaches, general business coaches, or so-called life coaches?

There are many examples of these latter types of coaches who’ve written best-selling books and gone on to become millionaires from highly paid speaking engagements or the sale of seminars and courses. But do all coaches seek such fame? Certainly not — only a tiny fraction. And, let’s face it, such famous coaches are well out of the reach of entrepreneurs. They’re priced for Fortune 500 executives.

Sure, you can buy a book. But a book is not a coach.

Game Time

Do entrepreneur coaches share traits with athletic coaches? Absolutely! And most all of them played one or more team sports when they were younger — learning at the hands of good coaches, observing how a well-coached team becomes a well-functioning team, and living through the ups and downs that any team experiences.

Here’s how I think about it: for entrepreneurs and their coaches, their sessions together are like practice — and the coach owns that. All the rest is game time — and you own that. It’s where you put in place what you learn from all your collective practices over time.

All good entrepreneurs know they cannot succeed on their own. Even “solopreneurs” have a team around them — not in the respect of a management team and employees, as they will when their venture gets larger. But “team” definitely comes into play for them even in the early days when they first set out. That team often includes certain family members, their closest friends, their lawyer, accountant, and certainly contractors and other “partners” in their success. And, yes, it’s fair to say their customers, too — because they want you to succeed as well! (Maybe more so.) You want them on the journey with you.

What, you haven’t thought about customers as team members? You should.

But that team of yours also needs a coach. You, as the founder, are the captain of the team. The coach is the person who helps you build your leadership skills. And helps you build others into leaders — as Bill Campbell most certainly taught.

Why Do Company Founders Seek Out a Coach?

It’s lonely out there. And, yes, many founders are loners in their own right — especially if they’re conducting business as a solopreneur. But most all know they need support, encouragement, and objective feedback about their business, their management style, etc, and that they need to take off their blinders sometimes. A good coach helps them do all those things.

Certainly, if married, a founder gets support, encouragement, feedback, and more from his or her spouse. But most need someone more detached, objective, and experienced in working with other entrepreneurs over years, even decades — and that’s where a coach comes in.

Entrepreneurs need a coach at many times in their journey, but especially in the formative stages when they’re seeking to build a stable, cash-flowing, growing business. To grow means having to face decisions at every turn — and all good founders seek advice from those they trust when they’re in unknown territory. If they don’t, they put themselves at a severe disadvantage.

Check back next Thursday for the second part in this story!

Free gBETA Medtech Accelerator Program Launches in Minneapolis to Support HealthTech Startups

 gBETA Medtech cohort participant Andy Pfahnl of Kobara Medical displaying his technology at the 2018 Walleye Tank Spring Opener. Kobara Medical is an early stage medtech company developing solutions for heart failure and cardiac arrthmia.

gBETA Medtech cohort participant Andy Pfahnl of Kobara Medical displaying his technology at the 2018 Walleye Tank Spring Opener. Kobara Medical is an early stage medtech company developing solutions for heart failure and cardiac arrthmia.

Gener8tor, a national accelerator that invests in high growth potential startups, recently launched its very first industry specific program, gBETA MedTech, right here in Minnesota. The inaugural gBETA Medtech cohort jump started the program in Minneapolis on March 22nd. This pilot class will culminate with a LiveBETA Medtech pitch session in Minneapolis on May 21st.

Unlike core the gener8tor accelerator programs, where gener8tor invests in startups in exchange for equity, gBETA programs are completely free. Gener8tor invests no funds in the companies and receives no equity in return. With the freshly minted gBETA Medtech in Minneapolis, startups still receive the “same experience of introductions to mentors and introductions to investors throughout the program,” explained Director of gBETA Medtech Adam Choe. “We spend a lot of time making sure their messaging is clear and their critical pathway is well understood.”

This industry specific gBETA accepts medical device, healthcare related software, biotech, and diagnostic companies into their program. Pharmaceuticals are outside of the scope of this particular accelerator.

gBETA Medtech is made possible through a partnership with Boston Scientific, the University of Minnesota Office for Technology Commercialization, Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center, and Mayo Clinic.

Choe says gBETA Medtech occurs from a “perfect intersection” of these three partners with the current Minnesota startup ecosystem. Choe understands the struggles of getting a startup off the ground and wants to help other companies achieve success.

“That first valley of death where you may not know the right people and funding is tight, we can help facilitate a lot of strategic introductions. If we do it right, we can do in seven weeks what would normally take seven months,” he explained.

Participating startups do not need to be headquartered in Minneapolis or even in Minnesota; the program just requires one founder to be in Minneapolis for the duration of the seven-week program.

 Adam Choe (at right) Director of gBETA Medtech during a panel discussion at the 2018 Walleye Tank Spring Opener.

Adam Choe (at right) Director of gBETA Medtech during a panel discussion at the 2018 Walleye Tank Spring Opener.

“We don’t want to come in and take over for a company,” Choe said. “We want to be there to supplement what they know is a weakness of theirs. Or maybe they don’t know it’s a weakness, but we can help them uncover some things that, when you’re in the thick of it, you kind of lose track of.”

gBETA Medtech’s first six-startup cohort spans a range of stages. Some of the current companies are funded just by the founders at this point; some by SBIR grants. Other startups in the program are led by students. For this reason, Choe says gBETA Medtech is more like a “Swiss Army knife for startups” instead of a one-size-fits-all bootcamp style program.

While this first gBETA Medtech class will continue to be a learning process, gener8tor looks forward to supporting two additional gBETA Medtech cohorts this year, attracting companies from Rochester and even outside of Minnesota. Choe hopes that involvement in gBETA Medtech will help startups attract follow-on funding and even get accepted into additional accelerator programs that can invest funding.

While gBETA Medtech is brand new in Minnesota, the core gener8tor equity accelerator program in Minneapolis has already graduated one class, investing $90,000 in five different companies. This cohort included Kaleidoscope, a company that designs and administers scholarships and locates and manages scholarship applicants and recently closed a $1.3M round of seeding funding. For equity gener8tor programs- located in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Madison- have invested in sixty-five companies.

By the end of 2018, Choe says twelve companies will have graduated from the industry agnostic gBETA that’s also run in Minneapolis. In addition, two more gBETA Medtech cohorts and another for-equity gener8tor accelerator class are anticipated to graduate from programs this year in Minneapolis, for a total of thirty-three startups.

“That’s thirty-three more startups that we’re hoping to help make introductions, facilitate mentors, facilitate investors, and just be their support and network that they need as they try to navigate the startup world,” Choe said.

Currently, gBETA Medtech is seeking more startups and mentors to help propel the program forward.

“It takes a village, it really does for a startup. We are just trying to build up the strongest network. There’s no reason why the strongest healthcare network, medtech network, can’t be in Minnesota,” said Choe.

Top Raises, Acquisitions, and Stories for Q1 in Minnesota


2018 in Minnesota’s startup scene started off with a bang. Here are the top funding raises, acquisitions, and moves from around the region in the first quarter of 2018.


Top Raises

  • 26 companies in Medical Alley raised a Q1 record high $112M in capital.

  • Medical Alley experienced the largest funding in the digital health sector, with $69M raised by 6 companies.

  • Biotechnology companies also had a strong Q1 with 6 companies raising $29M. The largest raise in this sector was led by Biothera, a company developing a unique cancer immunotherapy called Imprime PGG.

  • The medical device sector experienced a $14M capital raise by 12 companies.

  • Bind Benefits, a company providing on-demand health insurance, saw the overall largest Q1 raise in Medical Alley of $60M. This funding was led by Lemli Ventures.

  • Startup Upsie closed a $1.7M round of funding. Upsie is an app that helps consumers purchase warranties for devices- like Apple Watches, laptops, and headphones- at lower prices than retailers.

  • Startup Kaleidoscope closed on a $1.3M seed round in Q1. This company designs and administers scholarships and locates and manages scholarship applicants.

  • Learn to Live- a mental health startup providing online therapy for social anxiety, depression, and more- raised $4.3M in capital in Q1.

  • phData, a data management company, secured $2.5M funding, led by Arthur Ventures.

Top acquisitions

  • Two companies in Medical Alley were acquired in Q1 for $1.2B.

  • This included ABILITY Network, an IT company that simplifies administrative and clinical aspects of healthcare.

  • Urology startup NxThera was acquired by Boston Scientific this quarter.


Top stories

  • The Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund made its first three investments, including funding for the Rochester-based Sonex Health and Minneapolis-based Oculogica. Sonex Health has developed the SX-One microknife to achieve minimally invasive carpal tunnel release surgery. Oculogica is creating the EyeBox device to collect and analyze eye movements to diagnose traumatic brain injuries and concussions.  

  • Rochester tech startup Spark DJ is admitted into the Techstars Music Accelerator program in Los Angeles. Spark DJ is utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence in their mobile application to allow your phone to be a DJ.


References/Additional Reading

Medical Alley Association's Q1 Investment Report

Minnesota’s Top Startup Stories and Deals of Q1

Episode 79: 1 Million Cups Rochester with Stationary Astronauts and Solken Technologies

Rochester Startup Spark DJ Accepted into Techstars Music Accelerator Program

Bike Repair, Apps, and Improved Shared Decision Making: Here's What Happened at the Latest 1 Million Cups Rochester


The community heard from two Rochester-based entrepreneurs at the past 1 Million Cups Rochester who are operating in very different spheres.

First up was Ken Zaiken with KZaiken Enterprises. Zaiken is developing a patient-oriented app to improve the process of Shared Decision Making (SDM) called EZSDM.


SDM- the process where the physician and the patient work together to plan out tests and treatments based on the patient’s values- is a well-documented method. The problem is, the actual implementation of SDM into the clinic does not always happen. Poor communication between patients and physicians, Zaiken explained, is a large part of the issue. When talking to physicians, patients may be overwhelmed or completely zone out and fail to effectively communicate during these challenging moments.

Zaiken said there needs to be a better way to tap into the patient mindset and have their values and desires play a role in their own healthcare. He believes that his app, EZSDM, is a viable solution to this problem.

Zaiken is using his twenty-eight years of software and project management experience to develop this tool to break down communication barriers and take into account the value of five different factors to the patient: duration of treatment, pain, life expectancy, success rate, and cost. Zaiken envisions EZSDM as a modern tablet interface where the patient can rank the importance of these five values to their treatment. The patient can then share graphical output of these rankings with the physician to influence the treatment plan.

“The important thing is to have a meaningful discussion,” Zaiken explained.

So far, he’s received positive feedback on EZSDM from the medical community. Now, he’s looking for a physician flagbearer for the product, which he hopes will help to drive funding to fuel the creation of a beta version of his vision.

Next up at 1 Million Cups Rochester was Charly Tri, Founder of My Bike Guy. My Bike Guy is a mobile bike repair business that Tri runs out of a van. This emerging startup is built off of Tri’s twenty-five-year history of bike repair.

Tri, a self-described “go-getter,” began working in a bike repair shop in Rochester at age fifteen. He first conceptualized his business four or five years ago but put the idea on the backburner until his oldest child entered kindergarten. Tri built his business as conservatively as possible to save funds, designing the website, logo, and even the wrap for his van himself.

Tri’s mobile bike repair shop is nearly as well supplied as any brick and mortar facility. The best part is the convenience of Tri’s service; My Bike Guy comes to you to repair your bike, regardless of location.


“You literally don’t have to get out of your pajamas,” Tri joked.

The biggest threat to My Bike Guy, Tri explained, is the establishment of other mobile bike repair businesses in Rochester. However, he’s not too concerned. Tri thinks that you should have at least ten years of bike repair experience before launching into a mobile endeavor. Bike sales are the biggest opportunity for his business that Tri sees right now. He’s done fairly well in this avenue so far and can currently source any type of bike to retail.

1 Million Cups is a free, national education program developed by the Kauffman Foundation. 1 Million Cups takes place every Wednesday at 9AM across 174 US communities to support and encourage entrepreneurs. The program is based on the idea that entrepreneurs connect and discover solutions over one million cups of coffee.

Join the community at the next 1 Million Cups Rochester on Wednesday April 4th.

Coworking: What You Should Know About This Global Trend and Where to Cowork in Rochester


Coworking- office space where an individual or small group can rent open or semi-private workspace- is a business trend on the sharp rise. As of 2017, approximately 13,800 coworking facilities exist globally, growing at a 22% rate each year, according to the 2017 Global Coworking Survey. Over 1,180,000 people around the world work out of these types of spaces. With 12,500 square feet of coworking space in operation in this city, we thought it was time to take a deeper dive into this trend and better understand the true coworking value.

 The Vault coworking space in Rochester. The Vault is located above Grand Rounds Brew Pub.

The Vault coworking space in Rochester. The Vault is located above Grand Rounds Brew Pub.

On the surface level, coworking spaces are exactly that- places to work. They typically include some sort of open work area, where people can rent individual desks on a monthly, or even daily, basis. Some coworking facilities offer semi-private office space, like the small group “campsites” at COCO Coworking. Most coworking facilities also contain sound-proof areas to take phone calls, meeting room space, snacks, beer, lots of coffee, and a mailing address outside of your home. Some even have in-house bars, lockers, showers, daycare, and discount partnerships with local business (such as WeWork and Lyft in Minneapolis).

 Rochester Area Foundation non-profit incubator space.

Rochester Area Foundation non-profit incubator space.

Coworking spaces are not just for the uber-hipster, either. And they’re not just for the solo entrepreneur. Small teams, freelancers, remote workers, startups, and teams from Fortune 500 companies can and do operate from coworking facilities.

The extreme flexibility of coworking spaces is perhaps their biggest value add in today’s dynamic business climate. Coworking rental agreements are typically no longer than one month and are renewed on a monthly basis. This allows businesses to avoid long-term leases and offers the ability to scale up or down both the real estate and team in a financially responsible manner.

Coworking facilities come in a variety of flavors. There are massive, one-size-fits-all, chain entities like WeWork and Industrious, both of which have locations in Minneapolis. WeWork is the giant, for-profit entity in coworking; the business has a $20B valuation (Crunchbase), with 305 office locations in 62 different cities. Industrious, also for-profit, has 25 locations in the US and just raised $80M (Axios).

While all general purpose coworking facilities can’t all be unicorns, they can be francized, even on a smaller scale. The Beauty Shoppe is a prime example. This private-public partnership began as a single entity, in a beauty shop in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood. Now, The Beauty Shoppe has four additional locations around Pittsburgh and one facility in Cleveland.

COCO Coworking, another for-profit business, is a great example in our region. COCO now has four Twin Cities locations and has set up shop in Chicago. COCO recently rebranded to Fueled Collective, where their facilities will blend into a hybrid coworking space and social club, linking this community to other Fueled Collective spaces in New York and Cincinnati.

Coworking spaces can also be targeted to specific demographics, when the community is large enough to support it. Several examples exist in the Los Angeles region including One Roof Women, a space specifically for females; The Hatchery Press, a work area just for writers; and Kleverdog Coworking, a facility for the dog lover.    

While there certainly are a plethora of coworking facilities on the global scale, only 41% of coworking spaces are actually profitable. The bottom line: they just take a lot of money to run and receive little money in return. On a non-financial level, coworking spaces can also fail if they do not create an identity, offer no or poor business programming to their members, are not involved in the local community, and fail to develop an inspiring physical space.

 Inside of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.

Inside of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.

“The success of a coworking space depends on the community that you’re in,” explained Jamie Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking in Rochester.

Some particular standout successes occur when coworking spaces popup in repurposed, old buildings and activate that space. This helps to drive foot traffic, interest, and activity to perhaps otherwise unutilized areas of a city. This was the case with Collider Coworking, which took space in the over 100-year-old Conley-Maass-Downs Building in 2016.

Success also occurs when coworking facilities bring distinct educational value to their tenants, such as The Corner, a Beauty Shoppe location in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. This facility offers a ten-week training program in conjunction with Penn State University to support product commercialization.

The most effective coworking spaces, by far, are those that add value to both the surrounding community and to their tenants. They are useful tools to cluster creative minds together to generate synergy, spur innovation, and fuel collaborations to solve real problems. They also provide cost-effective office space to get emerging companies off the ground.

 Rochester's newest coworking space, Collider, located in the Conley-Maass-Downs building.

Rochester's newest coworking space, Collider, located in the Conley-Maass-Downs building.

In a city the size of Rochester, coworking spaces may be more effective as non-profit entities, where they “turn more into an economic development play than a co-working space alone,” explained Sundsbak.

Red Wing Ignite, a non-profit that provides coworking space in Red Wing, Minnesota practiced this concept since 2013. Red Wing Ignite subsidizes rental costs to tenants and keeps the lights running through a variety of private-public partnerships including support from Xcel Energy, Goodhue County, Red Wing Shoes, the City of Red Wing, and the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

In Rochester, we have four different co-working spaces, financed in a variety of ways, including: The Vault, Collider Coworking, the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, and Rochester Area Foundation. We are on par with the global coworking trend; most of these facilities in Rochester are at 75-100% capacity.

To learn more about the coworking options and culture in Rochester, check out our Rochester Startup series that we created with Ambient House Productions.    

How to Develop Your Personal Brand: A Lesson from Local Experts

 Sidewalk art (with photo filter) by Eric Anderson.

Sidewalk art (with photo filter) by Eric Anderson.

This Wednesday The Commission, a Rochester-based young professionals group, held their latest Professional Development Panel discussing how to develop personal image. The expert panel included: Michael Wojcik, Rochester City Council Representative and owner of Elite Consulting; Sarah Miller, brand strategist and owner of White Space; and Christian Mogensen, Interactive Media Director at Think Mutual Bank.

Here’s what these local authorities had to say about personal branding, personal vision, and how to develop as a young professional in any community.


What is a personal brand?

A personal brand can be thought of as your legacy. It’s what you want to be known as and what you stand for as an individual.

Are personal brand and personal vision the same thing?

They are related but separate entities. A brand is like your personal theme, which develops from self-discovery. Brand also is a type of promise. How well you keep that promise becomes your reputation. Personal vision is more forward thinking and encompasses your ultimate goals and desired accomplishments.


Did you sit down and write out your personal vision or did it develop over time?

Personal brand and personal vision can change based on experiences, passions, and opportunity. Typically, our branding and personal vision development starts at a very young age when we don’t really know much about ourselves as individuals. When you develop more experience or desire to leave the safety net of an employer or perhaps even a field that you’re highly trained in to seek out something more rewarding, you’ll likely need to re-invest in yourself and develop a different, more focused vision and brand. Part of this involves learning your strengths and weaknesses and following your assets down a singular path.


How do you seek out mentors to help develop your personal brand and vision?

Look for mentors in roles that you aspire to hold some day. But mentors that failed to reach these positions might be even more valuable and have many lessons to pass on. Remember that mentorship can develop from unexpected people, so don’t close yourself off to opportunities. Always keep in mind that mentors provide opinions; you have to process feedback from these mentors and understand how it applies to you, personally.


How do you seek clarity in your personal vision?

Remember that learning is a lifelong activity. We often choose fields of study, such as during college, without really knowing ourselves. What you studied or were trained in doesn’t define you. Your actions “on the field” are what people will remember. Don’t be afraid to re-invent yourself and keep learning and exploring as an individual.

Market Assessment: Why it's a 'Must' for Any Business

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“Some people are just visionaries and they’re able to come up with new ideas like the next or maybe Bright Health or whatever that can totally disrupt the market,” said Mary MacCarthy, a Twin Cities based Marketing and Project Management Consultant. “But for the majority of us, we’re not quite that much of a visionary. Maybe the product that we’re coming up with is just an incremental improvement over what’s currently out there.”

For those of us not creating the next Uber, it’s in our best interest to thoroughly understand if our product or service could support a sustainable business. This involves executing some market analysis to understand product potential.

MacCarthy, an entrepreneur herself, has performed strategic marketing and consulting services for several major players including Medtronic, Cardiovascular Systems, and 3M Health Care.

“I’ve made so many mistakes in the past. So, I really want to just hand along that information so that people don’t go through the pain that I went through in launching their startup,” she explained.

When MacCarthy was building her company, she says she spent too much time behind a desk working on a business plan and not enough time with “boots on the ground” trying to sell to customers right away and figuring out what they actually wanted to purchase. She instead suggests performing a lean market assessment to obtain answers to strategic questions. This helps for informed decision making to move the business forward.

“Generally, you want to spend a proportional amount of time doing your market assessment as you have to amount of risk you’ve got going in,” MacCarthy explained.

If you are going all in with a large portion of your savings on the line, spend a bit more time on your market assessment. But if you’re not taking as much risk, you don’t have as much to lose.

Identifying a target market is one key component to the lean market assessment.

“You have to know exactly who you’re going after,” MacCarthy explained.

This includes understanding the geography of that target market, the demographics of the decision makers, and comprehending who will influence the ultimate success of the product.

Identifying drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction in the market is another essential piece of lean market assessment. This includes understanding what satisfies key decision makers in the market and what factors go beyond satisfying them. This process involves comprehending how each of your competitive offerings compare along each of these ‘satisfiers’ and ‘dissatisfiers’, which is also key for marketing and sales of the product.

Market sizing and primary and secondary market research are additional pieces of the lean market assessment puzzle.

“You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on market research to answer every question,” MacCarthy explained.

Entrepreneurs need to identify their competitors and understand what they are doing in the market. But a lot of this information can be obtained right from a laptop. This data is essential when speaking with investors but is frequently left out of fundraising pitches.

[See what MacCarthy has to say about perfecting a fundraising pitch.]

“You need to at least show the investors that you know who your competitors are and what their weak points are, and then how to apply your offerings to meet those needs and alleviate those 'dissatisfiers',” said MacCarthy.

Join Mary MacCarthy to learn more about market assessment next Tuesday at her Market Assessment 101 Expert Series at Collider Coworking.

Ten Marketing Trends to Have on Your Radar in 2018

As we enter into the new year, here are some marketing trends to keep your eye on in 2018. These insights are delivered from local eCommerce and digital marketing manager Ethan Herber. Ethan is a Regional eCommerce Marketing Manager at Interstate Hotels and manages the digital marketing efforts of fifteen hotels around the United States, working with Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Crowne Plaza, and other independent brands.

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