Today is the last day of the Global Entrepreneurship Week events in Rochester. These past few days were a time to celebrate and encourage entrepreneurship. At times, I feel that people are scared off by the term entrepreneur and think that you need to have a billion-dollar idea or a get-rich-quick plan to be an entrepreneur. But really, an entrepreneur is someone who is just trying to do something new and is creating a solution to a real problem.
The events this week brought together diverse people with one thing in common: we all are trying to find a better way to do something. Some people at these events have always been entrepreneurs. But most have not. Most were nurses or scientists, government workers or former Fortune 500 executives before stepping away to just try doing something different. To me, the most important outcome of Global Entrepreneurship Week is to show that there are people right here in our community who are following their passions to help make at least one piece of our lives a little bit better.
As the week draws to a close, it’s the perfect time to think about where we are as a community and how we can become better. It’s also a time to reflect on the story of entrepreneurship as a whole in Minnesota.
Minnesotans are hardworking. And we’re also very humble. This trait can be our best quality at times, but it can also be our biggest downfall. We have an amazingly rich history of innovation in Minnesota, but we hesitate to tell our story to the rest of the world.
During Global Entrepreneurship Week here in Rochester, we had the opportunity to screen the film DocuMNtary with the producer Nick Roseth and videographer Eric Jenson. DocuMNtary, as the name suggests, is a documentary that tells the story of tech in Minnesota. The entire film was bootstrapped and shot over a one-and-a-half-year period to help to spread a different story of Minnesota.
What usually comes to mind when people think about our state? If they don’t live here, they usually just think that Minnesota’s cold. Frigid. Even unbearable. That’s the story of Minnesota that typically gets told. That it’s cold here. That the people here have funny accents. That the businesses here are too cautious. That no one ever moves to Minnesota.
This isn’t our story.
Yes, it’s cold here. I can’t deny that. But it’s all in the perspective. The temperature for a portion of the year cannot define our state. It might take a little more convincing to get people to re-locate to Minnesota, but once they do they’re probably going to stay here for a long time.
DocuMNtary helps to piece together a better story of Minnesota that we can tell. The real story. The story of Minnesota’s deep tech roots that go back to the 1960s when Minnesota was a world leader in computer manufacturing. But even then our tech expertise was hushed, largely because it grew out of classified government contracts and code breaking.
We still have deep tech expertise across the state. Many entrepreneurs and community leaders speaking on the film felt that we are right on the cusp of something big in Minnesota, a real transformation. It’s an important time for us to take note of what is happening around us, the history that we are creating right now, and embrace the experience. Innovation is moving quickly in Minnesota. Last year alone $380M was invested into our tech companies. We arguably are developing some of the best B2B software in the world here.
Not just the tech sector, but Minnesota’s entrepreneurial community as a whole is growing exponentially. But our story is flying under the radar. As was pointedly stated in DocuMNtary, Minnesota is a great place to start up or settle down. Want to work at an established business? We have a high density of Fortune 500 companies in the state. But if you want to start something new, you’ve landed in the right place.
DocuMNtary is a must see not only for people working in tech, but for anyone living in Minnesota. For anyone who thinks that Minnesotans are cautious, that nothing ever happens here, or that it’s fly over country, I challenge you to watch the film, and then of course visit us.
Yes, we have our own unique struggles in the entrepreneurial community here that we have to address and overcome. But I challenge each of us living here, myself included, to really open up our eyes, take in what’s happening around us, and then help to share a new story of Minnesota.
DocuMNtary can be viewed for free by clicking here. The film is arranged in modular units, so you can pick what is most interesting to you or watch it all. The film was narrated by Minneapolis rapper Dessa and all the instrumental was performed by the Minneapolis hip-hop collective Doomtree, who agreed to participate after a cold email. That in itself helps to tell a different story about Minnesota.