Rochester Teen Startup Moves on to Final Round of Minnesota Cup

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Five Rochester teens will represent the city as one of only twenty-four startups remaining in the Minnesota Cup venture competition.  This team of all female students is developing an app, called Via, that limits distracted driving. They are the only startup from Olmsted County left standing in the seven-month long competition.

Minnesota Cup, the largest state-wide startup competition in the United States, is in its thirteenth year of operation. Since its inception, this annual event has supported over 13K Minnesotan entrepreneurs across ninety-three percent of all Minnesota counties, awarding over $2M in seed capital. Minnesota Cup finalists have gone on to raise over $300M to create jobs within the state.

The Minnesota Cup competition begins in late March, where startups with less than $1M in annual revenue can enter one of eight different categories: Energy/CleanTech/Water, Food/Ag/Beverage, General, HighTech, Impact Ventures, Life Science/HealthIT, Student, and Youth Divisions.

Division semifinalists are announced in late May; finalists in each division are revealed at the end of August.

This year, 520 startups entered Minnesota Cup, competing for over $450K in seed money. In addition to capital, participating startups also received business plan feedback, networking opportunities, and mentorship from leaders within their industry.

The Rochester team “SKeMAs” is one of three startups remaining in the Youth Division. The women of “SKeMAs”-Sophia Fulton, Stela Baltic, Anushri Walimbe, Maurine Macharia, and Keerthi Manikonda- are developing a mobile app called Via to mitigate distracted driving among their peers. They hope to add additional layers of complexity as the product matures.

Green Garden Bakery and Peacebunny Island are the two additional finalists in the Youth Division. Green Garden Bakery grows urban vegetables and prepares them into healthy desserts for their community. Peacebunny Island is creating a rabbit sanctuary for Angoras and other rare breeds used in the fur industry. The rabbits are given gentle haircuts four times a year and the fur is spun into “HEARTfelt” humane, eco-friendly yarn.

This year’s Minnesota Cup will culminate in a free, inclusive event on October 9th at the McNamara Alumni Center in Minneapolis where the overall Grand Prize winner will be announced.

Last year, the Life Science/Health IT startup Stemonix won the entire competition. Stemonix creates physiologically relevant plates of microtissue for drug discovery and development, including a micoBrain and microHeart platform. 

Dessa- a rapper, poet, and member of the Minneapolis based hip-hop group Doomtree- will emcee the Minnesota Cup Grand Prize Ceremony this October.