Minnesota Cup

Six Local Startups Steamroll into Semifinal Round of Minnesota Cup Business Pitch Competition

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Six Olmsted County teams will advance this year into the semifinal round of the Minnesota Cup. Minnesota Cup, now in its fifteenth season, is the largest state-wide business plan competition in the United States. This five-month long competition, run through the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, provides teams with mentorship, connections, and more. Teams also compete for a slice of seed prize money, totaling $500,000 this year. 

Ninety Minnesota-based teams remain in the competition, spread across nine different divisions. Semifinalists from Olmsted County include: Busy Baby LLC, HipStar LLC, Phenomix Sciences, Phraze, Amicii, and DiscoverMe.

 

Busy Baby LLC (General Division, Women-Led, Veteran-Led)

Busy Baby LLC, led by mompreneur Beth Fynbo, has developed a 100% silicone mat that suctions to smooth surfaces. The mat contains a proprietary tether system to attach toys to the mat so toys remain within baby’s reach and germ-free.

 

HipStar LLC (General Division)

HipStar has created a hands-free travel cart, which attaches to the hip, to increase mobility during travel.

 

Phenomix Sciences (Life Science/Health IT Division)

Phenomix Sciences, founded by Mayo Clinic physicians Dr. Andres Acostas and Dr. Michael Camilleri, aims to fight obesity. Phenomix Sciences has developed a blood test to categorize obesity patients into specific sub-types for improved targeting of therapeutics.

 

Phraze (Life Science/Health IT Division)

Co-founded by Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Brandon McCutcheon, Phraze has developed an AI medical scribe that reduces screen time between patients and physicians, increases the note taking capacity of physicians, and enhances clinical workflow.

 

Amicii (Youth Division)

Amicii, founded by John Marshall High School student Daniel Fleury, utilizes deep learning to deliver medical diagnostics for diseases such as pneumonia or skin cancer in under five seconds.

 

DiscoverMe (Youth Division, Minority-Led, Women-Led)

The DiscoverMe app was created by an all-female team of Mayo and Century High School students as part of Technovation[MN]. Technovation[MN] is the local chapter of the global Technovation challenge to empower teen girls to use coding to solve real problems they see in their everyday lives.

 

Congratulations to the six Olmsted County teams remaining in the competition! The semifinal round of Minnesota Cup will run into late August. Each division will narrow from ten semifinalists to three finalists to enter into the next stage of the competition this September. The Minnesota Cup will culminate in a final awards ceremony on October 14th in Minneapolis.

Press Release: Rochester Public Schools Girls Win $10,000 Prize in Minnesota Cup

Photo courtesy of Technovation[MN]. B.A.S.I.C. B.A.L.S.A students and professional mentors.

Photo courtesy of Technovation[MN]. B.A.S.I.C. B.A.L.S.A students and professional mentors.

MINNEAPOLIS -- A team of three middle school and two high school girls from Rochester Public Schools won the $10,000 Sunrise Banks prize in the 14th annual Minnesota Cup business startup competition held by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.

The girls developed a cell phone app named Bridge that provides resources for immigrants to improve their quality of life in an unfamiliar community by helping them access banking and broader financial support.

The team, called B.A.S.I.C. B.A.L.S.A., is sponsored by the local chapter of the Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) and the Rochester Public Schools (RPS) and developed its app in cooperation with a local nonprofit, the Diversity Council. 

This past May the girls first submitted their app at Minneapolis’ fifth annual Technovation “Appapalooza” meet, a competition for middle and high school girls that is part of a global program.  They ranked highest in the high school division and thus qualified automatically as a semifinalist for the Minnesota Cup.

In mid-2017 a different RPS high school team sponsored by the BDPA, called SKeMAS, became a first runner-up in the Technovation Challenge globally and was awarded $5,000 in scholarship money as a result.  One of the five B.A.S.I.C. B.A.L.S.A. girls was on a BDPA middle school team that was a Technovation qualifier at the Appapalooza in 2016.  In 2015, a team from Kasson-Mantorville Middle School was one of only four finalists in its division worldwide at the global Technovation finals held in San Francisco.  

The Minnesota Cup is the largest statewide startup competition in the country.  The SKeMAS team was a finalist in the 2017 Minnesota Cup youth division as well as in the Women-Led teams division where they competed against adult teams.  B.A.S.I.C. B.A.L.S.A. likewise competed against at adult teams for the Sunrise Banks prize.

Students on the B.A.S.I.C. B.A.L.S.A include: Audrey Whitney, Bailey Klote, Anjali Donthi, Alexandra Bancos, and Simran Sandhu. Professional mentors for the team included: Ginny McCright, Kris Whitney, Scott Klote, Gina Whitney, and Courtney Kramer.

Sunrise Banks:  As stated at https://sunrisebanks.com/about-us/who-we-are/, this financial institution “innovates in the financial services industry and strives for financial inclusion for all. Sunrise Banks is a family owned national chartered bank headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota and has a long history of serving inner city communities in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The bank's six branches are primarily located in the urban core of Minneapolis and St. Paul.”

What is Technovation[MN]? A 12-week program that connects professional mentors to all-girl teams to enable girls to dream up, design, and code mobile phone apps.  Coaches keep the teams on track with the support of a few professional mentors.  Each team of up to five girls develops a real-world combination of technical and entrepreneurial skills as they code an app and prepare to pitch their idea at Minnesota's statewide event in early May, the Appapalooza. Selected teams have the opportunity to advance and compete in the global Technovation Challenge, as did a middle school team from Kasson-Mantorville in 2015 (which also led to participating in the 2016 White House Science Fair).

Technovation was brought to Southeastern MN by Code Savvy, Technovation[MN], Preventice Technologies (Rochester office), and the former Rochester Area Math Science Partnership (RAMSP), now called STEM Forward; in the Rochester area Technovation has received financial support from IBM and the Mayo Clinic.

Two Rochester Biotech Startups Enter Final Round of Minnesota Cup

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Two weeks ago, Minnesota Cup- the largest statewide business plan competition in the nation- entered into the final round. After narrowing down from an initial pool of 1600 applicants, only twenty-seven remain, including two life science startups from Rochester: Mill Creek Life Sciences and Thaddeus Medical Systems.

The goal of Minnesota Cup is to connect Minnesota’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, providing participating startups with business plan feedback, connections, media exposure, and access to over $500,000 in seed funding. Startups compete in one of nine different divisions. The competition has been running full steam since April 27th, when applications for this year’s competition were due. By mid-May, the competitor pool was narrowed down to ninety semifinalists, ten in each division.

Five teams from Olmsted County made it to the semifinal round of the competition this year, including: Busy Baby LLC (General Division), LipiQuester LLC (Life Science/Health IT Division), Mill Creek Life Sciences (Life Science/Health IT Division), Thaddeus Medical Systems (Life Science/Health IT Division), and B.A.S.I.C. BALSA (Youth Division). 

By the end of August, competitors were narrowed down again to three finalists from each division, which included Rochester-based Mill Creek Life Sciences and Thaddeus Medical Systems, both in the Life Science/Health IT division. 

Divisional winners will be announced on September 24th, receiving $30K in seed funding and the opportunity to compete for the Minnesota Cup Grand Prize, which will be announced at the final awards ceremony on October 8th.

Mill Creek Life Sciences, named after a southern Minnesota trout stream, is a research tools company based on Mayo Clinic licensed technology. Mill Creek produces two cell culture products, PLTMax and PLTGold, which are used to culture stem cells- undifferentiated cells that have the ability to develop into multiple different cell types.

Thaddeus Medical Systems is developing an all-in-one smart packaging solution for transportation of medical products. This company is challenging the standard cardboard box and ice shipping system with their product, iQler, a smart hardware and software shipping solution.

Five Rochester Girls Seeking to Advanced their Mobile App to Final Round of Minnesota Cup

B.A.S.I.C. BALSA Team. Back row (from left to right): Simran Sandhu, Anjali Donthi, and Alexandra Bancos. Front row (from left to right): Audrey Whitney and Bailey Klote. Photo courtesy of Technovation[MN],

B.A.S.I.C. BALSA Team. Back row (from left to right): Simran Sandhu, Anjali Donthi, and Alexandra Bancos. Front row (from left to right): Audrey Whitney and Bailey Klote. Photo courtesy of Technovation[MN],

Five Rochester middle and high school girls are aiming to improve quality of life with their mobile phone application called Bridge. Team B.A.S.I.C. BALSA- comprised of Anjali Donthi, Simran Sandhu, Audrey Whitney, Alexandra Bancos, and Bailey Klote- placed first in the senior division of a state-wide tech competition. The girls are now making their way through the semifinal round of Minnesota Cup as the new school year approaches.

Bridge helps immigrants, refugees, and visitors locate necessary resources within their new communities like food, shelter, educational resources, and places of worship.

“Most of the members of our team, we have family who are immigrants. So that is how we chose to make an app that solved problems that immigrants faced,” explained Donthi, an incoming tenth grader at Century High School.

Users can search for resources within Bridge using six different languages including English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese, and Hindi. Overall, the app aims to improve quality of life. The team hopes to scale Bridge to benefit other communities beyond Rochester.

The Bridge app was coded over fifteen weeks this past school year- primarily by sixth grader Whitney- as part of the Technovation Challenge. Technovation is a global competition that encourages girls to solve problems they encounter in their everyday lives with technology. Throughout the challenge, teams of five work with volunteer mentors to create mobile app “startups”; many teams have no coding experience prior to the competition.

Technovation has proven success of increasing young girls’ interest in coding fields. Fifty-eight percent of Technovation alumni enroll in additional coding classes after the competition. Twenty-six percent of alumni major in computer science in college, compared to the 0.4% national average of first year female computer science majors.

This year, ~19,000 young girls registered for the Technovation Challenge.

The Minnesota branch of the competition, called Technovation[MN], culminated in a statewide competition called Appapalooza in May, where teams showcased their mobile technology and business plan, which included marketing and financial strategies. This year, a record high seventy-five teams competed in Appapalooza, with nine teams moving on to the semi-final round of the global competition.

B.A.S.I.C. BALSA walked away from the state competition as the Senior Division winner, advancing to the Technovation semi-finals. Although their journey with Technovation this season ended in the semi-finals, the team spent the summer refining their business plan and pitch to compete in the Youth Division of Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide business pitch competition in the nation. The girls submitted their application to Minnesota Cup last week and learn if they will advance to the final round on August 21st.

Now, B.A.S.I.C. BALSA is refining their technology, building category filters for optimized searches, and adding additional languages to their app. The girls plan to ultimately turn over ownership of Bridge to Rochester’s Diversity Council for long term maintenance and support.

Overall, the girls of B.A.S.I.C. BALSA said they enjoyed the Technovation experience and plan to continue with the program throughout their middle and high school careers. In addition to learning coding, the competition also taught them teamwork, business development, and other valuable skill sets.

Plus, they just had a good time.

“[Technovation] is really fun and [other girls] should do it because it can be a really good learning experience. If you never ever thought of doing it and you try, maybe you’ll really like it and you can go into the field of coding someday,” said Klote.

Teams from Rochester and southeast Minnesota have historically performed well in the Technovation Challenge. Three years ago, a team of seventh graders from Kasson-Mantorville Middle School were one of four teams that qualified to compete in the Technovation finals in San Francisco. Last year, Rochester high school team SKeMAs finished as runners up in the global semi-final round for their app to minimize distracted driving.

Five Olmsted County Teams Advance to Semifinal Round of Minnesota Cup

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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!

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.