Rochester's Tech Startup GoRout Selected as Finalist in NASA iTech Competition

Photo courtesy of GoRout.

Photo courtesy of GoRout.

Rochester company GoRout was selected as one of only ten competitors for NASA’s prestigious NASA iTech competition. NASA iTech, an initiative of the organization’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, challenges entrepreneurs to apply their technology to solve pressing issues related to space exploration.  Ten finalists remain in the competition , including GoRout, and will present their ideas at the upcoming iTech Forum in Sunnyvale, California on July 10-11th. Chief technologists from NASA, additional federal agencies, and industry will then select three winners from these finalists for the 2019 NASA iTech Cycle I competition. The ten NASA iTech finalists span a range of industry including medical, data, and materials. The three Cycle I winners will receive no monetary compensation but will gain on-going mentoring to help commercialize their product.

 Congratulations to GoRout and best of luck in the competition! GoRout, run by CEO Mike Rolih, is a Rochester-based hardware and software company eliminating the need for huddles and scout cards. GoRout’s technology works to improve on-field communication for hundreds of high school and small college football teams across the US. GoRout won the NFL’s 1st and Future startup competition in 2017. CEO Rolih was also named among SportsTechie’s 20 Innovators in 2017.

New Rochester Microcinema Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse Hosts Grand Opening Celebration this Friday

Photo courtesy of Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse.

Photo courtesy of Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse.

Rochester’s only microcinema, Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, is set to open its doors this Friday. Theater owner Andy Smith hopes the business will help to build and support a vibrant film community in Rochester while retaining a distinctly Minnesotan vibe.

A Los Angeles native, Smith has a strong love for film, the film production industry, and spaces that build community around film. A former teacher, he had never launched his own business before but had always enjoyed starting something new and creating. Driven by this passion, Smith and his wife Anna developed the concept for a new microcinema business with their sights set on the upper Midwest. After looking at multiple locations and communities, Smith responded to a property listing by local commercial real estate agent Bucky Beeman and quickly narrowed his search to Rochester. 

Smith said Beeman was instrumental in not only finding the eventual end location for Gray Duck, he also introduced the couple to many local small business owners to begin their relationship building process.

Gray Duck Theater & Coffeehouse, located at 619 6th Avenue Northwest, will be smaller than your typical cinema, seating about sixty-six people.

“But we like that and it will build community, build intimacy, while not sacrificing any of the excellence that you’re used to in a move theater,” Smith explained. 

Gray Duck aims to showcase a “well rounded film diet” Smith said, including independent films, documentaries, large budget films, and the classics.

“We’re going to show excellent movies here. But we also just love movies,” he explained.

In addition to films, Gray Duck will offer a full-service coffee shop at the location in partnership with Fiddlehead Coffee. Movies will show Friday through Sunday. The coffee shop will be open all week, including outside of movie showtimes.

Regular movie tickets at Gray Duck will run for $8. Theater patrons can also purchase a “Flying V” subscription membership for $20 per month to attend an unlimited number of regular movie showings at no additional cost. The Gray Duck venue will also be available to rent for private showings or events outside of the regular movie showtimes.

While Smith developed his love for film in LA, he wants Gray Duck to be authentic to this region.

“We’re very purposefully being local and Minnesota centric,” he explained.

All of the concessions offered at the business will be locally sourced, from coffee to popcorn. Smith additionally hopes to build out a nonprofit arm of Gray Duck to help empower local film makers and to support a vibrant local film culture.

“We’re just excited to be here and we really want to build a really strong community,” he explained. 

Gray Duck will host its grand opening party this Friday night showing the 1925 Charlie Chaplin silent film The Gold Rush. Tickets are on sale for $75 a piece for this formal red-carpet event, which includes live musical accompaniment.

Gray Duck’s complete movie showing schedule for May is currently available on their website.

Thanks to The Commission for hosting a “Sneak Peak” last Thursday of this new-to-Rochester business!

TEDxZumbroRiver: In Photos

Yesterday I had the distinct opportunity and pleasure to attend TEDxZumbroRiver. This is the second year running of the Rochester-based TEDx event, with the goal to "share ideas, network, and catalyze innovation in the Rochester-area."

TED- or Technology, Entertainment, and Design- is a nonprofit that spreads innovative, powerful ideas in the form of TED talks. These talks are eighteen minutes or less and cover a range of global issues and "ideas worth spreading." TEDx events are locally organized, independent TED events, bringing TED-like talks into the community. This year, TEDxZumbroRiver showcased ten different speakers from Rochester and around the United States, all focused on the theme "What's Possible." 

TEDxZumbroRiver was a night of inspiration and emotion, encouraging listeners to push boundaries, both real and perceived, to truly live life and recognize our own full potential.

Here are some photos celebrating the evening event. Check back for the full story next week.

Photo courtesy of Lilly Sundsbak.

Photo courtesy of Lilly Sundsbak.

Photo courtesy of Lilly Sundsbak.

Photo courtesy of Lilly Sundsbak.

Photo courtesy of Lilly Sundsbak.

Photo courtesy of Lilly Sundsbak.

Local Entrepreneurial Experts Predict Momentous 2017

The doors have closed on another year and the blank slate of 2017 is laid out before us. As we slowly roll through January, we asked several Minnesota-based entrepreneurs or experts working closely with startups and emerging businesses what they think 2017 holds. All opinions indicate this year may be one for the books in terms of startup development and growth in Rochester.

Where to Build a Wet Lab: Examining the Stewartville Option

“How bad do we need wet lab space? Bad. When I started looking for a place to get [LAgen Laboratories] up, there just wasn’t anything,” explained Dr. Alan Marmorstein, Mayo Clinic Professor of Ophthalmology and Founder of the Rochester-based biomedical startup LAgen Labs.

Because there was no lab space available in Rochester when he was building LAgen, Dr. Marmorstein found his own facility in northwest Rochester. But then he not only had to raise capital for space, but he also needed funds for pricey laboratory equipment. He had to forgo some more “luxury” pieces of equipment due to startup budget constraints.

If the Rochester area continues to not have space for life science entrepreneurs, these people will leave, even if they would rather build in the city. It’s already starting to happen. A demand for lab space in Rochester is apparent, but the situation is a little more complicated than just providing real estate options.

“The quality of the space matters. Those that have secured wet lab space in the Rochester area are scattered throughout the city. [It] would be far better for those startup biobusinesses to share equipment and expertise in a local hub,” said Dr. Stephen Ekker, Mayo Clinic Professor and CoFounder of the InSciEdOut Foundation and Lifengine Technologies.

One solution may exist not in Rochester, but in Stewartville, Minnesota. As catheter manufacturer Bard Medical finalizes its leave from Stewartville, the company vacates three manufacturing and research facilities. The newest of these buildings, at 57,000 square foot facility, has been identified by Bard Medical real estate representative Avison Young, the City of Stewartville EDA, and architecture firm Widseth Smith Nolting (WSN) as prime space for a wet lab incubator.

“The biggest cost for somebody to create one of these kinds of facilities is always in the infrastructure equipment,” explained Brian Carlson, Business Development specialist at WSN. This infrastructure cost would include things like sidewalks, roadways, sewer, water, heating, cooling, and other mechanical equipment. Most of the infrastructure in the proposed wet lab facility is already in place; the building is estimated to have cost ~$17M to originally construct.

Drawing courtesy of Widseth Smith Nolting.

Drawing courtesy of Widseth Smith Nolting.

The potential Stewartville wet lab facility includes clean lab facilities, which were previously used for catheter manufacturing. The space is of flexible design, with a portion being divided into twelve to fifteen individual wet or dry labs, 750-1000 sq. ft. in area. These labs will be separated by semi-permanent walls, allowing the space to be configured to user demands. This flexibility allows walls to be removed when businesses need to expand, allowing the building to suit the needs of companies right now, while also giving them room to grow.

“Flexibility, that has to be a key to make this facility continue to be viable. Not only in 2017, but also in 2023. Because that flexibility is going to change as our businesses change, as the bioscience development process changes. It’s going to be an absolute must,” explained Carlson.

Drawing courtesy of Widseth Smith Nolting. 

Drawing courtesy of Widseth Smith Nolting. 

The Stewartville facility would also include private office space for grant writing, documentation, and other activities that need to take place outside of the laboratory. The building design will additionally feature community space where tenants can freely mingle with others working in the building to foster relationships and collaboration. The design plans also include conference rooms that can be outfitted with high tech communication capabilities for webinars and video conferences.

“Getting the bandwidth that we need here, not a problem. Getting the power requirements we need, not a problem. We’ve already got the power company online. And getting permits from the city to be able to do this, not a problem. The City of Stewartville is 100% onboard,” said Carlson.

“We are committing time, we’re committing materials. …We’re wanting this thing to keep moving, we want to get people down here to look at it,” said Jimmie-John King, Mayor of Stewartville.

Because most of the infrastructure is in place, this wet lab facility has a quick time to market and could potentially open as early as September 2017.

“So literally what we’re talking about is just putting walls up on the inside and putting the right kind of filtration and air flow into each of the individual labs that individual users may need,” explained Carlson.

 Building a facility like this on a greenfield site could take at least twenty-four months and $15-20M.

Funds are now being gathered for a feasibility study for the Stewartville site to estimate the cost to get the building operational and monthly fees for tenants. If funding for the study falls into place by January, the team could have these answers by April 1st and be welcoming tenants this fall.

“As Mayor of this town, I think it’s an outstanding idea and we’ve got a lot of support right now towards the feasibility study. We’ve got a lot of people committing money towards it and are ready to go from there,” said King.

“And the importance of having this scope of a facility and the speed to market of having it available to use within that time period meshes perfectly with the DMC plan,” explained Carlson.

The Stewartville site is by far the fastest to market option that we have for wet lab space in the Rochester area. But, is this the right location?

Call Taylor at (507) 424-3648.

Call Taylor at (507) 424-3648.

“Stewartville is far, far away,” said one Rochester entrepreneur.

Wet lab space could pull in researchers from all over southeastern Minnesota and even from Minneapolis/St. Paul. However, it’s highly likely that the first tenants will come from technology developed at the Mayo Clinic. And there’s a strong belief that proximity to Mayo is essential for potential wet lab tenants to keep their full-time positions at the Clinic.

There is at least one laboratory operating in wet-lab-like space in Mayo’s 41st Street building, which is five miles, or a ten-minute drive, away from the primary Mayo Clinic research buildings. In comparison, the Stewartville facility is ten miles, or a twenty-minute drive, away.

Wet lab space anywhere in the area could be a real asset to the 38,000 southeastern Minnesotans employed in the healthcare and science industries. This proposed facility would also fill a gaping hole left in Stewartville when Bard Medical pulled 185 jobs from the region.  But, will the region’s entrepreneurs take to a wet lab facility outside of the Rochester city limits?

“There’s absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t have a wet lab space to attract new companies and keep companies here, right now,” said Jamie Sundsbak, Program Manager at Collider Core.

Fresh News Friday: DMC, OneOme, and Ethanol Co-ops

Here are the top news stories from around the web from Rochester’s entrepreneurial and small business scene.

  1. Noseworthy: Mayo Clinic on Schedule to Meet DMC Developmental Targets- The Med City Beat. The Mayo Clinic CEO announced that the company is on track to deliver their DMC target funds. Over the next two decades, Mayo Clinic will invest $3.5B toward DMC projects. DMC is on track to receive $200M in private investment by the end of the year.
  2. Rochester Airport Keeps International Flights with $7.3M Upgrade- StarTribune. The Rochester International Airport faced a potential downgrade to municipal airport status when U.S. Customs and Border Protection found the airport’s customs facility to be outdated. The airport recently scored $7.3M in a U.S. Department of Transportation grant to upgrade the customs facility. Maintaining status as an international airport is essential to support the DMC initiative and the future of international business in Rochester.
  3. Claremont, MN Awarded a $500,000 CEDA Authored Business Development Public Infrastructure Grant- Community and Economic Development Associates. Claremont recently received a $500K grant for street improvements to aid in a $146M expansion of Al-Corn Clean Fuel, a farmer-owned ethanol production co-op. Three hundred construction jobs are expected to be generated for the buildout.
  4. Winners of the 2016 Manufacturing Awards by Minnesota Business Magazine- Minnesota Business Magazine. This week, Minnesota Business Magazine honored top manufacturers in the state with their 2015 Manufacturing Awards. Manufacturing contributes $37B to the state economy. Blooming Prairie based Minimizer was a finalist in the mid-sized company category this year. Minimizer is a leader in poly semi-truck fender manufacture.
  5. OneOme Lands $5.25 Million in Financing Round- Twin Cities Business. The life science startup OneOme is backed by Mayo Clinic and Invenshure, a Minneapolis incubator and venture investor. OneOme uses DNA analysis and their software product, RightMed, to minimize adverse drug reactions in patients. OneOme currently has twenty-five employees.

Where's the Wet Lab? Focus Group and Tour Outcome of Potential Wet Lab Space in Stewartville, MN

Building at 1 Rochester Medical Drive, Stewartville, Minnesota.

Building at 1 Rochester Medical Drive, Stewartville, Minnesota.

The entrepreneurial and startup scene in Rochester and the surrounding communities is growing, particularly in biobusiness. But we still have one missing essential component: wet lab space.

What is a wet lab?

Picture a wet lab as your stereotypical laboratory benchtop plus anything you would need to do a science experiment. A wet lab is a space where biological materials, liquids, and chemical materials could be safely handled and used. It’s a place to do biology, or chemistry, or make bio- or medical products. A wet lab typically contains some sort of specialized ventilation system. It has gas. It has plumbing. And perhaps most importantly, it contains laboratory equipment.

Why do you need a wet lab?

As opposed to a dry lab, where experiments can be simulated or data churned on a computer, the bioscience entrepreneur really needs a separate space. These experiments, or manufacturing, could not be done in a kitchen or basement. The entrepreneur creating things like medical devices or vaccines needs a very clean, controlled, sterile environment.

Lab equipment is the most important part. Things like fume hoods, centrifuges, sterilization equipment, liquid nitrogen tanks- I could go on and on- are very expensive and can mount a significant barrier to entry for aspiring biobusiness entrepreneurs. A wet lab offers these entrepreneurs shared access to equipment, lowering some of the cost to launch their concept.

We have a potential wet lab facility right in Stewartville, Minnesota that could serve as a regional hub for entrepreneurship. The space is already built and may just need some easy modifications to suit potential tenant needs.

Last week, Joya Stetson from Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) and Stewartville Economic Development Authority led a focus group and tour of a potential wet lab facility in Stewartville. The group was composed of affiliates of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI), Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency (DMC EDA), and City of Stewartville, and members of the entrepreneurial, construction, engineering, and architecture communities.

A wet lab could have long-lasting benefits not just to Rochester, but to southeast Minnesota as a whole. A wet lab could bring companies into the area and create local jobs. This type of facility could be the spark needed to ignite and mobilize our entrepreneurial bioscience sector.

The main facility of interest was previously owned by Bard Medical, a vascular, urology, and oncology medical device manufacturer. This 57,500 square foot facility is located at 455 Rochester Medical Drive NW in the northern portion of Stewartville. The building was constructed in 2014 and was only used for a short period of time.

The facility is ready or could be easily converted into wet lab or manufacturing space. It has a complex heating and ventilation system and ample power capabilities. The space also features a ISO Class 8 Equivalent clean room, although it is not certified. The facility contains a conveyer belt system to enable mass production, a warehouse, pallet storage area, and ample shipping and receiving capabilities. The building contains a flammables and chemical storage room, an office area, and breakroom.

Utilization of the space is flexible; the building could easily be renovated to suit any particular need and be subdivided.

Wet labs do work. We have a shining example in University Enterprise Labs (UEL) in Saint Paul. UEL is largely used as a biotech incubator for very early stage companies out of the University of Minnesota. The facility has been running for over ten years. There is an immense need for wet lab space in the Twin Cities; UEL has been operating at 98-99% occupancy for at least the last six years. They even have to turn people away.

This year, UEL launched the largest construction project since its initial buildout, converting 14,000 square feet of office space into four dry labs, two wet labs, and two offices.

There’s no question that UEL fulfilled a need for wet lab space in the Twin Cities. And that need is apparently not yet quenched.

There’s also no doubt that wet lab space is limited in southeast Minnesota. We need a wet lab. But where should we put it and how can we finance its buildout and operation?

The facility of interest, at 455 Rochester Medical Drive NW in Stewartville, is already built. It’s already outfitted for the production of medical devices. It has infrastructure for a wet lab. Even UEL was not built from scratch; the building used to be a distribution center for Target. Plus, UEL had early sponsors, like 3M and Xcel Energy, who took on some percentage of the initial costs.

Besides the previous Bard Medical manufacturing facility, there are two other Bard Medical facilities for sale in Stewartville that could contribute to a growing biobusiness ecosystem. The first is a mixed use light manufacturing facility right across the street at 1 Rochester Medical Drive NW. The second is another manufacturing building at 1500 2nd Avenue NW in Stewartville.

The facilities are for sale together- the asking price is currently ~$11M- or individually. The sale price on the 455 Rochester Medical Drive property is ~$4.5M.

“These structures represent a huge opportunity for a business or businesses. The manufacturing facilities are highly sophisticated and their location in Stewartville, Minnesota is primed for distribution. As the community is located on US Highway 63 and Interstate 90 with close proximity to Highways 30 and 52 in addition to FedEx Ground's presence in the Stewartville Schumann Business Park, ground shipping is notably facilitated. There is also nearby access to the Rochester International Airport, which is only 2 miles from the City, to accommodate easy movement of goods by air,” said Stetson.

We have a burgeoning bioscience and medical entrepreneurial community in southeast Minnesota, but is it large enough to fill the space? We do have some cross-pollination between the Twin Cities and Rochester in bioscience development, but are these companies interested in having startup activity around Rochester?

Oh, the possibilities.

Wet lab space is a topic of massive interest to the community. If you have a comment about this or any potential wet lab space, please leave it in the comment section below to contribute and spawn a fluid conversation around the topic.

Any further questions or inquiries about the specifics of the three Bard Medical facilities can be directed here.

Rochester Entrepreneurial Roundtable Discusses Future of City's Startup Ecosystem: Part 2

A few weeks ago we sat down with some of Rochester’s entrepreneurs for a roundtable discussion about the startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Rochester, where the community is headed, and what it will take to get there.  This is part two in a three article series covering the conversation. 


Our esteemed entrepreneurial panel:

  • Mike Rolih, Founder and CEO of GoRout, a sports wearable display and sensor company and recent graduate of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.
  • Xavier Frigola, Director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator that houses twenty-two life science companies.
  • Nate Nordstrom, Founder of BrandHoot, a company that designs websites, mobile applications, and additional products.
  • Hunter Downs, Founder of Area 10 Labs, a hardware and software product development company, and Co-owner of Café Steam.
  • Chris Lukenbill, Founder of AbleBright Agrotech software to connect produce farmers that have the passion grow, with the knowledge they need to be successful.

  • Jamie Sundsbak, Founder of BioAM and Program Director at a new coworking and business incubator space called Collider.


Now that we had defined a startup, startup ecosystem, and the key ingredients for Rochester’s startup success in Part 1 of the discussion, we next asked how we should build up and feed Rochester’s startup ecosystem and encourage more prospective entrepreneurs to take risks.

“I think as entrepreneurs, we always wish, I always wish, and I think everyone will agree, things would happen faster, bigger, and better.  And so I think all of a sudden, you’re just anxious to make this grow and change faster.  But I think we’re doing a lot of the right things,” explained Nate.   He viewed Cube, Rochester’s first coworking space, as that first connection point in our entrepreneurial community.  And from that moment, things just propelled forward.

Rochester’s entrepreneurs also need to utilize the energy within the community to make startup growth possible.  As part of this process, we need to clearly identify the roadblocks impeding our success and craft solutions to these problems.

It’s also essential to learn from the experience of other cities that have undergone dramatic growth in their startup and entrepreneurial systems to avoid committing similar errors and to accelerate our own growth process.  “When the entourage went to Madison, it was ‘Oh we built a lot of space.  We should have been investing in those companies.’  And I think that’s a strong lesson.  Don’t build it and expect them to come.  Go the other way around.  Make them be there, then fill the space,” said Hunter.

Things are happening in Rochester’s entrepreneurial scene that made the panel believe we are pointed in the right direction.  Take Café Steam, for example.  Something that didn’t exist eighteen months ago has now become a hot spot for Rochester’s entrepreneurial force.  You can’t go in there to work or hold a meeting without bumping into someone else you know who is working on their own business in the coffee shop.  Café Steam has become a location in Rochester where entrepreneurs can interact in a low key fashion.

The Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator has also taken off.  “I’m excited because when we opened the accelerator…it was a public effort.  But now, we have the private sector doing something.  Which to me means that the model has been proven and there’s opportunities for a business itself to help other businesses, which will only exponentially keep helping out our companies,” explained Xavier.

There’s also a changing community perspective on entrepreneurship.  Nate explained that perhaps the first stage of an entrepreneurial ecosystem is skepticism or even lack of trust in the process because it’s just so foreign and new.  He explained when Cube first open its doors, people thought it was insanely weird.  The next stage in building that entrepreneurial ecosystem might be curiosity. 

“And now maybe we can get to a point where it’s more like faith and trust in, ok this is actually a real thing.  It’s not just some random people just playing around and having fun.  They’re trying to build a business and make a big impact here.”

We’re not only seeing a trust or acceptance of entrepreneurship in Rochester, we’re seeing a change in the actual face of the city itself.  There’s a real push in infrastructure investment now where residents see noticeable changes to the cityscape.  “If I was to steer DMC more in terms of what it was doing, I would say let the buildings get built but focus on, and I know Patrick Seeb is working on this a lot, is how do you get people in and out of downtown quickly?” asked Hunter.  Poor traffic flow could be a literal roadblock to entrepreneurial ecosystem growth.

Positive developments are occurring in the Rochester entrepreneurial scene.  But at what point will we know if all these efforts have been successful?

“I’d say like every day, if you could have an announcement like [GoRout’s] round of funding closed.  It would be like boom, today [GoRout] closed.  Tomorrow, every person down the line,” Hunter explained.

A key event happening in Rochester every day would mean two things.  First, it means that ideas are coming to maturity.  Second, it means that capital is flowing into the city.  This daily announcement would not need to be limited to the close of a funding round.  It could include things like major hires, launches of clinical trials, or major exits.

People in Rochester increasingly want to hear more about the entrepreneurial world.  Maybe it’s due to the rise of things like Shark Tank, but we’ll be optimistic here.  Perhaps this means we are moving through what Nate termed the “curiosity” stage of entrepreneurship. 

“To me things [in the entrepreneurial community] are happening pretty much every week, I don’t know about every day.  But things are happening pretty often here and there are people that want to know that live in this town,” Xavier summed up.

Rochester may be pointed in the right direction as far as entrepreneurial development is concerned, but overall the business environment in Minnesota may not be all that favorable to new ventures.  Hunter spoke about his previous experience in Hawaii, a state where tourism is a major contributor to the economy.  However, this industry took a huge hit after 9/11, virtually grinding to a halt.  The state realized it was time to diversify the economy.  In 2001, Hawaii passed Act 221, a high tech tax credit with a 100% return on investment, which fueled growth in the industry. 

We do have income tax incentives in Minnesota, like the Angel Tax Credit, where qualified investors can be credited up to 25% of any new investment.  However, the credit is maxed out at $125,000 for an individual and $250,000 for a joint filing couple.  That’s not such a bad deal if you want to invest $100,000.  But larger investments, such as in the $1M ballpark, are not all that attractive.

With already difficult regulatory requirements in place to get products like medical devices to market, a poor business growth environment adds even more barriers to entry for startups.

One solution?  If the game is not working, just break it.

“Then we have to change the rules.  Conversations like that start in rooms like this.  If we can find out what is impeding that progress, we can build some momentum.  There could be a case asking for the state to change the rules,” suggested Xavier.

Rochester Entrepreneurial Roundtable Discusses Future of City's Startup Ecosystem: Part 1

A few weeks ago we sat down with some of Rochester’s entrepreneurs for a roundtable discussion about the startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem in Rochester, where the community is headed, and what it will take to get there.  This is part one in a three article series covering the conversation. 

Our esteemed entrepreneurial panel:

  • Mike Rolih, Founder and CEO of GoRout, a sports wearable display and sensor company and recent graduate of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.
  • Xavier Frigola, Director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator that houses twenty-two life science companies.
  • Nate Nordstrom, Founder of BrandHoot, a company that designs websites, mobile applications, and additional products.
  • Hunter Downs, Founder of Area 10 Labs, a hardware and software product development company, and Co-owner of Café Steam.
  • Chris Lukenbill, Founder of AbleBright Agrotech software to connect produce farmers that have the passion grow, with the knowledge they need to be successful.
  • Jamie Sundsbak, Founder of BioAM and Program Director at a new coworking and business incubator space called Collider.


We opened the discussion by first defining a startup and startup ecosystem.  The room as a whole agreed that a startup is an organization that is still looking for the right business model.

“So you’re not established.  You don’t have that history of what you are creating.  You just have an idea or ideals of what you’re trying to get to or maybe what you’re trying to create,” explained Chris.

A startup is something that’s likely underfunded and just trying to survive long enough to figure things out.  Startups begin as an idea and hopefully become some product or service, but they are not a full-fledged business.  Running a startup is a bit of “semi-organized chaos”.

“You’re just this thing that’s doing this one thing and solving this one thing.  And you’re trying to survive long enough to figure out that happy path so that you can become a company and make one thing, more things,” said Mike.   

A startup is an entity that’s even a little bit naïve.  It’s something that “doesn’t know what it needs yet, in terms of resources,” explained Hunter.  Sometimes that’s the draw to launch a startup in the first place.

“But that’s one of the beauties of startups, right?  Is that naïve ability to just overcome things because you don’t know what you don’t know, until you get slapped in the face forty times,” said Mike.

Being classified as a startup is completely independent of time.  Some companies just rocket out of the gate or can be built and have all the cogs in place over a single weekend.  Whereas others, like Fitbit, take years to get off the ground.  And look where they are now.

Some parts of a business can even be more “startup-like”, while others are more mature.  Nate Nordstrom explained how some people classify BrandHoot as a startup, but it’s more complicated than that.

“But some part of me says, well, in some ways we’re not a startup.  And maybe the reason that I think that is because parts of our business are pretty well ironed out.  They’re figured out. …Some parts of our business, within the product development stuff we’re doing, those to me definitely fit the definition of a startup.  They’re kind of fuzzy.  We’re trying to solve a problem.  Not really sure exactly how it’s going to pan out.  Other parts of the business don’t feel like a startup to me anymore.”  

A startup is in a different category than “new business” because it involves a high risk, high reward element and has a strong component of innovation.  As opposed to a new business, a startup involves, “Doing something differently.  Trying to solve a particular set of problems in a new way,” explained Nate.

The panel made an analogy in the food industry to illustrate this difference.  Most consumers probably don’t think of restaurants as startups.  The gathered entrepreneurs generally did not consider a restaurant franchise to be a startup.  While opening any new business is a risk, something with a set business model and defined products does not really add that element of innovation.

But some restaurants are highly innovative, like Asian fusion restaurant inamo Soho in London where menus are projected onto table tops, creating a virtual reality experience.  Carnivale is a disruptive, innovative restaurant in Chicago were diners are served under a big top.  “And the people that are serving you are dressed up like carnies and it’s freaky.  And if you’ve had too much to drink, it’s not the place to go.  But, it’s innovative and they’re taking a risk because people might not want to dine in that type of environment,” said Mike.

The startup ecosystem, in turn, contains all the components that provide support and resources to the developing startups and help them to navigate and overcome barriers.


What might be some key ingredients that Rochester needs for our startups to succeed?

The panel agreed that Rochester needs more youthful enthusiasm to propel the startup and entrepreneurial community.  And this rigor doesn’t need to necessarily be from those young in age.  This mindset can be in anybody with a willingness to create, take risks, and go a bit against the ingrained mentality in Rochester.

“Part of that environment requires people who don’t fit the nine to five model. …Who really have come to the conclusion ‘A’, I can’t work for anybody else and ‘B’, I think I can offer something bigger and better to the world that hasn’t been offered before,” explained Mike.

But younger people typically have less to lose.  They usually don’t yet have families or mortgages.  They’re generally more malleable and don’t have a set way of thinking.  If they try to build a startup and it fails, who cares?  There’s always something else to try.

The problem is, there’s not a broad, large, higher education system in Rochester to draw this young talent to the city.  We don’t have a large university system, like in Boulder for example, pumping in people who are able to take those risks and play a vital contribution to the workforce and startup scene.  And it doesn’t seem like this will change any time soon in Rochester.  That working population is being competed away to areas like the Twin Cities or other regions where these students attended college.  In this sense, the workforce in Rochester is severely lacking.

Change in mentality is another key ingredient for Rochester’s startup success.  We need people who break the chain of A: going to school, B: getting a job in the field that was studied, and C: staying in that single job or career until retirement.  We need people who are willing to take risks and not follow this traditional paths for our startup community to grow.

“The community needs to have a ‘Why not?’ mentality versus a ‘What can go wrong if you do this?’ And I think that’s part of what we do here.  The ‘Let’s do this thing.’  What’s the worst that can happen?  It could work?  And that’s two very important things that the community has to do.  Just to release the old ways of thinking, ‘How much trouble could I get into by doing that?’ versus ‘How many good things can come out of it?’” explained Xavier.

It seems pretty obvious, but this mentality changes simply by Rochester residents just “doing stuff”.  People interested in starting a business who may be sitting behind their desk asking, ‘Why am I still doing this?’, need to just stand up and starting doing something to break this mold. 

“Midwesterners pride themselves on tenaciousness.  But you have to have tenaciousness in that adversity that’s nontangible.  It’s not like the tornado just wasted your building.  It’s like somebody just denied your permit or something like that,” said Hunter.  Even though we are a tough bunch, there are always roadblocks in building startups.  The minute things get really dicey, we have to dig into that tenaciousness and problem solve instead of backing down and retreating to something more familiar.

“That’s where we can succeed.  Is that, you don’t have that ‘well it didn’t work, abandon it’ type of mentality in this town.  And I think that’s what we need to foster and build on,” summed up Hunter.  Most of the panel agreed again that this change in mentality is dependent on attracting that younger workforce or people with that youthful enthusiasm to fuel our startup system. 

When we do have all the ingredients to create this strong ecosystem in Rochester, people need to know about the entrepreneurial community.

“It needs to have some sort of identity. …It needs to be out there that the opportunity is here.  Or that there are places you can go if you have that mentality.  Because there’s hundreds of people that are sitting at their desk thinking, ‘What am I doing here?  This makes no sense for me to be here.’  And I’m assuming most of us were in that situation at some point,” said Chris.

That’s exactly what we’re trying to do with Rochester Rising.


Want to learn more?  Click here to listen to Part 1 of the podcast of this discussion.

Mobile Food Units are now in Downtown Rochester- but does the Ordinance Stifle Food Entrepreneurship?

The welcoming of food trucks, or “mobile food units”, onto public property in downtown Rochester has been for many a slow, hair wrenching process.  Motorized or trailered movable food units are finally allowed in specific public zones in the downtown area.  But don’t expect to see large contingents of food trucks springing up in Rochester any time soon.

Most of us in Rochester-land know how this story began.  Last June, the very first food truck to operate in downtown Rochester, BB’s Pizzaria, was told they could not serve food in the Calvary Episcopal Church driveway because the drive was actually a public space.  A food truck operating in this region was against city ordinance.  Some downtown brick and mortar restaurants were outraged by the presence of the food truck, saying it was unfair competition.  Some members of the public were equally enraged because they just wanted new, affordable food options in the downtown area.

Fast forward to May 2016.  A revised ordinance permitting mobile food units in downtown Rochester was passed by the City Council, only to be vetoed by Rochester Mayor Brede on the grounds that the proposed tiered-fee structure was unfair to the more traditional downtown restaurant options.  Finally, in June yet another revised ordinance was passed allowing mobile food units in downtown under certain restrictions.

No matter where you stand on the issue, we all just want quality, affordable food options in Rochester. 

New Rochester city ordinance- 143A to be exact- permits food trucks in designated “mobile food unit zones” in the downtown area.  This includes space along 2nd Avenue SW during lunch hours, near Central Park and the Rochester Public Library during normal business hours, and along 2nd Street SW late in the evening.  All food trucks must cease operations by 1 AM.  Outside of downtown, food trucks can’t park within 150 feet from a restaurant property line.

To run a mobile food unit in downtown Rochester, operators have to shell out a $150 license fee plus a $1100 franchise fee, a total of $1250 in costs.  That doesn’t sound too steep at first glance.  But compared to the $818 fee in Minneapolis, it’s pretty high.

The first food truck in downtown Rochester, Back Alley Kitchen, rolled out on June 22nd alongside the Stabile building.  But that might be it for a long time.

Besides Back Alley Kitchen, “I don’t foresee anybody else outside of maybe one other getting the application to apply for this.  It’s just, it’s just too expensive,” explained Derrick Chapman, owner of the Twisted Barrel Wood Fired Pizza food truck.

“I think they had an opportunity to just look at what Minneapolis is doing and basically just mimic it. …I think I’m hopeful that maybe they’ll reevaluate it and look at it and say, ‘Maybe there are some things that we could have done better?’  But, no, like I said, I’m hopeful if that happens but I’m not crossing my fingers,” Derrick continued.

Mobile food units are a bit like homeless wanderers.  It sounds a little bit sexy and whimsical to drive your food truck from town to town, shoot the breeze with people on the street, and be in a new location every day.  But in reality, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine.

The season lasts only a few months for food trucks, maybe from April to October in Minnesota if you’re lucky.  Even inside that timeframe, the weather has to be just right.  If it’s too windy, people won’t come out.  If it’s raining, people won’t come out.  If it’s too hot, people won’t come out.  You need a real contingent of food trucks all lining up in one place to really drive in business, otherwise people just don’t know where to find you on a regular basis.  Plus, you have a limited menu, limited operating space, and have to work at warp speeds.

Besides that, food trucks have to educate the consumer.  People have to realize that “it’s not five-dollar fair food.  And you’re actually getting a decent sandwich for eight dollars. …I think that’s the other thing that they’re challenging, is they can make a phenomenal food product, but getting people onboard to thinking about it is a little challenging,” explained Donovan Seitz, owner of Kinney Creek Brewery.

Food truck entrepreneurship has really been stifled in Rochester and the movement has been slow to take off.  It’s a huge risk that not many people have been able to take.

One place that has been fruitful for Rochester’s food trucks are the local breweries. 

“If you kind of look across the United States, breweries and food trucks pair well together because production breweries can’t have, typically, can’t have food a lot like the brewpubs can.  So it kind of marries a food option with a beer option,” said Donovan.

Kinney Creek has welcomed The Twisted Barrel and other food trucks to serve up some fresh food finds in the brewery parking lot since their opening.  But because food trucks as a whole have not yet gained momentum in Rochester, people don’t quite rely on their presence at the breweries yet, even on the weekends.  But, the food trucks “bring another element to Rochester.  The fresh, the new inspired cook that wants to do something different.  That’s what Rochester I don’t know necessarily needs, but I think it definitely has a thirst for it,” said Donovan.

Besides operating at breweries, Rochester food trucks have survived through catering, private parties, farmers’ markets and festivals like Rochesterfest where customers know they’ll be in one spot for an entire week.  The Twisted Barrel posts their locations every week on Facebook.

“I still think there are a fair number of restaurants out there that still think [the food truck operating fees are] too cheap because they have to pay to maintain sidewalks and they have property taxes.  But if given the opportunity, I would prefer to have a permanent location over being mobile and having a limited menu and no seating and being seasonal.  To me, that’s a fair trade off.  I would take on those expenses if I were able to,” said Derrick.

The food trucks aren’t trying to compete with downtown restaurants, Derrick affirmed.  They are just trying to provide a service that people want.

“We should all collaborate.  There’s no reason we should be fighting each other.  If somebody’s got a great product, why shouldn’t I encourage them to bring it to market?  Because guess what?  I’m going to spend my money with you if you have a good product that I don’t have in town because they’re keeping it local.  And the more money that stays in our local economy the better,” said Derrick.

We’re hopeful for the emergence of the food truck entrepreneur in Rochester.  Those people willing to take the risk that have previous restaurant experience.  Diversity and innovation has to be healthy for an ecosystem.

“If there’s people out there that are considering it, don’t let the ordinance scare you.  There are other ways you can make it work. …People need to take a chance on something.  With no risk, there’s no reward,” Derrick summed up.


Welcome to Rochester Rising!

Welcome to Rochester Rising!

Our main goal: to amplify the stories of Rochester’s entrepreneurs, innovators, and risk taking small business owners.


Why should I care?

We have the privilege of living in a city with a leading medical institution.  Life science and healthtech startups have been budding out of that system for a few years, but often these stories are not brought to the surface.  Beyond the science and health space, Rochester has many other people taking risks.  Our brewery and brewpub scene is emerging.  Our food space is developing.  We have sportstech startups.  We have disruptive hardware and software product development firms.  A new business incubator will open soon.   We have a business accelerator and coworking space. 

More and more people are starting to take risks every day.  Our startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem is growing.  We need to hear those stories of success.  We need those hear the stories of those risk takers to not only inspire others to step forward, but to also let people know what resources exist for business development.  We also need to hear the stories of failure, not to ridicule, but to learn so we can collectively grow our community.

We need to give Rochester’s innovators a voice.


What kind of content with Rochester Rising produce?

Rochester Rising tells the stories and displays the unique flavor of Rochester’s entrepreneurs.  We’ll be out there talking to that person who just launched a new business to understand who they are, what problem they’re trying to solve, and what major hurdles they’re facing.  We want to share the success stories of people who have grown their business in Rochester.  What did it take and how did they get there?  And for that person who’s been running a business for years if not decades in Rochester, how have they pivoted and molded their business over time to keep it successful?

We want to share the major successes of our entrepreneurs as well.  We want to share stories of startups making large hires, launching clinical trials, and starting and raising large rounds of funding.

This is a place to tell the stories not just of entrepreneurs, but also of those creative, risk taking small business owners who might not consider themselves to be entrepreneurs.  We all play a vital role in whatever Rochester is to become. 

Right now, we share stories through online articles and podcasts.  We also include short audio pieces inside the articles to really allow the reader to sample the flavor of Rochester. 


I noticed you used to be Life Science Nexus.  Is that going away?

Yes.  We will continue to share life science and healthtech stories on Rochester Rising, but no new content will be posted on Life Science Nexus.  After engaging with some great people in the Rochester community, we realized our entrepreneurs and innovators need a voice.  We want to use Rochester Rising to share the stories of all entrepreneurs in Rochester, not just those in the healthtech and science space.  


How will you make money?

That’s a great question, one that we turn over every day.  We consider Rochester Rising to be a little bit like a startup itself, so we are still figuring out the business model.

There are two major mechanisms we see for financing Rochester Rising.

1: Business support through ads and sponsorships.  We have a variety of ad options, from in-article advertisement to ads on the main website with very competitive rates.  We also will advertise in short audio clips in the articles themselves and in our podcast.  If you are a business interested in partnering with us to support the Rochester entrepreneurial ecosystem, please contact us to discuss the package perfect for your business.

2: Individual support.  Rochester Rising is a community-based organization.  If you like the content that you see and listen to here and believe in what we are doing, please consider supporting us.  It can be today, tomorrow, whenever.  It can be as little as $5 a month or a lump sum.  If you see the benefit that Rochester Rising can have for the community, please help us make it sustainable.  We currently are setting up the fundraising system and gathering some awesome incentives, so stay tuned.


How can I help?

The biggest way you can help is just by spreading the word that Rochester Rising exists and sharing our stories and podcasts on social media.  And again, please consider supporting Rochester Rising on the individual or business level.

We’re here for the Rochester entrepreneurial community.  We hope to become the first place people think of to find information or the latest news about our startup community.  Please help us stay informed of what’s going on in the community.  Who’s doing great things?  Who has a new initiative?  Who’s doing a lot of hiring?  Who just closed a major round of funding?  Let us know so we can make the larger community aware. 

We are always looking for writers.  We want to continue the science writing content that we published on Life Science Nexus.  So if you’re a student or professional looking to get science writing experience, please contact us.

We’re also looking for subject matter experts to produce guest posts.  Are you an expert at social media?  Are you a genius at customer acquisition?  Consider writing a guest post or we can help you craft one.

And as always, let us know what you like and what you don’t like.  What kind of stories do you want to hear?  Let us know on our social accounts or through email.


How can I keep up with the latest Rochester Rising content?

#1: subscribe to the podcast.

#2: link up with our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts.

#3: check us out on Flipboard and Medium.

Mayo Clinic Graduate Student Launches Science Editing Company with Brothers

With the help of his two brothers, a Mayo Graduate School PhD student is creating a research manuscript editing service to help researchers write and publish more easily and increase the readability of science papers. This online platform, called SlateQ, connects scientific writers to scientists.

Carl Gustafson loved writing and editing science papers.  He frequently edited manuscripts for foreign research fellows in his thesis lab at Mayo Clinic.  But, as he accurately told me, good writing skills are an intellectual commodity.  Proper editing of science papers was a valuable service that he could provide. 

Carl wanted an avenue to market his and others’ editing and writing skills and make a little income on the side to supplement the typical low graduate student stipend.  He also was interested in careers in research communication and wanted to get that hands-on experience while completing his graduate work. 

“I was looking online and trying to figure out, ‘how could I do this?’  I wanted to help people write their science papers and I wanted to get paid to do it.  And I really couldn’t find anybody that would let me do that just as a graduate student or even as a scientist of any kind,” he explained. There were plenty of author service groups that did research paper editing, but none that could offer customers their choice of well-vetted editors in specialized fields, or that were well connected online. Most were full of inactive scientists, without current knowledge of research fields, who were now editing papers full-time.

If you can’t find a solution, then build one.  Carl decided to launch his own science manuscript editing service, called SlateQ, and he had just the right co-founders in mind.  Carl brought on his older brother, who is currently getting a PhD in online persuasion techniques and social influence from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his younger brother, a mathematics and computer science student at MIT, to build the business. 

[SlateQ Co-Founders Abel, Carl, and Joel Gustafson.]

Together, the Gustafson brothers created SlateQ, an online platform where one group of scientists could market their editing skills and another group could get expert help with their writing.

SlateQ provides English language, pre-publication manuscript editing to increase the readability and comprehensiveness of science manuscripts, helping researchers publish better papers, faster.

SlateQ specializes in the biosciences, but has expanding expertise in communication and social sciences.  Their knowledge and editor base is constantly growing.

Right now, SlateQ is building up their editor cohort and continuing the process of customer acquisition.  SlateQ editors must be active in some scientific field, which could be anything from research, to science communication, to product development. 

The SlateQ beta site is up and running.  “As soon as we have enough funding, we’re going to be developing our full site, where you have seamless integration of your authors and your editors,” Carl explained.

SlateQ is a win-win-win situation.  Researchers who want to improve their manuscripts can get specialized help from experts.  All kinds of research scientists, from graduate students to junior faculty, are able to market their research communication skills.  And the road to publication for new scientific studies becomes smoother because the manuscripts are written more persuasively.

“You have a talent.  You have a skill.  And you should be compensated for having that skill.  And there’s no structure right now for people to become compensated for being skilled in writing or in a lot of other scientific skill sets actually.”

Techstars Companies visit Rochester Entrepreneurial Community for Techstars++ Partnership. Part One: Nebulab.

Last week, three emerging startups from around the globe visited Rochester to participate in the Techstars++, a collaboration between the international Techstars accelerator program and Mayo Clinic.  These healthcare and biotech focused companies spent one week colliding with medical professionals and members of the Rochester entrepreneurial community to forge connections and drive the growth of their companies.

All three startups graduated from an intensive, three month Techstars accelerator program somewhere in the world within the last year.  The group was particularly diverse, each looking at a solution for healthcare and science through a different lens.

We in the Rochester entrepreneurial community had a fantastic, productive time interfacing with these teams. 

Did you miss meeting these healthcare innovators?  Here’s what you need to know.


Company: Nebulab.

Based in: San Antonio, TX.

Techstars accelerator: Techstars Cloud, Class of 2015 (San Antonio).

Tagline: Your research is complicated- managing it shouldn’t be.


The Problem:

Nebulab wants researchers to never lose their data again.  CEO Guillermo Vela came from the world of brain cancer and stem cell research.  At times, he found it extremely difficult to navigate through and find information within his own data.  The problem was further exacerbated if he had to sift through someone else’s data, especially if this person had already left the lab.  From my own lab experience, this process involves paging through tons of paper lab notebooks, trying to decipher often incomplete chicken scratch.  Sometimes said chicken scratch wasn’t even in a language I could read.

“It’s easier for me to just redo the experiment than try to find that data.  So it becomes incredibly inefficient and there’s so much data that’s lost,” Guillermo explained.


The Solution:

Guillermo and his cofounders are creating a process to digitally organize and enrich data.  They developed an online platform, called Nebulab, that layers over data storage tools that researchers are already using like Dropbox and Google Drive.  Researchers can use Nebulab as an interface to upload data and files to these storage destinations.  However, Nebulab actually enriches and adds context to these files, allowing researchers to never lose data or information about that data again.

What times of context or enrichments can be made to the data using Nebulab?

With Nebulab, users can add custom tags to files such as immunofluorescent images to categorize the data.  Product sheets for antibodies used in the image can also be linked to the file to enable streamlined re-ordering.  Say you have a graph constructed for the final figure in a publication.  You can link all the raw data sets right to the final graph so you no longer question which experiments contributed to that final image. 

Nebulab also interconnects documents.

“If I were to share this file, it comes bundled together.  Now I’m sharing the file along with the metadata.  And then if a collaborator comes on, they’ll be able to leave notes on the files.  Everything’s linked together,” explained Guillermo.

To use Nebulab, researchers just need to visit the Nebulab website and create an account.  Then, users can organize data and files into notebooks with names and descriptives through Nebulab right to their cloud storage platform of choice.  Even if you stop using Nebulab, the data remains in the cloud.  You always retain control of your data.  The Nebulab contextual enrichments make the files highly searchable, a huge leap from paging through stained lab notebooks.  Data can be located by file name, key words within comments, or user-added tags.

Nebulab is free to individual researchers.  The team aims to make custom back-end modifications, such as specialized security and firewall settings, and sell the Nebulab system directly to research institutions.


What the team hoped to get out of their one week in Rochester:

“I think that when dealing with institutions, the most you can hope for within a week is really just to find your champions, make the connections, meet the people that you’ll need to work with moving forward.  And that’s really what we’ve been seeing so far.  There’s great people within Mayo Clinic and within the Rochester community that have been very helpful,” said Guillermo.


“We’re big fans of collaborating and working with other entrepreneurs and biotech startups.  And if there’s any way we can help them as Nebulab or as people, we all have to stick up for each other.  We’re happy to connect with anyone that wants to reach out to us.”


Part Two: LiquidLandscape

Part Three: Solenica

Big Walleyes come to Town and Stir the Rochester Entrepreneurial Waters

Last week, Rochester was overrun by some pretty big….fish….when the Walleyes came to town.

The past Friday, the inaugural Walleye Tank entrepreneurial pitch slam competition was held in Rochester.  The event was organized by Mayo Clinic Professor Dr. Stephen Ekker and local entrepreneur and Collider Community Manager Jamie Sundsbak.

The goal: to “build a community of entrepreneurs that are going to change the world,” said Ekker at the start of the competition.

It seemed like Rochester was hungry for exactly this type of event.  The room was packed and online registration filled up days beforehand.  Companies pitched from Rochester, the Twin Cities, and even the West Coast.

“The event exceeded my expectations in every way.  It was great to see businesses in the region all getting together to showcase their emerging technologies,” said Sundsbak.

But this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill business pitch competition.  The whole event had a quirky, you guessed it, fish theme.

After all, the walleye is the Minnesota state fish.  Just in case you didn’t know.

Pitching companies were divided into “Junior Anglers”, Ekker’s student entrepreneurs, and “Professionals”.  Wrapping up the event were the “Bait Shops”, organizations offering startup support like Collider, the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator, and Techstars++.

Junior Anglers and Professionals were allotted two minutes to sell the crowd on their concept, followed by three minutes of hot water questioning by the seasoned Walleyes.

The Walleye judges did not come into town to play.  These veterans have years of experience in healthcare, biotech, and entrepreneurship.  The Walleye panel included:

  • J. Fernando Bazan, CTO of Bio-Techne
  • Will Canine, Cofounder of Y Combinator startup OpenTrons Labworks
  • Dan Estes, Mayo Clinic Ventures Director
  • Perry Hackett, Twin Cities entrepreneur and Recombinetics Cofounder
  • Luke Isman, head of hardware programs at Silicon Valley based accelerator the Y Combinator and
  • Kelly Krajnik, Business Development Manager at Mayo Clinic Ventures.



GeneCoach is developing a weight-loss product that understands metabolic pathways at the genetic level.




GenetiPure is developing a platform for improved companion animal health, starting with a healthier alternative to the mini horse.




GoAudio has ready to use technology that provides better hearing screen and more efficient health visits.






  • SlateQ created an online marketplace for science writing and editing.              
  • Auric Sciences is developing a nanotech drug delivery platform to address a variety of skin issues.
  • The Genome Collective is building a platform that allows users to sell their personalized healthcare data.
  • LAgen Laboratories has developed improved retinal pigment epithelial cell lines for research use.
  • Ambient Clinical Analytics created a platform and algorithms to allow clinicians to address issues in patients and make quick medical decisions.
  • LIFEngine is marketing a gene editing toolkit that is faster and cheaper than their competitors and is designed to scale.
  • Micrometer is creating an improved platform for microbiome sequencing.
  • B-MoGen is a gene editing company that is the first to bring mitochondria DNA editing to the commercial market.
  • WellTwigs is a Twin Cities based company that uses hardware sensors and apps to help women conceive.
  • Immusoft is a Seattle-based company that uses genetically altered B cells for therapy.
  • Imanis Life Sciences developed live reporter imaging tools to easily and visually monitor gene transfer.
  • Recombinetics is a Saint Paul based company that uses gene edited animal model systems for human benefit.

At the end of the day, GoAudio took home the prize in the Junior Angler division and was awarded an oversized lure.  All the better to attract Walleyes with.

Ambient Clinical Analytics took third place in the Professionals division.  Auric Life Sciences took second and was awarded a Walleye-shaped cribbage board.

Micrometer took home the grand prize, plus a snazzy three dimensional metal Walleye.