Startup Community

"Poultry Patrol" Robot Wins Inaugural Ag Tech Challenge

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After three months of competition, the winner of Ignite Minnesota’s Ag Tech Challenge was announced last week in Red Wing. Rising above over fifty other innovators throughout the contest, engineer Jack Kilian walked away with the grand prize with his concept Poultry Patrol. 

The Ag Tech Challenge was officially launched in October during the Twin Cities’ inaugural Food Ag Ideas Week by Ignite Minnesota, a national network to accelerate next generation technologies. The contest aimed to uncover new hardware, software, or data solutions for agriculture.

During the first phase of the competition at the end of 2018, semi-finalists Poultry Patrol, Tile Drainage Monitoring and Control, and Robotic Sod Weed Farmer concepts were selected from the pool of applicants. Two of these ideas won $2,500 at this stage of the challenge. All three semi-finalists pitched last week in Red Wing during the final phase of the competition for the chance to win up to $10,000 for their projects.

Mark Swanson, a Minnesota State College Southeast computer programming instructor, pitched the concept Tile Drainage and Monitoring System. This idea targets farm sediment and nutrient runoff, a significant problem in the Minnesota River Valley. Currently, farmers may mitigate this issue through methods like protecting exposed soil, slowing down and storing water, or by implementing catchment systems. However, these techniques only serve as partial solutions. Swanson proposed the development of a low-cost monitoring device to help farmers measure runoff and the effects of runoff mitigation on their farms for targeted elimination efforts.

Robotic Sod Farm Weeder, pitched by Nick Fragale, enables non-chemical-based weed removal on an industrial scale with robotics. Fragale is also the co-founder of Rover Robotics, a Wayzata-based tech company that creates cost-effective, rugged robots for startups. Robots, Fragale explained, perform repetitive tasks like weeding very well. Other weed removing robots do exist on the market, such as a solar powered robot that Fragale estimated to cost between $50,000 to $100,000. Instead, he proposed to construct a robotic weeder on a much cheaper scale, primarily by eliminating the use of a robotic arm on the machine, a part that can dramatically drive up costs. Without an arm, Fragale must test the efficacy of other methods, such as drilling and zapping, to kill weeds with his more economical robotic prototype. 

Jack Kilian, University of Minnesota Twin Cities electrical engineering master’s student, pitched the winning concept Poultry Patrol. This idea addresses problems in industrial poultry housing. Poultry growers, Kilian explained, need to walk through these large housing units several times a day to check for and remove dead and diseased birds and to assess the overall functionality of equipment in the houses. These areas are also bio secure, requiring growers to change their clothes and shoes each time they enter or exit the facility. To make this process more efficient, Kilian aims to develop a robot that would identify sick birds and alert the growers of the exact location of the animal using digital mapping. The robot could also check the status of vital equipment in the facility as well, eliminating the need for growers to perform multiple daily surveillance walks through the poultry houses. Much of the hardware for this concept is already created, Kilian explained. He proposed targeting turkey growers for initial use of his robot to stick to the Minnesota ties of the concept. Minnesota remains the largest turkey producing state in the US.

Congrats to all of the contestants in Ignite Minnesota’s Ag Tech Challenge. Head to the Red Wing Ignite Facebook page to view all of the final pitches.

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.


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

Tekcitadel Seeks to Connect African Tech Talent to Emerging Rochester Startups to Bolster Ecosystem

Kenneth Ngah, Founder of Tekcitadel. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Ngah.

Kenneth Ngah, Founder of Tekcitadel. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Ngah.

Rochester entrepreneur Kenneth Ngah has his latest startup venture in focus. This Cameroonian native launched the technology company Tekcitadel to connect information and communication technology (ICT) specialists in Africa to budding companies in the Rochester area in need of web development services, bridging the ever-narrowing gap between the two continents.

Tekcitadel specializes in app development, content management, and web development. Ngah sees the startup as a way “to give Rochester’s entrepreneurs access to Africa’s rising affordable ICT talents, while helping both parties achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.”

With Tekcitadel Ngah, in addition, seeks to discover and curate responsible web and app development agencies already existing in Africa and to assist them in perfecting and mastering the techniques and specifics required for remote work, all the while maintaining a high standard of quality.

Ngah himself has a depth of experience in remote web development; he created websites for Danish, German, and American contractors without ever having to leave Cameroon. A graduate of the University College of Technology in Buea, Cameroon, Ngah largely built his own career from learning by doing. He runs another startup, called WandaGuides, that connects tourists to government recognized travel agencies within Cameroon.

Ngah served as an active community builder during his time in Cameroon; he assisted in creating three hyper-focused tech communities, including JavaScript and WordPress hubs. He also functioned as Community Manager of ActivSpaces, a Cameroonian tech network composed of two coworking spaces and an accelerator program.

Even after moving to Rochester in late 2016, Ngah maintained a strong connection with this community. He still plays an active role in Silicon Mountain, the nickname for the tech ecosystem in the mountainous region of Cameroon, which includes the city of Buea. Ngah maintains contact with ActivSpaces and information and communication technology agencies within that region. He also still coordinates the activities of JS-Junkies, a hyper-focused tech community in Silicon Mountain that advocates for the JavaScript programming language.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Ngah.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Ngah.

Ngah sees something like Tekcitadel as an effective way to connect Africa’s developing tech sector to the needs of emerging entrepreneurs in the Rochester ecosystem.

“Developing skills in web programming is hard. Hiring programming skills in the USA is expensive,” he explained. “When we are able to outsource our programming tasks around prototype development, entrepreneurs in Rochester will be able to build their app ideas faster, hence promoting entrepreneurship as we minimize the risk of not being able to transform an idea into a product.”

Ngah believes this capability will allow more products to launch from the Rochester area, attracting increased investment and bolstering the region economically.   

One Year Anniversaries and Fat Sequestering Nutraceuticals: the Latest 1 Million Cups Rochester

Jake Orme of LipiQuester at February's 1 Million Cups Rochester.

Jake Orme of LipiQuester at February's 1 Million Cups Rochester.

This week at 1 Million Cups Rochester, the community celebrated the one-year anniversary of the program in this community. Jake Orme, a physician at Mayo Clinic, also presented his anti-obesity product, LipiQuester.

1 Million Cups has served as a “supportive, neutral place” to share stories of startup development for the past twelve months in Rochester. The program is industry agnostic; over twenty-two groups have presented their business in Rochester so far on this platform. This upcoming year, the 1 Million Cups Rochester organizers are working to refine and improve the vetting and coaching process for companies applying to the 1 Million Cups Rochester program. The organizers also look to provide better follow up with past presenters for the Rochester community.

Over the past year, 1 Million Cups Rochester has had diverse impact leading to: access to enterprise customers, job offers, sales leads, improvement for future presentations, company awareness in the community, pivots, and mentorship opportunities.

The program focused on one presenter this month, Dr. Jake Orme of LipiQuester.

Orme is developing a product that captures and sequesters fat from digested food within the gut, preventing fats from interacting with bacteria and causing negative side effects. 

Over one-third of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The first line of defense to treat obesity, Orme explained, is diet and exercise. However, this route is successfully sustained in only one out of ten people.

“Round two [of treatment] involves medications that aren’t that great,” he said.

This second line of defense includes drugs, like Orlistat, that prevent the body from breaking down fat. However, patients typically do not stay on these therapies for too long as they can lead to diarrhea, massive flatulence, and anal leakage.

Orme believes his product, LipiQuester, serves as a better solution than current drugs on the market to treat obesity. LipiQuester is a type of nutraceutical made of “thousands of tiny whiffle balls.” The outside matrix of these biodegradable, microscopic particles is similar to products like MiraLax, adding fiber to the diet. The inside of the matrix contains a hydrophobic resin that grabs and retains fats, eliminating them from the body.

LipiQuester has little taste and forms a suspension in water.

Orme’s team performed a small pilot study with the product in mice. LipiQuester prevented gains in body fat percentage in mice on high fat diets compared to animals that were not fed the product. The team is now looking to raise $10M to get LipiQuester onto the market, hopefully through the food additive pathway.

The next 1 Million Cups Rochester will take place on Wednesday, March 7th at 9 AM in the Bleu Duck Kitchen Event Space.

1 Million Cups is a free, national education program developed by the Kauffman Foundation. 1 Million Cups takes place every Wednesday at 9AM across 165 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

Investment in Medical Alley Health Tech Hit Record Levels in 2017 According to Latest Report


Last week, Medical Alley Association released their 2017 Investment Report, detailing total health tech investment in Medical Alley over the past year. Medical Alley Association is an organization that facilitates “an environment that enables health technology and care organizations to innovate, succeed, and influence the evolution of healthcare.”

2017 was an epic fundraising year in Medical Alley, with $735M raised by 85 health tech companies.

“The record fundraising from a global cadre of highly regarded venture capitalists, angels, and corporate investors continues to demonstrate that when the world looks for the future of healthcare, they find it in Medical Alley,” said Frank Jaskulke, VP of Member Services at Medical Alley Association.

Here are the top highlights from the report that you should know.

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Click here for the full Annual Investment Report.


Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week Keynote Speaker Encourages Community to "Be Weird"


Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week keynote speaker Scott Meyer shared two disruptive ideas with the entrepreneurial community to kick off this weeklong celebration of innovation: embrace your inner weirdness and make your own permission.

Meyer played a pivotal role as a community builder and activist in Brookings, South Dakota. He helped to launch TEDxBrookings, 1 Million Cups Brookings, and Creativity Week; Meyer also served on the Brookings City Council. He was awarded The South Dakota Spirit of Entrepreneurship, Top 40 Under 40 by Prairie Business Journal, and Young Entrepreneur of the Year in South Dakota.

Meyer spent years building up the innovation community in Brookings, a town of ~24,000 people. Throughout this time, he garnered his fair share of both successes and failures. But one thing has remained constant.

“The weirdness of this world really makes me feel excited,” Meyer explained.

With the pervasiveness and accessibility of the digital world today, power has shifted from suppliers to those who are aggregating products, services, events, and knowledge into one place, Meyer said. This change has made it easier than ever before to locate niche products or connect to people with very specific interests.

Today’s world, Meyer said, allows us to be exactly ourselves. “But are we willing to take that risk?” he asked.

To be our true, vibrant selves- both as individuals and as communities- Meyer said you need to exist on the edge to attract attention in today’s crowded society. You need to be weird.

“You don’t want to be the next anything. You need to be the first something,” he affirmed. “This is the benefit of being weird. People can actually find you. If you’re in the middle of something, you’re impossible to find.”

When we as a government, community, or business have some sort of platform, no matter how small, Meyer said we need to push people out into that spotlight to share big, wild ideas and create momentum within our communities.

He helped to launched TEDxBrookings, a local version of TED Talks to spread big ideas, to get all kinds of “weird” people in that city into the same room, showcase the local culture, and produce palpable energy in the community.

By creating this stage of TEDxBrookings, Meyer could elevate others into positions of power, placing them as local thought leaders and empowering them to go out and do bigger things.

1 Million Cups Brookings was later launched to create this platform on a more frequent basis in the city.

Meyer’s second lesson: you don’t need to ask permission to create something in your community. You don’t need to be an expert at something. If you want to do something or create something, just do it. Don’t wait for anybody else to do it for you or to authorize it.

“We don’t have to take permission. We can just make permission,” he explained.

To build momentum in their own community, Brookings simply proclaimed themselves the “Creative Capital of the North”. They didn’t ask anybody if they were indeed the most imaginative or original culture of people. There was nobody to ask; they just said that was the truth. The community took $200 and built a “Before I Die” wall so people could express their life long dreams. They launched Creativity Week to celebrate creatives in the city.

“Find a parade and just start marching in front of it,” Meyer said, and people will just start falling in line.

In the case of Brookings, that’s exactly what happened. Soon, folks were journeying to the city to learn about building community from these self-proclaimed experts.

Regardless of how the momentum began, Meyer said it got people excited enough to start taking risks and things just started to happen organically.

“But I’m here to tell you that we can make permission for ourselves,” he concluded. “If we have permission, we need to build the stage and push people into it. And the people that will shine in that spotlight are the weirdos.”

Rochester Rising Releases First Magazine to Amplify Stories of Entrepreneurship

Welcome to the first magazine edition of Rochester Rising. Rochester Rising was created last July to amplify the stories of entrepreneurship and innovation occurring in the Rochester, Minn. area through original, in-depth content. We aim to tell the stories that weren't being told and show that Rochester has a young, but emerging and diverse entrepreneurial community.

Each week we put out several articles, one podcast, and the occasional video to tell these stories.

Link up with us on iTunes, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, in our weekly newsletter, and on our webpage ( to never miss a story. If you are a business looking to support a mission like ours or to connect with startups and entrepreneurs, we are always looking for community partners to help support this platform through advertisement and sponsorship.

As with most things we do, this first magazine is a test, a hypothesis, to try and share these stories of entrepreneurship and risk taking with as many people as possible. Please pass along this publication to help us amplify the innovation taking place right now within our city. If you would prefer a PDF, please contact us to receive one.  We also have placed several print copies out into the Rochester community. If you would like some at your place of business, please also send us an email

This publication includes the majority of the stories that were published on Rochester Rising during Summer 2017. We hope this is an effective method to begin to catalog and document entrepreneurial activity and the stories of innovation within this city.

Hallmarks of Contemporary Leadership Brought into Focus at Recent Young Professional Development Panel

Last week The Commission, a non-profit organization for young professionals in Rochester, held their second Professional Development Panel, providing an in-depth, open discussion surrounding leadership.

The panel included three long-time Rochester residents and established young leaders themselves: Becca Stiles-Nogosek, Development Events and Volunteer Coordinator at Minnesota Children’s Museum Rochester; Angela Mattson, Nurse Administrator for the Division of Integrated Behavioral Health at Mayo Clinic; and Nick Pompeian, commercial real estate broker and owner of Realty Growth Incorporated.

Here are the highlights from the panel discussion, addressing the definition of leadership and what it takes to be a leader in today’s professional environment.


Entrepreneurial Program 1 Million Cups Plans for Massive 2018

Photo courtesy of Jamie Sundsbak.

Photo courtesy of Jamie Sundsbak.

1 Million Cups- the free, national education program for entrepreneurs- has a lofty goal. The organization aims to grow from 146 to 500 local chapters by the end of 2018. Plans for this expansion were unveiled at the 1 Million Cups Organizers Summit held last month in Kansas City, the birthplace of the program.

1 Million Cups occurs at 9AM every Wednesday in volunteer-run chapters all over the country. The local contingent, 1 Million Cups Rochester, launched this February and takes place the first Wednesday of every month. (The next one will be held this upcoming Wednesday October 4th.)

Photo courtesty of Jamie Sundsbak.

Photo courtesty of Jamie Sundsbak.

The goal of the program is to “connect, inspire, educate, and empower our communities.” At each 1 Million Cups event, two entrepreneurs get up in front of a gathering of peers to tell their story and- most importantly- ask for help from the community.

The 1 Million Cups Organizers Summit served as a unique way to meet other chapters- 96% of all 1 Million Cups were represented- to better understand what worked and what failed in these communities. 1 Million Cups Rochester volunteer Jamie Sundsbak represented the Rochester community at the event.

Although standard 1 Million Cups communities have programming every week, an increasing number of chapters hold only one event per month, providing a lower barrier to entry, Sundsbak explained. Many communities, Sundsbak said, have strayed away from the traditional 1 Million Cups model and have explored structures that work best for their community.

These alternatives include limiting the presentation to only one entrepreneurial speaker and dedicating the rest of the event to networking. Some communities have held quarterly recruitment events, where interested startups use the time to apply to become 1 Million Cups presenters.

[Interested in trying out a new format at 1 Million Cups Rochester? Fill out this survey to let the organizers know what you want.]

Sundsbak said that Kansas City is an amazing place to be an entrepreneur. He often looks toward the city as “a place [Rochester] could be very, very far down the road.”

Kansas City has the mission to become the most entrepreneurial city in the country, which, Sundsbak said, drives decision making on all levels. The inclusive, entrepreneur-led community runs on a “give first, get later” mentality.

“It’s been amazing, how aligned everybody has been, which I think is something that is very different from what we experience [in Rochester],” he explained.

Kansas City is built for the entrepreneur. The community has 12 business accelerators, 5 business incubators, 15 coworking facilities, and 7 maker spaces. Twenty-three startup support organizations are in the city, including the Kauffman Foundation, a private organization with the goal to “foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success.”

Here’s an inside look at four of the coworking spaces that house Kansas City’s entrepreneurs.

Plexpod: a 180,000-square foot space that previously was a middle school.

Think Big Coworking: four floors of coworking dedicated to community and promoting entrepreneurship.

Sprint Accelerator: a corporate accelerator with a dedicated portion for free coworking and conference rooms named after Kansas City innovations.

WeWork: The 7th largest unicorn- or private company valued at or over $1B- according to CrunchBase. WeWork is in twenty-three U.S. cities with a location opening soon in Minneapolis.

Rochester Home Infusion Seeking Ground in Destination Medical City- Part 1, Nuts and Bolts

Photo courtesy of Rochester Home Infusion.

Photo courtesy of Rochester Home Infusion.

Rochester Home Infusion- the only home infusion provider in Rochester, Minn.- brings intravenous (IV) therapies to the patient in the convenience of their home or temporary residence and gets patients back to a normal life as quickly as possible. This four-year-old healthcare startup is revolutionizing in-home patient services in Rochester and augmenting Mayo Clinic care outside of the hospital walls. Now, Founder Joselyn Raymundo says Rochester Home Infusion (RHI) is just asking for an even playing field so they can continue to grow and build upon this city’s strong history of healthcare.

Raymundo herself has a lengthy history of experience in entrepreneurship and just starting something. The Saint Paul native spent several years at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, where she launched both their Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and Home Infusion programs. Her vision allowed Children’s to dominate the child-specific home infusion market in the Twin Cities for several years and be a fierce competitor to their main rival, Pediatric Home Services.

Raymundo pioneered the home infusion program at Children’s for eleven years before being courted by Accredo- a Tennessee-based specialty pharmacy- to run their multi-state Midwestern division as well as their home infusion department, called Critical Care Systems.

Rochester Home Infusion Founder Joselyn Raymundo. Photo courtesy of Rochester Home Infusion.

Rochester Home Infusion Founder Joselyn Raymundo. Photo courtesy of Rochester Home Infusion.

After Raymundo ran Critical Care Systems for about a year and a half, Accredo was acquired by Express Scripts, a massive pharmacy benefit management organization based out of Saint Louis. The focus of Express Scripts was much different than her own; Raymundo felt it was a good time to cut ties with the organization and strike out by herself. She dreamed of launching her own home infusion company for several years and decided the time was ripe.

The stint with Accredo had opened Raymundo’s eyes to the entire home infusion market in Minnesota. She realized that southeastern Minnesota was drastically underserved in this regard.

The breadth of this market gap really struck home one night during some 2AM internet market research when Raymundo came across the old Destination Medical Center (DMC) website. DMC is a massive public private partnership to make Rochester, Minn. a global destination for healthcare and wellness. At the time, the site contained a map of all destinations for medical treatment in the United States. Places like Cleveland Clinic, MD Anderson, Johns Hopkins, and Mayo Clinic. She then mapped all home infusion centers within one hour of these medical cities.

“Pretty much every single one of them had at least five, if not eight, home infusion providers,” Raymundo explained.

All except for Rochester.

People who travel to these centers for their first, second, or even third opinions need to take that tailored expertise back home to continue with their work and life. Home infusion centers serve to “extend that excellence of care really from the hospital to the patient’s home, wherever they are.”

To solve this problem, and bring Rochester up-to-speed with other medical destination cities, Raymundo launched Rochester Home Infusion out of the BioBusiness Center in downtown Rochester in late 2013.

Raymundo and her team of pharmacists and clinicians at RHI work with the patient and their physician to create personalized care plans for in-home IV medical treatment. RHI provides common infusion therapies like antibiotics, magnesium balls, immunoglobulin treatment, and home parental nutrition where it’s convenient and comfortable for the patient.

All the medications are prepared in RHI’s state-of-the-art clean room, right here in Rochester. Treatments are packaged into an ambulatory device that works best for the patient- like a backpack, fanny pack, or other small package- so the patient can medicate at home or infuse discreetly at work or during social events- like proms and weddings- so that patients can continue with their lives as normally as possible.

Without a provider like RHI, transplant patients could spend up to four hours, daily, receiving treatment. This includes traveling from a residence- temporary or permanent- in Rochester to Mayo’s Infusion Therapy Center (ITC), parking, checking-in, waiting, and then finally infusing for two hours.

With RHI, patients instead are set up with an infusion device, which they are carefully instructed by a RHI clinical nurse how to care for and use. Patients can then fill the device with their pre-packaged medication, connect to their PICC line, and are quickly ready to infuse their treatment at home or while they go about their daily lives.

“Being in your own home is a critical part of the healing process that gave us a sense of feeling normal again,” explained one RHI patient.

Rochester Youth Startup Via Moves on to Semifinal Round of Minnesota Cup Business Competition

The Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the United States, moved into the semifinal round yesterday. This year’s competition will award over $450,000 in seed funding to emerging businesses across eight different divisions. One entrant from Olmsted County, the minority and women-led tech startup Via, moves on into the Minnesota Cup semifinal round in the Youth Division.

This year’s Minnesota Cup competition began in late March with an application launch party and culminates in a final awards event on October 9th at the McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis.

This is the 13th year of the competition.

Since its inception, Minnesota Cup has drawn in over 12,000 Minnesota-based startup participants from 93% of Minnesota counties. Finalists have raised over $230M since 2005.

Any startup in Minnesota with less than $1M in annual revenue can enter the Minnesota Cup competition in eight different divisions: Food/Ag/Bev, General, High Tech, Energy/Clean Tech/Water, Impact Ventures, Life science/HealthIT, Student (anyone enrolled in graduate or undergraduate school between the ages of 19-30), and Youth (anyone under 18 years of age).

Besides gaining access to seed capital, throughout the Minnesota Cup competition startups receive input on their business plan, gain access to mentorship opportunities with key industry leaders, and receive media coverage.

On May 30th, the eighty semifinalists for the 2017 competition were announced, ten from each division. Over the next seven weeks, the semifinalists will be paired with mentors, tweak their business plans, and compete for the top spot in their respective divisions.

Each divisional winner will receive $30,000 in seed capital and move on for the chance to win the $50,000 grand prize. The youth division leader will be awarded $20,000 and will also move on in the competition.

This year, both student and professional division winners in Walleye Tank, a life science business pitch competition developed in Rochester, gained automatic entry as life science division semifinalists. Look for the Twin Cities-based startups Dolore Biotechnology and Dose Health as Minnesota Cup progresses.

In Olmsted County, one entrant moved on to the semifinal round, the Youth Division tech startup Via.

Via is addressing the prevalent health issue of distracted driving from texting, especially among teens. Via is developing an easy to use app that places phones into “driving mode” when the user is operating a vehicle to mute notifications and avoid unnecessary health risks.

Beyond the Brand: How to Form Deep Connections to Consumers

“Without branding, there’s no connection between what you want people to think about your organization and what they actually do,” explained Sarah Miller, Owner of White Space, a Rochester-based company specializing in brand strategy, brand identity, and brand experience. We’re branding our company, our community, and ourselves constantly, regardless of our awareness. To make a real connection to potential consumers, and be successful with branding efforts, Miller says we need to tell a deeper story and create an experience to attract and retain consumers with similar vision.

Miller, a native of Plainview, Minn., has a twelve-year career in graphic design, branding, and marketing. When her son was six months old, she left the safety net of an established graphic design firm in Rochester and struck out on her own, with no real plans or financial stability.

“I ultimately just had to make a change in my life. Sometimes we wake up and we think that life’s just too short,” she said.

Miller loves design, but is passionate about branding. She’s helped local businesses like Jimmy’s Salad Dressings and Dips, Limb Lab, and Rochester Downtown Alliance think “brand first” to tell their stories.

Today, the term “brand” can encompass multiple things like a business name, logo, marketing, and company culture. A brand is all these things. But foremost, it’s your reputation as a business. Miller explains brand is how yourself, your company, and your community makes people feel. It’s the experience people have after an interaction with these entities. This includes immediate, visual perceptions a consumer has with a website, brochure, or perhaps even the look of a community or town. These components make up the “identity” portion of a brand.  

But to gain a deeper, lasting connection, Miller says consumers have to buy in to the emotional component of the brand.

Many people, even experts in the field, often fail to appreciate the difference between branding and marketing, Miller explained. Both, she said, are essential for a business and are closely intertwined.

“Branding is your ‘why’. Marketing is ‘how,’” she said. Branding is a long-term process that builds loyalty. Marketing is a short-term tactic that generates response.

Miller segments marketing into two steps: the identity phase and the visual phase. Branding plays a key role in each stage.

The first portion of marketing, the identity phase, is a time of self-discovery where a business builds its foundation, sets goals, and determines a core audience it would like to reach. Brand story and brand identity are a critical part of this process. These are the “why” components.

“Why do you exist as a company? As a person, what is your purpose on earth?” Miller explained. “What’s the story that makes you stand out versus someone else?”

After the identity phase, where the story behind the business is built, comes the “fun, refreshing” phase where the company visually comes to life.

“But before we get dressed, we have to figure out what we’re dressing,” Miller explained.

Now in the visual stage of marketing, the business determines how they want to be seen by others. This includes things like the website, business cards, pamphlets, the layout and décor of the office building, even the way we dress. These immediate impressions, the visual identity, are the tip of the iceberg, Miller explained, the tiny fraction of the business above water that everybody can see.

However, the largest part of that iceberg, the submerged, subliminal portion, makes up the foundation and base, the real structure and identity. For a business, this unseen portion is the core, purpose, and values of a company. It’s the personality and vision of the business that helps to form strong, lasting connections with consumers and attracts like-minded people to work for the company.

It’s the brand.

Sharing this deeper vision of a business- the branding- is essential to position the story behind the company to the target audience and find this elusive connectivity. Miller says to reach this deeper relationship with potential consumers- to brand- requires purpose, personality, positioning, and promise.

“People don’t buy what you do. They don’t buy based upon your services, your amenities,” she explained. “It’s not about the product. It’s about the experience.”

Successful brands, like Apple and Harley-Davidson, have built a culture and community that people want to join. These brands have explicitly communicated their “why” to consumers and connected their deeper vision.

“How are you making conscious decision on your own brand?” Miller asked. People are already googling you, looking at your website, and searching your social media feeds.

“Don’t let other people tell your story. They’re going to do it in a thousand different ways. Maybe right. Maybe wrong. You tell your story,” she advised.

This talk on branding by Sarah Miller was part of the Marketing in the Morning series developed by Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA), a non-profit organization that serves businesses and communities in southeastern Minnesota. CEDA runs Marketing in the Morning sessions quarterly to help businesses grow and stay on top of the latest marketing techniques. This talk on branding can also be viewed on the CEDA Facebook page.  

Press Release: All American Games and GoRout Announce an All-American Partnership

ROCKAWAY, NJ (April 20, 2017) – All American Games today announced a partnership with GoRout, the on-field wearable playmaking technology for football teams across the country.

GoRout is the only playmaking technology that combines intelligent software and on-field wearable products to enhance practice for high school, college, and professional football teams. U.S. Army All-Americans will use GoRout products to help players track their practice performance and perfect their game.

GoRout brings several different products to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. One of the products to be included is Vue, football’s only on-field display technology worn by players. With Vue, coaches send digital play calls, coaching tips, and assignments to every player instantly. Players select their position, see the play, and execute perfectly.

At the NFL’s 1st and Future Competition at Super Bowl LI, GoRout was named the “Most Innovative Athlete Communication Technology” in football. In addition, GoRout was awarded “Product of the Year” by Football Scoop in both 2016 and 2017. GoRout is currently being used by some of the best high schools, FCS/FBS colleges, and professional football teams in America.

For 18 consecutive years, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl has been the nation’s premier high school sporting event and serves as the preeminent launching pad for America’s future college and NFL stars. Odell Beckham Jr., Andrew Luck, Patrick Peterson, Adrian Peterson, Ezekiel Elliott, and Christian McCaffrey made their national debuts as U.S. Army All- Americans. A total of 330 U.S. Army All-American Bowl alumni have been selected in NFL Drafts. The 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl drew a record crowd of 40,568 to the Alamodome and was watched by more than 5 million unique viewers on NBC.

For more information on GoRout, visit and Connect with all GoRout activity at, or at the official Twitter (@Go_Rout) and Instagram (@Go_Rout) accounts.

For more information on All American Games, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and its related events, visit,,, and

Connect with all #ArmyBowl activity at, or at the official Twitter (@ArmyAllAmerican) and Instagram (@armyallamericanbowl) accounts.

For more information contact:

Mike Ulatoski

All American  Games


[O] 973 2981103 [C] 203 808 6601

The Rochester Startup Part Eleven: Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator

This series is in partnership with Ambient House Productions, a Rochester based full service video production company specializing in high quality corporate, commercial, & promotional videos.

This week we move on with the final piece of “The Rochester Startup” series and talk about the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.


Name: Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.

Location: 221 1st Avenue SW, Suite #202

Parking Available: No, but connected to 3rd Street Parking Ramp through the skyway.

Contact: Xavier Frigola

Social Accounts: Facebook, @MayoClinicBusinessAccelerator; Twitter, @mbusaccel

This 3,000-square foot space in the Minnesota BioBusiness Center opened in March 2013. The facility consists of nine closed offices- six small and three large- sixteen open desk spaces, one conference room, and two lounge areas. The Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator offers tenants internet service, heat, cleaning, snacks and beverages, and monthly educational and networking opportunities. The cost to work out of the accelerator start at $100/month. The space is nearly full; one small office is currently available for rent.  

The Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator is primarily filled with life science entrepreneurs and startups spun out of Mayo Clinic. Twenty-three startups have called the space home at some point during their growth process. The accelerator offers connections to Mayo Clinic, student interns, and access the funding sources.

Xavier Frigola, Director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, says he’s seeing a “general interest in entrepreneurship, which was not there a few years ago.” He’s noticing “people young and more seasoned wanting to start companies and service providers willing to provide support and interest in angel investing.”

While the community has made significant recent strides, Frigola notes that a “risk averse profile” continues to hold back Rochester’s entrepreneurs.

This series is sponsored by:

The Rochester Startup Part Ten: Perseverance is Key as PayGo Thrives in Collider Coworking Space

PayGo founder Chris Peterson. Photo courtesy of PayGo.

PayGo founder Chris Peterson. Photo courtesy of PayGo.

About the author: Ryan Cardarella is a freelance writer who recently moved to Rochester after spending 12 years in Milwaukee.

This series is in partnership with Ambient House Productions, a Rochester based full service video production company specializing in high quality corporate, commercial, & promotional videos.

After nearly 15 years in the software business, PayGo founder Chris Peterson has proven able to consistently adapt in a market that continues to evolve.

Formed in Buffalo, Minn., PayGo is a point-of-sale (POS) software business that has served independent brick and mortar retailers since 2002. In addition to handling POS payments and many additional services, PayGo offers businesses the ability to track and control their inventory, provides robust data on customer interactions and purchases, and integrates stores with their website via the PayGoCart feature.

Through their diverse service offerings, PayGo built up a strong customer base and grew to employ 20 team members by 2008. However, just as the company introduced a product that addressed the emerging need for cloud-based software solutions, a crippling recession that hit small businesses particularly hard during that period knocked PayGo on its heels.

“Things happen in business and you just need to find a way to persevere,” Peterson said.

He responded by downsizing, as many of his clients were forced to close, and eventually relocated the PayGo office to Rochester, a move that has reinvigorated the organization.

After operating remotely for a time, PayGo joined downtown Rochester’s Collider Coworking space in November 2016, a move that appealed to Peterson as his company was once again ready to grow. Peterson has spent much of the last year updating PayGo’s cloud-based software and exploring additional IT services as the company continues to add staff and expand the breadth of their offerings.

“The flexibility of the space was appealing. It has everything we need,” Peterson said. “We feel like a startup again.”

Collider is an entrepreneurial hub that allows occupants to work, learn, and collaborate in a dynamic office setting. The open workspace includes desk and conference room areas, quiet rooms, and perhaps most importantly, a collaborative environment comprised of innovative, like-minded people that are helping to fuel entrepreneurial growth in Rochester.

“Operating out of Buffalo began to feel a bit isolating and there’s more programming in more relevant areas here,” Peterson said. “It’s been great to be around so many other like-minded people who are experiencing some of the same challenges.”

PayGo currently services a wide variety of clients, primarily independent retailers and owners of boutiques, arts and crafts stores, and consignment shops, which includes companies such as Happy Sleeper, Nina, Everyday Wines, and many more.

Looking ahead, Peterson is focused on developing a mobile app, increasing their customer base and providing additional value to that base, and continuing to improve the customer experience for the small businesses they serve.

“The industry continues to shift and we are exploring new ways for our software to appeal to and improve the customer experience,” he said.

The Rochester Startup Series is sponsored by:

The Rochester Startup Part Seven: Jeremiah Program Brings Transformative, Multi-Generational Approach to Rochester Families

Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Program.

Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Program.

About the author: Ryan Cardarella is a freelance writer who recently moved to Rochester after spending 12 years in Milwaukee.

This series is in partnership with Ambient House Productions, a Rochester based full service video production company specializing in high quality corporate, commercial, & promotional videos.

Expanding beyond its headquarters in Minneapolis, Jeremiah Program has brought its multi-generational commitment to transforming the lives of single mothers and their children to the Rochester area. Founded in 1993, the organization currently runs two fully operational sites in the Twin Cities. A new campus will open in Austin, Texas in March 2017 and ground will be broken on a Fargo, N.D.-Moorhead, Minn. campus by summer 2017. In addition to their ongoing work in southeastern Minnesota, Jeremiah Program has engaged with leading organizations to serve mothers and children in Boston and is also exploring growth options in Brownsville, N.Y. and Charlottesville, Va.

JoMarie Morris, who practiced law for nearly 20 years prior to assuming the role of Executive Director of Jeremiah Program Rochester-Southeastern Minnesota, was compelled to join the organization following years of work focused on immigration, women’s issues, and human trafficking.

“The element of Jeremiah Program that really captured my heart is the fact that it’s a two-generation program,” said Morris. “It’s an amazing organization and I’m all in on our mission to serve the families of southeastern Minnesota.”

She initially joined the program as a replication consultant, working with an advisory committee to help create partnerships, assess the needs of the community, and determine whether Rochester would be a good fit for the program.

Jeremiah Program’s organizational model is predicated on five pillars to assist women and their children: support for a career-track college education, quality early childhood education, safe and affordable housing, empowerment and life skills training, and a supportive community.

These strategies are intended to reduce generational dependence on public assistance and help single mothers move into high-demand, living-wage jobs.

JoMarie identified “the enormous need for skilled workers in the Rochester area,” and is partnering with community and business leaders to help program participants move off of public assistance into sustainable jobs.

To achieve this, program participants engaged in empowerment training, work toward obtaining a two- or four-year degree under the guidance of professional coaches and secure employment through the support of Jeremiah Program staff and their communities. While mothers in the program study and work, their children attend the Program’s early childhood education centers that help to establish the proper foundation for their academic success.

“Waiting lists are long for Head Start programs and it can be difficult for children to catch up,” Morris said. “Our programs ensure that children are kindergarten-ready.”

Presently, JoMarie is working to secure a Rochester campus site with the capacity to house up to forty families, identify additional collaborative partners, and increase program sustainability as the organization fulfills its mission of service “not only to Rochester, but also to its many neighboring communities.”

A key factor in the program’s early success has been in its ability to utilize incubator space at the Rochester Area Foundation, allowing Jeremiah Program to effectively operate while building relationships within the community, collaborate with city and business leaders, and search for their permanent program home.

“The space offered by the Rochester Area Foundation has been fabulous as a transitional space and has been great as a way for us to work and collaborate with other community organizations,” Morris said.

Jeremiah Program has already garnered substantial grants from Mayo Clinic and the Otto Bremer Foundation, and has received significant assistance from the Rochester community to advance program efforts.

For more information, visit

The "Rochester Startup" Series is Sponsored by:

Cameroonian Tech Leader Brings Community Building Expertise to Rochester

Kenneth Ngah, a seasoned web programmer from Cameroon, has learned exactly how to build a tech community. Along with other entrepreneurial pioneers, Kenneth leveraged the student population in Africa to build hyper-focused tech hubs to increase the local skill set and sustain tech expertise in the area. The tech founder has been in Rochester for three months and is exploring ways he can fit into the city’s evolving tech scene.

Kenneth grew up in the northwest region of Cameroon, a central African country that borders on the Gulf of Guinea, Nigeria, Chad, the Central African Republic, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo. He said his hometown was a mountainous region with a strong tourism draw. Cameroon has even earned the nickname “Africa in miniature” because of the country’s diverse climate and landscape. The area contains deserts, mountains, and even rainforests.

To leverage the strong tourism draw to his homeland, this tech entrepreneur founded a startup called LCMTours. Kenneth saw much “uncertainty about the tourism industry in Cameroon” with “the existence of clandestine tourism agencies and travel agencies.” He created LCMTours, soon to be re-branded as WandaGuides, to mitigate travelers’ fears and connect them with government recognized travel agencies. Registered agencies can sell their attractions on the LCM platform. Kenneth then works with these companies to create personalized itineraries and connect travelers to local guides before they even leave their home country.

Much of Kenneth’s early tech career was built on learning by doing. He developed a passion for computers early in life, even well before he knew what that fully meant. He felt a strong pull toward technology after creating his first Yahoo email address in the late 1990s and decided to pursue his passion through university studies. He left his home and traveled to the southwest region of Cameroon to study Computers and Communications Engineering at the University College of Technology in the town of Buea. While at the university, he obtained his very first web development contract from a hospital where his mother worked. Although he had no idea how to price the service at the time, this first step showed him that he could have a viable career in web development.

“It was so good for me, as a student, to do a job that would give me money without having to take money from parents,” he explained.

After his experience with the hospital, Kenneth founded a small web development agency with a friend. However, the pair could not land consistent web development contracts and ran out of money within six months. Around this time, he also became aware of a growing number of people working on tech startups around Buea. To get his feet wet, Kenneth worked several web programming jobs for free for some of these emerging local businesses.

Even after graduating from the University College of Technology, Kenneth says he never had any interest in a traditional job with a large company. He instead launched directly into the freelancing field as a web programmer and started building websites through contract work. Kenneth developed into quite the international businessman without ever having to leave Cameroon. He built websites for Danish and German companies. He even worked on a neuroscience website for a researcher at the University of Louisville.

His tech endeavors eventually led Kenneth to meet former Microsoft Software Design Engineer and American investor, Bill Zimmerman, who was building tech hubs around Cameroon. Zimmerman created ActivSpaces, a tech network in Cameroon that contained two coworking spaces, one of which was in Buea, plus a six-month intensive tech accelerator program. The goal was to transform viable tech ideas into sustainable businesses. Kenneth explained that many startups in Cameroon did not have available financials to pay for space in coworking facilities. Instead, ActivSpaces opened their doors to these emerging entrepreneurs for free and took 3% equity in the companies when they became successful.

In 2013, Kenneth moved into a Community Manager role with ActivSpaces. He helped to create entrepreneurial-focused events and raise awareness of the space for interested startups. As the tech community in Buea grew, he created even larger events and increased interactions with the local university system, especially through a developing local Google Ambassador system.



While Kenneth and other pioneers of the tech community in Buea saw many students going through the university system, they did not observe an increase in applicable tech skills in the community. He says the students just weren’t acquiring transferrable tools in the education system, even through there was strong interest in tech entrepreneurism.

“I began to think that in the university, there are students who want to do practice, they want to do internships into startups,” he explained. “We realized that students want to learn. Many people want to do better. But they just don’t know how to come about it.”

Kenneth and a team of tech entrepreneurs started to build tech communities around very specific web technologies to increase skill sets and bolster tech development locally. They established three successful hyper-focused communities, including JavaScript and WordPress hubs. They started to place students into internships with developing tech startups in the community. Kenneth says the students acquired more transferrable skills this way than they ever did in the education system. They encouraged students to become self-independent without ever having to seek a job in a large company.

“Technology entrepreneurship is becoming very vibrant in my city because students are looking to people like us who…didn’t look for a job but kept on striving. And they saw that these guys are trying to do some amazing things,” he explained.

Although Kenneth and many others have done groundbreaking work for entrepreneurs in Cameroon, the path is still boulder-strewn. Cameroon is a bilingual country, split between English and French speaking sectors. Although the country has been historically riddled by political corruption, it’s usually economically stable. Increased tensions have built up between the small English-speaking population and the larger French-speaking sectors, who also control the government. Violent and more frequent protests broke out over the last couple months, leading the government to cut off Internet access for several weeks to major English-speaking regions of Cameroon, crippling startups and business owners. Kenneth said this economic uncertainnty and the prevalent language barriers in the country make it easier for entrepreneurs to just leave the area.

He explained that the tech community in Cameroon is generally very cut off from media exposure. No one outside of the region understands the developments taking place there, which limits investment opportunities and growth. But Kenneth has faith in the community that he has been so instrumental in building.

“Despite the fact that the economic situation in the country is not good, the zeal to become an entrepreneur is really, really good,” he said. “Entrepreneurs who really survive are really tough because the economic situation makes it difficult and the government rules really make it difficult.”  

It’s a bit ironic that the founder of a tourism startup never had much of an impulse to see the world. “But I always thought to myself, if I want to travel abroad, I should come to the US,” Kenneth explained. He recently got the opportunity to obtain a one year visa to the US and is staying with a family member in Rochester while he continues to discover the right place to spend his time in the country. Right now, he’s been exploring the tech scene around Rochester and seeing where he can best plug into the community.

How to Babysit and Spark DJ to Present at Next 1 Million Cups Rochester


The second edition of 1 Million Cups Rochester will be held Wednesday March 1st at 9AM. Two southeast Minnesota based startups, How To Babysit and Spark DJ, will share their stories.

1 Million Cups is a free, educational event for entrepreneurs, based on the idea that entrepreneurs connect and network over one million cups of coffee. 1 Million Cups takes place Wednesday mornings at exactly 9AM- local time- in over 110 communities across the US. At each event, two different early stage startups tell their story to a collected group of peers.

1 Million Cups Rochester is held the first Wednesday of each month in the Bleu Duck Kitchen Event Space (14 4th Street SW). Parking is in the 3rd Street Ramp. The 1 Million Cups Rochester organizing team is currently accepting applications from innovative, southeast Minnesota based startups to present.

This Wednesday the local startups How To Babysit and Spark DJ will be featured.



How To Babysit

  • Industry: Information/Communication Technology
  • Founded: 2016
  • Cofounders: Erin Wagner and Brad Harvey

How To Babysit is creating an app and online training tools for babysitters. The startup teaches babysitting and business management skills through workshops and online tutorials. The team is also developing an app that allows teen sitters to input their available times and connect and schedule babysitting jobs with prospective parent clients.


Spark DJ

  • Industry: Music
  • Founded: 2016
  • Cofounders: James Jones and John Boss

Spark DJ is a mobile app that uses machine learning, live feedback, and automation to provide an extremely personalized DJ experience. The technology has the potential to disrupt the way music entertainment takes place, allowing live-music curation from guests and seamless music transition to take DJing to the next level.

Lincoln's NMotion Startup Accelerator Shares Roadmap for Founders

Yesterday, Keevin O’Rourke, Program Manager at the NMotion Startup Accelerator in Lincoln, Nebraska, spent some time in Rochester and shared lessons learned in the Lincoln startup community. NMotion is a collaboration between the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, and private investors. The accelerator invests small amounts of seed capital in portfolio companies in exchange for equity. NMotion uses a Roadmap tool to help founders determine their position on the business development pipeline and understand major issues to focus on at each stage.

Lincoln, a town of approximately 273,000 people, houses a strong and growing high tech community and over 171 active startups. The city is one of many Midwestern towns quantifying this region as more than just fly over territory. NMotion is one key piece to the entrepreneurial community in Lincoln.

NMotion developed a tool, called the Roadmap, which helps entrepreneurs identify the business development phase of their startup and determine if they have a viable concept. The Roadmap contains five stages:  

  1. Inspire. At this stage, potential entrepreneurs should ask themselves if they want to be a founder and start to understand what running a business will entail.
  2. Validate. Here, entrepreneurs should ask if they should pursue this idea. This is perhaps the most vital point in the Roadmap and helps entrepreneurs determine if they are trying to solve a true problem.
  3. Test. Entrepreneurs should determine if customers will pay them to solve this problem.
  4. Accelerate. At this stage, entrepreneurs determine a repeatable business model for their solution. Now the “side hustle” becomes the “main hustle” and at least one founder is expected to leave their main job and move into the startup full time. Usually at this stage, the startup has paying customers.
  5. Grow. Entrepreneurs determine if they can make a product/market fit and try to raise seed funding.


NMotion specializes in the accelerate portion of the Roadmap. They run a 90-day program that “accelerates” startups through two years of progress in a short amount of time. Each year, five to eight startups from Lincoln and the surrounding area enter this program. In exchange for 6% equity in their company, accepted startups receive a $20,000 investment from NMotion, office space in FUSE Coworking in the Haymarket District of Lincoln, mentorship, support, and connections to venture capital networks both inside and outside Lincoln.

The NMotion specializes in fintech, agriculture, food tech, and sports/entertainment startups. NMotion has been in operation for five years. Eighty percent of NMotion alumni are still active. Two alumni have raised Series A funding. Forty percent have raised additional seed funding. One company has been acquired.

Applications for this year’s accelerator cohort close March 14th. The 90-day accelerator program will run from May 8th through August 10th in Lincoln.