Rochester Minnesota

Entrepreneur Launches MedCity Studio to Serve as Resource for Local Photography Community


Entrepreneur and Baltimore native Brendan Bush looks to change up the photography scene in Rochester with his business MedCity Studio. Located right next to Silver Lake, Bush aims to use the business to build and connect the local photography community and to serve as a resource for those just getting started in the business.

Bush himself comes from strong photography roots. His father was the Director of Photography at The Baltimore Sun and Bush always grew up with a dark room in their family home. Later he attended the University of Western Kentucky University for photojournalism; Bush worked in the newspaper business for several years before moving to Minnesota in 2014 with his wife and children. 


After relocating to Rochester, this creative decided it was time to try something different. Digital photography had opened up the market to a variety of people including new professionals, amateur photographers, and people who just wanted to take better photos in their everyday lives.  

Bush launched MedCity Studios in May 2018 as, at the surface level, a rental studio for those seeking an affordable indoor location to shoot photos and meet with clients. However, the value add of the business runs much deeper. Bush himself serves as a resource for people as they are using the space, offering assistance for things like lighting set up to adjustment of poorly taken photos. 

“This is an opportunity for [new photographers] to have a place to learn from and experiment and practice,” Bush explained.

He hopes the business also creates a connection point for the local photography ecosystem to host events and serve as “an exchange center for photography information in the community.” 

Bush began running photography classes from the studio to help support and provide education for local photographers. He ended up landing on a huge value add for the community. 

“I never thought that photography classes were going to be that big of a deal. But, yeah, they’re really selling like crazy,” he laughed.


MedCity Studio’s first DSLR basics class wrapped up at the end of January. Bush aims to run the class again in February as well as host photo walks in the springtime. He hopes to create a real experience with MedCity Studio through the classes, support for the photography community, and with the rental space itself. 

“The market is changing, and they say millennials are more about experience than they are about product. And I think that lends itself well to here,” he explained. 

Bush said his studio space has been gaining a steady following of repeat customers, including those that don’t fall into the traditional photography space. He’s had people use the studio for product photo shoots as well as to record video commercials.

“Photography is an art that has a strong technical side that attracts some people just for the technical aspect,” he said. “Some people just like the creative aspects and then there are all those shades in-between. But I think, in this town, photography could work because it has technical aspects that would attract technically minded people.”

Press Release: Progress and Excitement Build around Discovery Square as DMCC Board Supports Mortenson’s $35 Million Project in Rochester


ROCHESTER, Minn. (July 27, 2017) – The Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC) Board of Directors voted to approve the $35 million Mortenson project in the Discovery Square sub-district under the DMC Development Plan. The building is one is a series of DMC projects in the sub-district. The project will receive $4.9 million in DMC tax-increment financing.

“Today we take an important step forward with Discovery Square, a place where Minnesota's next successful medical technology start-ups will be launched. This project will help diversify Rochester's economy, create great jobs, and ensure Rochester remains America’s City for Health,” said Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Chair of the DMC Board of Directors. “I thank Mortenson, Mayo Clinic, and the Rochester community for their work on this Discovery Square project. We have taken another important economic development step for the Destination Medical Center, Rochester, and Minnesota.”

During the meeting, the DMCC board recognized the certification of the 2016 DMC private investment figures by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). This move allows the State of Minnesota to provide the first annual installment of public infrastructure aid, totaling approximately $2.68 million in fiscal year 2018, to the City of Rochester and the DMCC.

Other updates provided information on the public realm design of the Heart of the City, Chateau Theatre, and St. Marys Place; a progress update for the Alatus, Titan-Opus, and Titan Hilton projects; the work of the DMC Energy Integration Committee and the impact of the DMC marketing plan.

“Today we continued to see the momentum of the DMC initiative,” said Lisa Clarke, Executive Director of DMC. “By voting to approve this Discovery Square Public Infrastructure Project, the board has advanced the goal of making Rochester a global destination for health, wellness and research. This project, the third DMC project in the last year, further validates the DMC vision and the strength of the Rochester real estate, development, and investment markets.”

The next scheduled meeting of the DMCC Board of Directors will take place on November 2, 2017.


About DMC

Destination Medical Center (DMC) is the largest public-private economic initiative in Minnesota's history. The 20-year plan to transform Rochester into a global destination for health and wellness will attract developers, investors, startups, and entrepreneurs to live, work, and play in America's City for Health. For more information, visit

Rochester Workforce Housing Shortage Brought into Focus at Recent Policy and a Pint

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

A standing-room only crowd gathered at Bleu Duck Kitchen on Thursday, June 29 for a distinguished panel discussion on workforce-priced housing in Rochester. The event was part of the Policy and a Pint event series presented by the Citizens League and Minnesota Public Radio’s (MPR) The Current.

Moderated by MPR’s Steve Seel, panelists included: Steve Borchardt, Housing Initiative Director for the Rochester Area Foundation; Julie Brock, Workforce Strategy Consultant for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development; and Pat Sexton, President of Sexton Public Affairs and former Government Affairs Director with the Southeastern Minnesota Realtors Association.

The panelists first dove into the key housing challenges facing working-class Rochester residents before offering their solutions and opening the discussion to the audience.

Borchardt set the table for the discussion by referencing that 36% of Olmsted County households earn less than $50,000 in gross annual income and 25% earn less than $35,000, yet only a handful of homes in Rochester are currently on the market in the $150,000-$215,000 price range that the working class can afford. Additionally, inventory is low for these homes and the competition is fierce, with buyers often needing to offer well over the list price to secure one of the few homes in this price range.

In a city poised for robust public and private sector growth thanks to the Destination Medical Center and other business initiatives over the next twenty years, Borchardt believes that working-class Rochester residents are in a tough spot.

“Do I think we are in a crisis? Yes, I believe we are in a crisis,” he said.

Sexton posited that a combination of mitigating factors—including more conservative lending practices, increased regulation, and ten years of less than one percent GDP growth—have made constructing more affordable homes a challenge for builders. These factors have led builders to choose more profitable paths, constructing large apartment complexes and more luxury homes, while creating a shortage of more affordable single-family houses.

“No one should be surprised that these homes are not being built,” Sexton explained. “There’s no money, there’s no builders, there’s no labor, and there’s no desire for risk.”

Brock stressed the need to attract more workers to Rochester to create the demand necessary for builders to effectively address the working-class housing crunch, but admitted that striking a balance would be tricky. She advocated for the city to take a holistic view of the workforce and for “the gears of childcare, public transportation, and affordable housing to work as a motor to drive economic development and growth in the city.” The calibration of those gears would ensure that Rochester continues to attract people of all income levels to work and live in the city.

While the challenges facing the Rochester housing market are complex, panelists also shared a belief that through innovation and collaboration, progress can be made.

Sexton advocated for reduced regulation, increased partnership with the City of Rochester, and a more innovative building approach to make construction of affordable housing more economically viable for builders. Instead of proposing singular solutions or “planting one flower or seed,” Sexton is hopeful that the city can help “change the soil” and address overhead costs and the overall dynamics and expenses of building.

Borchardt is “very hopeful” on the single-family home front and believes that the market can be welcoming for first-time homeowners if they adjust their expectations and are willing to put in work on a starter house.

“If you have a tolerance for risk and have some innovation and creativity in you, this is a great time to be out there in the market,” Borchardt said.

Brock believes that employers will need to take a more hands-on approach to housing issues, citing local businesses that have helped employees buy and sell their homes to address the present situation.

“We have to rethink how we are doing work,” Brock explained. “If we are not willing, as an employer, to address these barriers and ask, ‘How can I help?’ we are going to have perpetual problems.”

Moving forward, the panel agreed that one of the most important ways to influence change within the current city housing market is to bring it to the forefront of the conversation, both in the workplace and the greater community.

“It’s important for people to talk about this issue at work, at church, and on a grassroots level,” Borchardt said. “This issue needs to be center stage in the community.”

For additional information on the Policy and a Pint series, visit

Pure Rock Studios and Special Guests to Present at Next all Music 1 Million Cups Rochester

Join the entrepreneurial and small business community at the next 1 Million Cups Rochester on Wednesday July 12th (tomorrow!) from 9-10AM in the Bleu Duck Kitchen Event Space. This month is a very special music focused edition of 1 Million Cups! Join in to welcome featured entrepreneur, Ryan Utterback of Pure Rock Studios, and bonus innovators Dylan Hilliker, Founder of ROCKchester, Zach Zurn, Owner of Carpet Booth Studios, plus a special performance by Pure Rock students.


About Pure Rock Studios

Pure Rock Studios is Rochester’s premier lesson and performance center that custom fits lessons to meet student’s needs. Pure Rock provides private and group lessons, but also gives students the ability to participate in live performances. The Pure Rock team believes that live performance builds up a student’s confidence and stage presence, a skill important in multiple aspects of life, and allows students to immediately apply techniques learned in class.

Launched in: 2011

Founder: Ryan Utterback

Industry: Music



About ROCKchester

ROCKchester is a local music and arts festival curated by teens and featuring teen musicians and artists.

Launched in: 2016

Founder: Dylan Hilliker

Industry: Music


About Carpet Booth Studios

Carpet Booth Studios is Rochester’s only full production and recording facility.

Launched in: 2017

Founder: Zach Zurn

Industry: Music


About 1 Million Cups

1 Million Cups is a free, national education program developed by the Kauffman Foundation. 1 Million Cups takes place every Wednesday at 9AM across 116 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.

#Emerge Episode 1 with Nick Moucha

This week in our #Emerge Facebook Live video series we talk with local entrepreneur Nick Moucha about the Rochester startup community. Tune into our Facebook page this Friday for the latest edition.

Rochester Rising to Mark One Year Anniversary with Community Celebration

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Rochester Rising was launched in July 18, 2016 to amplify the stories of Rochester entrepreneurs and give a voice to the city’s emerging entrepreneurial community. Over the past year, we’ve told the stories of over 104 different entrepreneurs, operating across ten different industries. Hopefully, we’ve helped to make a difference in Rochester’s entrepreneurial community during this time.

To celebrate this milestone, we’re throwing a one year birthday party on Wednesday July 19th from 4:30-6:30 PM at Grand Rounds Brew Pub. So mark your calendars. More information and ticket sales will roll out in a few weeks.

Rochester Rising would not exist without the support of the growing entrepreneurial community here. This birthday event is not just to mark a milestone for Rochester Rising, but is a time to celebrate the progress of the entire entrepreneurial and innovation community of Rochester over the past year.

As part of this festivity, we would like to invite one entrepreneur who has told their story on Rochester Rising over the past year to give a brief talk at this event to tell a bit more of their story or share a big idea they have about entrepreneurship.

We want you, the entrepreneurial community, to tell us who you want to hear more from.

Click here to access a form with some of the local entrepreneurs that we’ve featured on Rochester Rising this year. Choose up to three innovators that you’d like to hear more from at this celebration.

Voting will end on Monday June 26th.

Funding Sources for Rochester Startups and Small Businesses: Part 1- Business Subsidies

Capital drives any business. Lack of an angel investment fund in southeastern Minnesota or strong venture capital presence here can hinder cash flow. Here are some business subsidies that can serve as funding options for startups and small businesses in Rochester. Check back in later in the week for Part 2, detailing tax incentives, venture competitions, and other funding sources that all Minnesota businesses should have on their radar.


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.

Mayo Clinic Partner AliveCor Predicts Major Disruption on Horizon in Healthcare

This is the second and final part of the story of a dynamic event in Rochester last week, “A Conversation with Vic Gundotra” with seasoned entrepreneurs and senior management team of AliveCor, Vic Gundotra and Dr. Dave Albert. AliveCor is a wearable healthtech startup based in Silicon Valley. This event was organized by Collider Coworking and sponsored by Rochester Home Infusion and Mayo Clinic Ventures.

In the previous article in this series, Gundotra spoke about his seminal work at both Microsoft and Google during the early stages of both companies. After logging a combined twenty-four years at these major tech moguls, Gundotra retired to spend time with his teenaged children.

“And then my kids got tired of me,” he joked.

To re-enter the workforce after retirement, Gundotra required three things. First, he wanted to work on a project that involved machine learning, which he believed was going to change the world. Second, he wanted to work on wearables. And lastly, he needed to work for a company that was doing something that mattered, something that could make a real impact.

Dr. Dave Albert and his AliveCor met all those criteria.

“This is a six-year-old startup. It’s an overnight success that’s taken a decade,” Albert quipped.

Together Albert, Gundotra, and their AliveCor team created a small device called Kardia, which is about the size of a stick of gum and contains two, square electrodes. Users place their fingers on the electrodes and perform an electrocardiogram, or ECG, within thirty seconds to display their heart’s electrical activity right onto their smart phones. Software in the AliveCor app utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to determine the normal range of an individual’s ECG and sends an alert when that rhythm becomes abnormal.

Each year, more people die from heart disease and stroke than from any other disease. Atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat, can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other forms of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. These arrhythmias can easily and quickly be detected using AliveCor’s device “without having to go to the doctor’s office, taking off your shirt, and having a technician put leads all over to do one to two ECGs a year,” explained Gundotra. “AliveCor was producing this device that could save people’s lives.”

Today, AliveCor is using ECG technology based on intellectual property and work initiated at Mayo Clinic to estimate serum potassium levels from ECG readings. People with high levels of potassium, a condition called hyperkalemia, can die without displaying any symptoms. Albert says AliveCor is “honored” to work with Mayo and sees the partnership only growing from here.

AliveCor is also in pilot studies with technology built into Apple watch bands to continuously monitor heart rate. Again, using AI and machine learning to recognize a person’s “normal” heart rhythms, the technology alerts users to take their ECGs on AliveCor’s Kardia device when it detects abnormalities. Albert sees this pairing as technology that can “guard your heart” for a lifetime.

Both Gundotra and Albert anticipate a “tsunami” coming that will disrupt healthcare and other daily activities as we know them today.

“When I left college, that was a risk, a very dangerous risk. But I believed that the world was about the see the transformation and the role of personal computers. When I left Microsoft after fifteen years, that was a risk,” Gundotra said. “I think there’s a bigger shift than in all the things I’ve ever witnessed in my life.”

He believes that AI is going to revolutionize healthcare as we know it.

Gundotra says that yes, it’s going to be great to look back to this time in history and say that AI allowed for things like autonomous cars and facial recognition in photos.

“But it [will] fundamentally transform society. And I think one of the biggest place that AI’s going to have an impact is on our health,” explained Gundotra.

AI, he said, will change how we track, treat, and identify disease.

“If I were an entrepreneur in Rochester, I would be working with Mayo Clinic and doing AI. That’s what I would spend my life on,” he affirmed. Gundotra said the opportunity before us is the biggest he’s observed in the last twenty-five years.

Albert expects AI to impact multiple aspects of our lives and to even change ingrained industries, such as truck driving. “But these transitions are often disruptive and scary,” he explained.

Both Albert and Gundotra see AI as an enhancement, not a threat, to today’s healthcare system that can allow for improved patient care. The AliveCor device, for example, is a “function of cost.” Gundotra’s own father suffered from a heart attack after having a recent, normal ECG at his cardiologist. However, his family could detect the deterioration in his health when a device in a physician’s office could not.

Gundotra suspects that if his father’s ECG was monitored continuously, along with other layers of his physiology, these changes in his heart may have been caught. But today’s doctors don’t have the time and the healthcare system can’t pay the cost for a physician to look at an ECG every day. A machine, however, can do this at an exceptionally low cost.

“AI is going to revolutionize medicine. It’s not going to replace doctors. It’s going to extend the doctor’s sight,” predicted Gundotra. 

TEDxZumbroRiver Speaker Says We Need more Frauds and Imposters to Spur Innovation

The second running of TEDxZumbroRiver, an independently organized TEDx event, took place last week “to share ideas, network, and catalyze innovation in the Rochester-area.” This year’s event brought in ten speakers, five from Rochester and five from across the country, to share their thoughts on some big ideas. The talks all centered around the theme “What’s Possible”, with many direct implications on Rochester’s entrepreneurial community.

Perhaps one of the more thought provoking ideas for Rochester’s innovation ecosystem came from local writer Ayodeji Awoskia.

“I don’t feel like I belong on this stage right now,” Awoskia said to begin his talk. He explained he sometimes feels like an imposter or a fraud and asked the audience if they have ever felt out of their depth in their careers or completely unqualified to do what they are doing.

“Are you plagued by the sneaking suspicion that eventually you’re going to get found out?” he asked. “Someone’s going to realize that you actually don’t know what you’re doing and they’re going to expose you for the fake and the phony that you really are.”

He said if you feel like this, you might just have “imposter syndrome”- feelings of self-doubt that you are just not enough, regardless of your experience and talent.

However, Awoskia said, people experiencing “imposter syndrome,” these so-called frauds, are the innovators who are moving towards their passions.

Awoskia explained that these “imposters,” the people pursuing their dreams and working on the big ideas, can alleviate feelings of self-doubt by taking the safest pathway, the linear progression of school, a job in one industry for life, and eventual collection of a pension.

“That’s what a lot of people do,” he explained.

However, industries once viewed as stable are falling apart. “Set it and forget it” careers are now dead.

Instead of playing by these old rules, Awoskia suggested leaning into the fear that comes along with pursuing greatness. The economy and business landscape is changing quickly and “doing work that matters to you, on a personal level, is more important now than it ever has been before.”

“The future belongs to the imposters. Frauds will inherit the earth,” he predicted.

Awoskia said that you can never be a fraud while pursuing something great, something big.

“You’re only a true imposter if you ignore the work that you’re meant to do and the life you’re supposed to live.”

Awoskia said “imposter syndrome” really stems from ego and advised that we stop looking inward, focusing solely on ourselves, and start observing the world around us. We need to realize that our choices and actions affect not only ourselves.

“When you fail to face uncertainty and shy away from challenges, you don’t just rob yourself. You rob the rest of us. The world needs what you have to offer. Give your gifts to us.”

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.

Rochester's GoRout Makes it Big in NFL 1st and Future Competition

GoRout Founder Mike Rolih launching Vue-Up during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

GoRout Founder Mike Rolih launching Vue-Up during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Rochester based football hardware and software startup, GoRout, earned themselves national recognition over the weekend. The team won the “Communication with the Athlete” division in the NFL’s 1st and Future competition in Houston this Saturday, bringing home $50,000, two tickets to Super Bowl 51, and entry into the Texas Medical Center Accelerator program.

The NFL’s 1st and Future competition was presented by TechCrunch, one of the biggest names in online startup and technology news sites, in collaboration with Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. Startups pitched their ideas to an audience of NFL owners and executives the day before the Super Bowl in one of three categories: “The Future Stadium,” which involved products that enhance the experience of spectators at live sporting events; “Bringing Home the Game,” which included products that enhance ways that live sporting broadcasts are consumed at home; and “Tomorrow’s Athlete,” which encompassed products that address the performance and safety of athletes.

GoRout is based right above Grand Rounds Brewing Company in downtown Rochester and run by Chicago-native Mike Rolih. GoRout developed football’s only on-field, wearable technology that enhances communication between players and coaches. Their products- Steel 2.0, Vue-Up, and Vue 2.0- are used by football teams from the high school to the professional level. GoRout launched their latest product Vue-Up, football’s first in-helmet, heads-up display, right from Rochester during Global Entrepreneurship Week to a packed house.



Congratulations to Mike and the GoRout team for this major success. And thank you for representing Rochester’s startup community, especially outside of medicine, on such a platform.

“GoRout is an amazing example of a Rochester based company that exemplifies the next generation of local tech startups. Mike and his team have crafted a world class tech business right here in Rochester.  Congratulations to GoRout on this fantastic achievement,” commented Jamie Sundsbak, Community Manager at Collider Coworking, a hub for entrepreneurs in downtown Rochester.

It seems that one of the best kept secrets in Rochester is finally getting some well-desired attention. 

Guide to the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community Part Two: Entrepreneurial Newsletters

Today, we continue our guide to the entrepreneurial community of Rochester with Part Two. Here are the best newsletters to follow for the latest business and innovation information from Rochester and the surrounding communities.

1.     TECHdotMN Newsletter. Delivers weekly news from the Minneapolis and Saint Paul tech and startup ecosystem.

2.     Collider Newsletter. Not just for tenants of the coworking facility, this weekly newsletter delivers the latest events and news from the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Rochester.

3.     Rochester Rising Newsletter. Our own weekly newsletter delivers links to all the stories of entrepreneurship and small business on Rochester Rising for the week and connects to our monthly entrepreneurial event calendar.

4.     Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator Newsletter. Subscribe to stay up to date with the latest events and news updates from the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator.

5.     Destination Medical Center Newsletter. Get on this mailing list to receive the latest news from the largest economic development initiative in the history of Minnesota.

6.     Medical Alley Association Newsletters. Medical Alley Association, Minnesota’s leading resource for health tech companies, has several different newsletters covering Medical Alley events, weekly news updates, and the latest intelligence from Minnesota’s health tech industries.

7.     Startup Digest MSP. Delivers a weekly list of all entrepreneurial events in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Rochester Teen Empowers Youth Music Community with ROCKchester Festival

Photo courtesy of ROCKchester Festival.

Photo courtesy of ROCKchester Festival.

Teen musician Dylan Hilliker has ambitious dreams for the youth music community in Rochester. Last May, Hilliker launched an eight-hour music festival featuring local teen musicians, curated entirely by teens, called ROCKchester. The event brought in over 350 attendees in its inaugural year and will be back for the second edition this July.

Although he’s only eighteen-years-old, Dylan Hilliker has played music for most of his life. A native of Chapel Hill, he began playing the guitar at age seven. Shortly afterwards Hilliker discovered his true musical passion: drums. After his family moved to Rochester in 2008, Hilliker began taking lessons at Pure Rock Studios, a music education and entertainment facility in Rochester, back when owner Ryan Utterback was still teaching out of his garage. Hilliker’s love for music propelled him into his school’s jazz, pep, and marching bands, as well as the pit orchestra. He played in three teen bands in Rochester during middle and high school, releasing several EPs and full-length albums. This past fall, Hilliker headed off to college in Nashville to study Music Business. But even in this new music scene he continues to perform.

It’s fair to say that Hilliker is an expert on the Rochester youth music community; he’s immersed in it. He recognized the immense musical talent festering among Rochester’s teenagers. However, there was a distinct lack of teen-friendly music venues for these artists. Coffee shops like Café Steam were a great place to start, Hilliker said. But people did not typically visit those places for the music. “I wanted to have a venue and an event that could really showcase the talent that Rochester has,” he explained.

Photo courtesty of ROCKchester.

Photo courtesty of ROCKchester.

To address this need in the teen community, Hilliker launched the very first ROCKchester Festival last May, “to get our voices heard and get our music out there on a more professional platform.” The first ROCKchester took place at the Wicked Moose. The event contained over eight hours of music from six local teen bands and five teen singer/songwriters, encompassing all genres of music, including rap, jazz, rock and roll, indie, and electronica.

“It’s just so cool to see that we have kids in Rochester that are doing more than the hard rock and the country and things you typically see around town,” Hilliker said.

ROCKchester also featured several local teen artists.  



This inaugural music festival had a two-part mission. The first was to encourage teens to share their music- get them playing somewhere outside of their basement or bedroom- to an audience on a professional platform. “It’s not art unless you put it out there. You have to be able to project your work into the community and into the public,” Hilliker explained.

Photo courtesty of ROCKchester Festival.

Photo courtesty of ROCKchester Festival.

The second goal was to educate teens, and adults, about the youthful music community in Rochester. “We want kids to see, basically, the best of what Rochester has in the teenage and the college age range so that they can see what they can become,” Hilliker said.

Hilliker thinks we have the capacity to create a professional music culture in Rochester similar to that of the Twin Cities or Duluth. But right now, the lack of venues in Rochester is affecting teen and adult musicians alike. This limitation is chewing away at the professional music scene here and restricting career choices among the youth of the city.

Hilliker has come across many talented teen musicians in Rochester. He wonders, “if they would have aspired to be professional musicians if they would have had more opportunities to play and had venues that were friendly towards teenagers and friendly towards kids who are coming up through the ranks.”

This year, the second edition of ROCKchester will take place in the brand new Pure Rock Studios performance space. To Hilliker, this is the perfect match for the music festival. Studio owner Ryan Utterback is a music mentor to Hilliker and many other kids, and adults, in Rochester, who is helping to get teen musicians heard. This year’s ROCKchester takes place July 15th and will include teen musicians, teen artists, and even a food truck lineup. The organizing team is still looking for local artists to play at the event. More information can be found on the ROCKchester Festival website.

However, Hilliker’s vision for music in Rochester extends beyond this mission with ROCKchester. He wants to use music to give back. Over winter break this year, Hilliker and friend Andy Furness put on a Unity through Music event series. This sequence of house shows featured teen musicians and even included an open mic night at the Rochester Art Center. At a time with much social unrest, this event celebrated community, understanding, and compassion and was completely organized by teenagers. The Unity through Music series raised over $350 for local charities.

“[Music] is really something that can do a lot of good and can teach kids not only to love music, but to love giving back and love helping others,” Hilliker affirmed.

Guide to the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community Part 1: Rochester Meetup Groups

Being new to any city can be intimidating. If you’re coming in with a startup or small business, it can be difficult to know how to get involved with or learn about the already existing business community. Or, if you are interested in the startup and entrepreneurial scene, sometimes it’s difficult to know how to access the community even if you’ve been living in a city for years.

I recently came across an amazing resource called “Comprehensive Guide to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Startup and Tech Scene” by Aleckson Nyamwaya. It’s definitely worth reading through and bookmarking in your browser for future reference. We’ve toyed around with the idea of doing something like this for a long time, so it’s finally time to do it. We need a guide to the entrepreneurial community of Rochester.

Similar to the materials Nyamwaya put together, there are many ever evolving pieces to this puzzle. But the best place to start is right at the beginning, with the people who make the community.

Here are the small business and entrepreneurial meetup groups of Rochester, Minnesota.

  1. PyRochesterMN- This group of Python Programming enthusiasts meets monthly to discuss anything related to Python. They meet the 4th Thursday of every month.
  2. Byolincs- This group teaches and encourages entrepreneurial-minded scientists and physicians. They meet every other Thursday at noon to discuss life science entrepreneurial trends and hear from local bioscience entrepreneurs.
  3. RESTful Responsive Web- This group is based on learning by doing and uses a RESTfull (Representational State Transfer) software based style to work through example applications. 
  4. Southeast Minnesota Wordpress Group- This group meets on the second Monday of every month to talk about the website creation platform WordPress.  Their next meetup is Monday April 11th at the Minnesota School of Business.
  5. Rochester Entrepreneurial Network- REN is an original Rochester meetup group.  REN is a group of entrepreneurs who believe that a strong innovation network is key to driving economic development in Rochester.
  6. UX Design Matters- This group of User Experience and Interaction Design enthusiasts meets the first Saturday of every month for a coding and design workshop.
  7. The Commission- This group provides a platform and voice for the young professionals of Rochester and works to develop and implement sustainable programs in the city. 


  1. A Twin Cities based group of innovators and entrepreneurs passionate about healthcare.
  2. CoCreateX- A Saint Paul-based group of innovators that connects people and resources to make ideas happen. The group also has a workshop and lab space for makers and entrepreneurs.

Are we missing any entrepreneurial groups in Rochester? Please leave them in the comments below.

Minnesota High Tech Association Holding Lunch Event Next Week to Showcase Free Resources for Small STEM Business

Are you looking for ways to engage in the broader science and technology community in Minnesota? Does your small business need help finding – and paying for – STEM interns? Do you have an idea for cutting edge science and technology that has the potential for commercialization? Join us for a complimentary lunch to hear how the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) supports innovation, technology and the growth of small business.

When: Thursday, February 2, 2017.

11:30 AM – Complimentary Lunch & Networking. Noon-1:00 PM – Program

Where: Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator: 221 1st Avenue SW, Suite 202, Rochester, MN 55902

This event is sponsored by Dunlap & Seeger and hosted by Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator and Collider Coworking.


 MHTA is a non-profit association of more than 300 technology companies and organizations. Together, we fuel Minnesota’s prosperity through innovation and technology. Our members include some of the world’s leading corporations, mid-sized companies and startups. Learn more about MHTA and the free resources available to Minnesota small businesses in science, technology, engineering and manufacturing, including:

The SciTechsperience Internship Program connects small to mid-sized Minnesota businesses to college STEM majors and provides a wage match to cover 50% of the intern’s wages (worth up to $2,500!)

MN-SBIR/STTR is the State’s resource that assists seed, early stage, emerging and existing firms (1-500 employees) to successfully access non-dilutive federal research funding

Women Leading in Technology (WLiT) works to promote, educate and empower women in technology across Minnesota


The event is free, but registration is required; space is limited to the first 30 registrants.

Top Podcasts of Rochester

Podcasts. Some people love them. Some people have never heard of them. Regardless of where you stand, podcast listening rates are growing in the United States. This year, 21% of Americans 12 years or older have listened to a podcast in the last month. That’s the same percentage of Americans who use Twitter, to put that into perspective. Podcast listening grew 23% between 2015 and 2016, largely due to ease of podcast consumption on smartphones and tablets. And you can find podcasts, or “audioblogs”, on just about anything from pop culture, to your favorite sports team, to business development. And the beauty is that anyone can make a podcast. All you need is a recording device.

Maybe you’re one of these 79% of Americans who don’t listen to podcasts and are looking for a place to start. Or maybe you’re a podcast fanatic but want to broaden your horizon. Here are some active podcasts that are recorded, at least in part, right here in Rochester.

  1. Sandbox Cooporative. This local podcast is a forum to talk about anything, including creating family culture, end of life, and interfaith dialog. This podcast has a theological focus and is based out of the Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.
  2. Mission 250 Filmcast. This one isn’t entirely recorded in Rochester, but a co-host on the podcast lives here now. The whole idea is to bring together a group of movie enthusiast friends to discuss and count down the top 250 movies as rated by IMDb. They’re counting in reverse order and recently released a podcast discussing movie #238, The Help.
  3. Mayo Clinic Radio.  This is a one hour weekly radio show straight out of the Mayo Clinic.
  4. Rochester Rising. And, of course, you should tune in to our podcast as well. A new show comes out every Wednesday where we talk to a different entrepreneur or innovator in Rochester.

Bonus Minnesota podcasts:

  1. The Minnesota BeerCast.  This podcast is all about the craft beer scene in Minnesota. There will be a live episode recorded this week right at Grand Rounds Brew Pub!
  2. Minnov8. This podcast is co-hosted by our friend Graeme Thickins, who guest posts on Rochester Rising. Minnov8 focuses on innovation in tech and web-based technologies in Minnesota.

Sponsored: Atlas Insurance Brokers: Local Agency with Business Insurance Expertise

Atlas Insurance Brokers knows that starting a new business is difficult. They are here to help businesses and entrepreneurs succeed by providing a range of business insurance products. o   Product liability.

  • General liability.
  • Workers compensation.
  • Commercial auto.
  • Commercial property.
  • Commercial umbrella.
  • Errors and omissions and professional liability.
  • Special events.

The last thing new business owner wants to do is spend more money. Atlas recommends beginning with a general liability policy. Then speak with your agent about your particular business needs.


Who needs business insurance?

Anybody who sells a product or provides a service really needs business insurance. Atlas also provides coverage for special events, like fundraising, golf tournaments, and networking events with food and alcohol.


Why choose Atlas?

Atlas Insurance Brokers is not your typical insurance agency. Atlas works with a wide range of insurance providers to deliver the perfect solution for each individual’s insurance needs.

Most importantly, Atlas is homegrown. This agency started twenty years ago in Rochester as a small team and has expanded to over one hundred agents that provide insurance needs across the upper Midwest. Atlas Insurance Brokers is also a dedicated member of the Rochester community, with continual support of non-profits and youth activities.

Atlas Insurance Brokers supports Rochester’s entrepreneurs and small business owners. Atlas was started by a local entrepreneur, so they understand the hardships and dedication required to grow a business.


Other services provided:

  • Auto
  • Home
  • Disability
  • Life insurance


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Fresh News Friday: Sharing Economy, Workforce Housing, and Discovery Square

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

  1. Sharing Economy Delivers Risks, Rewards to Rochester- MPR News. Homes are rooms are beginning to open up in Rochester for short term rentals via websites like Airbnb and the numbers are expected to keep increasing. The emergence of a sharing economy in Rochester has brought complaints and concerns from some residents and local businesses. Over three million people visit Rochester each year and many want to stay in locations with all the amenities of home, similar to offerings in other US destinations.
  2. Mortenson Sets Timeline for Mayo Project in Rochester- Finance and Commerce. M.A. Mortenson Company hopes to break ground and be moving dirt in the Destination Medical Center’s (DMC) Discovery Square subdistrict by next October. The first project in Discovery Square will be a 60,000-100,000 square foot building, still of undetermined use. Discovery Square is meant to attract biotech entrepreneurs to Rochester. Mortenson expects to select an architect for the project in the next two months.  
  3. Workforce Housing in Rochester “at a Crisis Situation” According to Rochester Area Foundation- KTTC. The Rochester Area Foundation recently warned that the city’s middle class will be squeezed out of new housing developments in Rochester. New workforce housing is essential to keep talent in the area. But Rochester Area Foundation says that housing for people earning $35-55K per year is lacking in Rochester and needs to be built now before it’s too late.
  4. NIH Awards Recombinetics a Research Grant to Develop Swine Model of Alzheimer’s- Alzheimer’s News Today. Recombinetics, a Saint Paul biotech company with ties to Rochester, was recently awarded a ~$350K Phase 1 Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant. The funds will be used to create a pig model of Alzheimer’s Disease for preclinical drug trials. Recombinetics uses precision gene editing techniques to efficiently mimic human disease in animals.
  5. Introducing Elysium: A New Underground Music Experience Coming to Rochester- The Med City Beat. Elysium is a brand new music and dance event launching in Rochester. Each Elysium event will hold a little bit of mystery and allure. Attendees have to buy tickets for the events in advance, but they won’t know the location or theme until just hours before the event starts. Elysium events are set to take place in multiple locations around Rochester.

Fresh News Friday: Sheep, Healthier Offices, and the Resurgence of Entrepreneurship

Here’s the top stories from the web of entrepreneurship and small business this week in Rochester and beyond.

  1. How Sheep can Save the Planet. AgriNews. October 8th through the 9th, the Sheep and Fiber Farm Tour will take place in southeast Minnesota. The tour will focus on sustainable fiber practices. Participants will visit four different sheep farms in southeast Minnesota including Wind Swept Hill Farm (Farmington), Sutton Ridge Farm (St. Jordan), Buscho Farms (Faribault), Spruce Shadows Farm (Bloomington), and Faribault Woolen Mill.
  2. Delos, Mayo Clinic Team up to Create Optimal Office Environment Prototype. Construction Dive. Mayo Clinic and the New York based real estate company Delos have joined forces to create a heathier work environment. The team is creating a “lab-like” office, where the effects of lighting, humidity, ambient noise, and other variables on productivity and worker stress levels will be analyzed. The goal is to construct a prototype of the optimal office space.
  3. After the Recession, Entrepreneurs are on the Rebound, Study Says. PBS NewsHour. Entrepreneurship in industrialized countries in finally on the rise. It still is a slow process; in the U.S. the number of new businesses started this year is still down 15% compared to 2007. But a new study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed that twelve different industrialized nations had positive new business growth in the first six months of 2016. This includes the United States, with 0.6% positive new business growth.
  4. Entrepreneur: ‘Art and people are my passions’. Post-Bulletin. Local businesswoman Nicki Novotne started her small business, Art on the Go, in 2014. Art on the Go is a traveling art studio popping up around Rochester.
  5. Med-tech Partnership Promotes Minnesota as a Place to do Business. StarTribune. Running a medtech business in Minnesota has its advantages, but the state needs more investment to keep this competitive edge. The public-private Minnesota Medical Manufacturing Partnership (MMMP), which is led by the economic development group Greater MSP, hopes to brighten Minnesota’s future. MMMP was officially launched Tuesday to attract investments, economic development assistance, and companies to Minnesota. MMMP is part of the Obama administration’s push to increase investment in manufacturing.