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


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

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


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

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


HipStar LLC (General Division)

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


Phenomix Sciences (Life Science/Health IT Division)

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


Phraze (Life Science/Health IT Division)

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


Amicii (Youth Division)

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


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

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


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

Lincoln's NMotion Startup Accelerator Shares Roadmap for Founders

Yesterday, Keevin O’Rourke, Program Manager at the NMotion Startup Accelerator in Lincoln, Nebraska, spent some time in Rochester and shared lessons learned in the Lincoln startup community. NMotion is a collaboration between the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development, and private investors. The accelerator invests small amounts of seed capital in portfolio companies in exchange for equity. NMotion uses a Roadmap tool to help founders determine their position on the business development pipeline and understand major issues to focus on at each stage.

Lincoln, a town of approximately 273,000 people, houses a strong and growing high tech community and over 171 active startups. The city is one of many Midwestern towns quantifying this region as more than just fly over territory. NMotion is one key piece to the entrepreneurial community in Lincoln.

NMotion developed a tool, called the Roadmap, which helps entrepreneurs identify the business development phase of their startup and determine if they have a viable concept. The Roadmap contains five stages:  

  1. Inspire. At this stage, potential entrepreneurs should ask themselves if they want to be a founder and start to understand what running a business will entail.
  2. Validate. Here, entrepreneurs should ask if they should pursue this idea. This is perhaps the most vital point in the Roadmap and helps entrepreneurs determine if they are trying to solve a true problem.
  3. Test. Entrepreneurs should determine if customers will pay them to solve this problem.
  4. Accelerate. At this stage, entrepreneurs determine a repeatable business model for their solution. Now the “side hustle” becomes the “main hustle” and at least one founder is expected to leave their main job and move into the startup full time. Usually at this stage, the startup has paying customers.
  5. Grow. Entrepreneurs determine if they can make a product/market fit and try to raise seed funding.


NMotion specializes in the accelerate portion of the Roadmap. They run a 90-day program that “accelerates” startups through two years of progress in a short amount of time. Each year, five to eight startups from Lincoln and the surrounding area enter this program. In exchange for 6% equity in their company, accepted startups receive a $20,000 investment from NMotion, office space in FUSE Coworking in the Haymarket District of Lincoln, mentorship, support, and connections to venture capital networks both inside and outside Lincoln.

The NMotion specializes in fintech, agriculture, food tech, and sports/entertainment startups. NMotion has been in operation for five years. Eighty percent of NMotion alumni are still active. Two alumni have raised Series A funding. Forty percent have raised additional seed funding. One company has been acquired.

Applications for this year’s accelerator cohort close March 14th. The 90-day accelerator program will run from May 8th through August 10th in Lincoln.