Community Innovation

Local Businesses Ambient Clinical Analytics and FAVR Inc. Share their Startup Stories at Latest 1 Million Cups Rochester

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Last week two local startups earned the spotlight at 1 Million Cups Rochester: Ambient Clinical Analytics and FAVR Inc. Ambient Clinical Analytics, led by CEO Al Berning, is a digital health startup delivering innovative bedside predicative analytics. FAVR, an app-based tech startup led by CEO Solomon Antoine, serves as a peer to peer platform allowing customers to request a task at their own set price.

Serial entrepreneur Berning has started four companies in the last twenty-five years including LiquidCool Solutions, a Rochester company developing cooling solutions for electronics, and Pemstar, an electronics manufacturing firm. Berning’s newest startup, Ambient Clinical Analytics, is based on Mayo Clinic technology, which was developed over the past ten years in the Mayo Clinic ICU and emergency departments. Ambient Clinical Analytics sells real time clinical decision-making support tools to reduce clinical staff decision rate time and to eliminate errors. The startup has been in operation for five years selling to hospitals and hospital systems across the globe. The company has raised $7M in funding to date and is in the process of closing a $1M convertible note bridge round. Ambient Clinical Analytics has four products on the market, all aimed to reduce information overload on clinical caregivers and to organize and present data to enable rapid and informed clinical decision making. 

FAVR Inc.’s iOS app connects users with freelance workers to perform on demand lawn care and home chores. The app solves the users’ need to complete these tasks without use of their limited time while allowing a younger demographic of freelancers to earn money in their spare time. FAVR fills a unique space, allowing users to request tasks at their own set price. The app currently has two hundred fifty users on the platform, including customers and freelancers, all based in Rochester. The startup plans to expand its reach into four communities with a strong college base including Minneapolis, Brookings, Winona, and Mankato.

1 Million Cups is an educational event for entrepreneurs that takes place in one hundred eighty-two communities across the United States. 1 Million Cups Rochester occurs the first Wednesday of every month at 9AM in the Bleu Duck Kitchen event space. Join the community at the next event on Wednesday June 5th to hear the stories of two more entrepreneurs in our ecosystem.

Busy Baby LLC Wins Fourth Annual Ignite Cup

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Tuesday night entrepreneurship took center stage at the Ignite Cup in Red Wing. Five startups, including four with Rochester ties, pitched their innovations for a guaranteed spot in the semifinal round of the Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide business pitch competition. Oronoco-based business Busy Baby LLC walked away as the winner of the 2019 Ignite Cup and will compete in the Minnesota Cup for the second consecutive year. 

Busy Baby LLC was launched by entrepreneur, US veteran, and mom Beth Fynbo. This innovator has created and manufactured a 100% FDA-approved silicone mat with a proprietary tether system to keep babies from tossing toys and other items onto the floor, keeping these objects germ-free. Since Fynbo’s run at the Minnesota Cup last year, where she made it to the semifinal round, she developed a prototype of the Busy Baby mat and has earned $12,000 in sales this year. Fynbo currently manufactures the mats in China but hopes to move production to the US at some point. She currently sells the product from her website and is beginning to formulate retail packaging. 

Additional startups pitching at Ignite Cup included GoAdvntr, Phraze, Shrpa, and SkyWorks.

GoAdvntr is a Winona-based business to help people seek adventure and “experience something new.” This business, pitched by CEO and Founder Brian Kugel, is an online marketplace where local businesses can list their experiential adventures and connect with consumers. GoAdvntr aims to use a “community first approach” and is focused on launching their product in southern Minnesota. GoAdvntr currently has sixteen host businesses offering twenty-eight different adventures in line for when the product launches. They aim to scale to 125 hosts by the end of 2019.

AI medical scribe Phraze was pitched by current Rochester resident and co-founder Brandon McCutcheon. Phraze automates documentation for physicians, reducing physician burnout and beginning the documentation process before the physician even enters the exam room. The startup’s four co-founders estimate that Phraze will save ~1.5 hours of physician time per day based on early testing, leading to over $9M per month in cost savings. Phraze filed a provisional patent on their technology in March and aims to obtain one hundred users by the end of 2019. The startup has raised $135,000 of seed funding to date.

Shrpa, a Rochester-based app to connect people to their communities, was pitched by co-founders Chris Lukenbill and Andy Vig. Shrpa provides users with handcrafted itineraries created by local guides, allowing users to experience a community and navigate the logistics of that experience like a local. The idea for Shrpa was created this January and the MVP will launch this month. By the end of the summer Lukenbill and Vig aim for 20K trips to be taken via Shrpa. The original focus for the product is on Rochester and the immediately surrounding area. 

SkyWorks, also based in Rochester, was the final pitch of the night. This startup was founded by Sam Barsness, AJ Hawkins, and Ahmed Makkawy. SkyWorks aims to provide a new standard in commercial real estate transaction processing to create less work for agents, reduced risk for brokers, and more loyal clients. The startup is tackling a $65.1B target market.

Congratulations to all the teams that pitched at the fourth annual Ignite Cup. Best of luck to Beth Fynbo as she represents the region at Minnesota Cup. And a big ‘thank you’ to Red Wing Ignite Executive Director Neela Mollgaard and her team for creating another engaging platform for entrepreneurship.  

New MN DEED Commissioner Steve Grove Stops in Rochester to Hear from SE MN Entrepreneurs

Photo courtesy of RAEDI. Back row from left to right: Ryan Nolander, President of RAEDI; Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square; Samantha Strand, Executive Director at Garage Co-Work Space; Jame Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking; Andy Vig, Cofounder of SHRPA; Sean Williams, Cofounder of Comicker LLC. Front row from left to right: Judy Lundy, Innovation Coordinator with Austin Community Growth Ventures; Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director at Red Wing Ignite; Carla Nelson, Minnesota State Senator; Shruthi Naik, Cofounder at Vyriad; Steve Grover, Commissioner at MN DEED; Amanda Leightner, Founder of Rochester Rising; and Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at RAEDI.

Photo courtesy of RAEDI. Back row from left to right: Ryan Nolander, President of RAEDI; Chris Schad, Director of Business Development for Discovery Square; Samantha Strand, Executive Director at Garage Co-Work Space; Jame Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking; Andy Vig, Cofounder of SHRPA; Sean Williams, Cofounder of Comicker LLC. Front row from left to right: Judy Lundy, Innovation Coordinator with Austin Community Growth Ventures; Neela Mollgaard, Executive Director at Red Wing Ignite; Carla Nelson, Minnesota State Senator; Shruthi Naik, Cofounder at Vyriad; Steve Grover, Commissioner at MN DEED; Amanda Leightner, Founder of Rochester Rising; and Xavier Frigola, Director of Entrepreneurship at RAEDI.

Newly minted Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (MN DEED) Commissioner Steve Grove visited with entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders from across southeastern Minnesota in Rochester this Friday. His mission: to listen and learn about the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and to receive input on Governor Tim Walz’s proposal to spur innovation in the state.

Grove, a native of Northfield, Minnesota, was appointed into the Commissioner position with MN DEED by Walz after a long career in the private sector. As a trained journalist, Grove spent time at The Boston Globe and ABC News. Although new to MN DEED, Grove is no stranger to tech innovation. He spent over four years as Head of News and Politics at YouTube prior to his most recent post as Director of Google News.

While building his career on the west coast, Grove retained strong roots to the Midwest. He and wife Mary co-founded the nonprofit Silicon North Stars in 2013. This organization connects underserved tech-driven Minnesotan youth with tech startups and venture capital firms in Silicon Valley for an immerse learning experience. Mary Grove currently runs the Minneapolis office for the venture capital firm Rise of the Rest, an organization launched by AOL founder Steve Case to increase investment outside of the coasts. 

Now, Grove and Governor Walz are thinking of ways to grow the innovation economy in Minnesota to help foster the region as a powerhouse to start and grow tech companies.

Grove visited Rochester last week to meet with local entrepreneurs, entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, and local government to tour innovation sectors in Rochester and to better understand strengths and weaknesses in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Grove also received feedback and questions about the Governor’s $9M proposal to create a new Minnesota Innovation Collaboration (MIC). If approved, the MIC would utilize grants and other resources to make Minnesota a more attractive place to start a tech company. The program would be administered by MN DEED.  

“I think it’s great that the Commissioner comes to the position with private world experience in the technology and innovation sector. The program that he and the Governor are proposing seems to be on track and I think it was important that we were able to provide input,” said Ryan Nolander, President of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. “Hopefully they take that input and create programs that are flexible enough to truly assist us with growing our regional entrepreneur ecosystem.” 

Walz’s MIC proposal includes a number of incentives to help lower the state’s risk aversion and encourage startup growth. Proposed incentives include one year of health insurance coverage and research and development vouchers. Walz’s proposal also includes the revival of the Angel Tax Credit in Minnesota to encourage investment in early stage Minnesotan startups. The credit expired in 2017.

“MIC could mean big things for all of Minnesota. We need to reduce barriers such as access to affordable healthcare to allow our makers, doers, and dreamers to start companies right here in Minnesota,” explained Jamie Sundsbak, Community Manager of Collider Coworking. “The MIC plan will also empower local ecosystem builders and will increase funding for entrepreneurial education at the local level. I applaud Governor Walz, Commissioner Grove, and everyone working on the legislation for their efforts.”

Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker, Owners of MedCity Doulas

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Rochester entrepreneurs Amanda Steele and Brittany Baker are breaking down barriers and working together to serve families and other “bad ass” women in the community. In 2016, the pair founded MedCity Doulas to offer support to women from pregnancy through postpartum.

These strong women are here to prove that being a doula- a trained professional that offers physical, emotional, and informational support to mothers- is a sustainable career option for themselves and for others seeking to help women with these highly specialized services. The pair specifically works to build “bridges between patients and medical staff for a more positive experience on the patient’s end,” Baker explained.

These entrepreneurs were driven to create MedCity Doulas in response to a general lack of support, especially postpartum, for mothers in the community. 

Baker’s personal postpartum experience was extremely positive- she was hired late in her pregnancy by her employers and was encouraged to bring her newborn to work- although she quickly learned this was not the norm. Steele saw many families having negative and traumatizing experiences as new parents. She became passionate about supporting parents during that time frame and molding new parenthood into a positive experience. 

While fueled by passion to bring MedCity Doulas to life, these innovators faced significant challenges to get the business running. The first obstacle was basic education about the role of doulas and convincing people it was a professional service that deserved a cash exchange.

“We are women selling traditional women’s work as a professional service. So, wrapping people’s heads around that idea, that we are here to mother mothers and that has a dollar value, has been a hard concept for some people,” Baker explained.

Steele said the pair was not taken seriously when they first started out. Although both women are highly educated- Steele is finishing up her master’s degree and Baker has a degree in design plus management experience- the doula field is not always taken seriously. They faced particular roadblocks when seeking financial assistance for the business.

“We didn’t give up. We went to four different banks before somebody believed in what we were doing,” Steele explained.

With the three-year anniversary of MedCity Doulas fast approaching, these women are looking forward to continued growth of the business in the community to support families.  

“It’s exciting that we have a women-owned business in 2019 in Rochester, Minnesota in an industry that is related to healthcare,” Baker said. “We are really lucky to be operating here specifically.”

While MedCity Doulas has certainly blossomed over the past years, these entrepreneurs have also witnessed much change in the female entrepreneurial community in Rochester, especially with increased events and resources for women in business.

“I’m really hopeful for all the things I’ve seen so far in the community and all the things that are being built,” Steele explained. “But it’s also hard because now that we have more things we’re pulled in more directions.”

She said in particular we still need more balance to integrate moms into these events and activities, especially those individuals without childcare options.

Strong Women Creating Value 2019: Danielle Teal, Founder of Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere

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Rochester woman Danielle Teal says kindness has changed her life and impacts her every decision. She believes that kindness is an underrated tool to motivate community change. Fueled by this passion, Teal founded the initiative Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere (CAKE) to publicly share local acts of kindness to normalize the behavior and to inspire acts of kindness on a larger level. 

CAKE is a volunteer group in the community that utilizes social media “to motivate change and influence people to carry out acts of kindness,” Teal explained. 

Some individuals strongly believe that acts of kindness should remain anonymous, which Teal says, CAKE supports. She hopes, however, that CAKE is changing any negative connotations associated with sharing acts of kindness publicly. Teal says studies demonstrate that both recipients and witnesses of public acts of kindness are inspired by that act, enough to often perform an act of kindness themselves.

“Our goal is to share public acts of kindness to create opportunities for people to do it collectively as a group in mass quantities and to really motivate and inspire change in the community to normalize kindness,” she said. 

Acts of kindness don’t necessarily have to be big. They can be as simple as buying someone a cup of coffee, volunteering, or just offering a stranger a genuine smile. 

Kindness, Teal explained, also involves giving people grace and the space and forgiveness they need to navigate their feelings and experiences. This doesn’t excuse abusive behavior, she explained. However, Teal says we are all human and perfection does not exist. 

While operating CAKE takes a large amount of effort, Teal’s driven by “the impact and the results from the recipients and watching a kindness initiative continue. It truly is a ripple effect and you can see it.” As a mom of two, she wants her daughters to be positive individuals who promote kindness. 

“[Kindness] has changed the way I parent. It has changed the way I interact in a work environment. It’s changed me in the community. I am not perfect by any means,” Teal said. “I am absolutely not perfect. But I try to do my best every single day.”

Join us for this new workshop event to bring forth our best selves. Ticket prices will increase on March 25th. Click image for more information and to register.

Join us for this new workshop event to bring forth our best selves. Ticket prices will increase on March 25th. Click image for more information and to register.

Inspiring acts of kindness in others, however, does sometimes have hurdles. At times, when a call to action for a kindness initiative is shared there’s a large outpouring of support. Such is the case in the fall when seeking volunteers to pack Thanksgiving meals. However, Teal said, sometimes kindness is not seen as a viable option to resolve an issue or bring about change. She sees this gap particularly in leadership and teamwork.

Kindness and compassion, Teal said, are surprisingly effective tools to increase productivity and to influence team dynamics.

Kindness, she explained, promotes long term change. 

“It makes people feel valued and it increases the bridge of connection to understanding. It cultivates a culture that makes people want to be a part of and that’s what makes things continue to be enhanced, to get better,” Teal explained. 

Kindness, she said, matters.

“It’s not that [CAKE] is looking for the gratitude and it’s not that we are looking for the ‘thank you’s. It truly is the group and myself. We are not looking for anything in return,” Teal explained. “But when you see the impact that [kindness] really changes someone else’s day and it impacts them in a positive way and you know that it’s an enhancement in their life, that’s why it matters.”

Strong Women Creating Value Season 1 Episode 2: Danielle Teal

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we continue our “Strong Women Creating Value” conversation by chatting with Danielle Teal, Founder of CAKE - Caring Acts of Kindness Everywhere. CAKE is a community initiative that “utilize[s] social contagion through public Random Acts of Kindness in mass efforts to help cultivate positive inspiring change”.

"I would say if you have a dream, if you have a goal, the first thing to do is to act on it." -Danielle Teal

Local Young Professionals Group Celebrates Five Year Anniversary

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Last week The Commission, a Rochester-based young professionals’ group, celebrated their five-year anniversary. Launched around a table in 2013, The Commission has undergone many transformations since that point. This nonprofit organization serves as a vital connector for young professionals in Rochester to facilitate community involvement, networking, and collaboration.  

As part of this celebration last week at Pure Rock Studios, The Commission honored four individuals in the community.

Collider Coworking Community Manager Jamie Sundsbak won the “Connector of the Year” award. Jamie has brought knowledge and experience from other entrepreneurial communities to Rochester. He always finds time to meet with individuals to assess their needs and help to connect them to vital resources in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Leah Joy Bee, Owner at Canvas and Chardonnay, received the “Giver of the Year” Award. Leah hosts weekly events at her downtown business to highlight local talent and frequently donates her studio space for community causes. Leah plays a significant role in the local arts and culture scene and helps to make “dreams become reality for creative souls in our community.”

Kady Olson, owner of Wholistic Family Chiropractic, won the “Startup of the Year” award. As a newcomer to the Rochester community, Kady has built her practice patient by patient. She also invests much of her time to community outreach, education, and networking to grow her business.

Julie Brock, Executive Director at Cradle to Career, received the “I.M.P.A.C.T. Award.” As a workforce development professional and educator, Julie “inspires her students to think critically, write deeply, and give kindness out freely.” Julie is currently leading a brand-new initiative with Cradle to Career to improve educational outcomes in Rochester.

Congrats to The Commission (and all the Awardees) on reaching this milestone. Here’s to year number six!

Redefining Entrepreneurship: A Look At The Current Model

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“It’s your right to be uncommon if you can. You seek opportunity to compete. You desire to take the calculated risk, to dream, to build, yes, even to fail, and to succeed.” -Ewing Marion Kauffman

What is an entrepreneur? Why does entrepreneurship matter? 

According to Investopedia an entrepreneur is “an individual who, rather than working as an employee, founds and runs a small business, assuming all the risks and rewards of the venture.” A simple web search indicates that an entrepreneur is “a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.” Finally, the Kauffman Foundation defines entrepreneurs as “people who turn ideas into reality, charging directly into the headwinds to create something of value where there was no value before.” 

These definitions have several common threads, with room for additional thoughts to be added to the concept.

Consider these thoughts. 

An entrepreneur is someone who: 

1.     Takes some sort of calculated risk. Entrepreneurs are not pursuing an idea that is a “sure thing”; failure of some sort is on the table. The risks involved can include a novel product or service or an aggressive business model. Entrepreneurs face financial risks and have their own money as some of the first invested to launch their businesses. Entrepreneurs may also face job insecurity. Exploring entrepreneurship often involves leaving long and stable careers behind to pursue the uncertain.

2.     Has expertise that gives them a competitive advantage in their target market. This knowledge, experience, and insight allows only this particular entrepreneur to bring forth this business in a specific market.

3.     Has created a product or service that a business can be built around. An entrepreneur develops a product or service that’s driven by market demand and customer need. Even if no sales have been made, an entrepreneur has identified a customer base that will pay for their product or service.

4.     Is driven by passion to bring forth a solution that no one else is currently providing.

We often think of entrepreneurs as individuals operating in the tech space, creating high growth potential businesses that can reach multiple markets with expansive revenue streams. However, anyone with a solid business idea bringing something of value to the market is an entrepreneur. This includes people building highly scalable startups. But it also includes small business owners, including people with zero or few employees. This definition also includes franchise owners. These individuals are creating a business in a specific geographic market in which the business did not exist. This still involves risk, market research, and financial investment.

Why is entrepreneurship important?

Entrepreneurs are economic drivers. They create new businesses, jobs, and opportunity for themselves and for others. Entrepreneurs are driven by a need to solve real problems facing our society. They often encourage a different way of thinking and doing. The entrepreneurial mindset and problem solving based on a defined need and customer feedback is of value in small and large organizations alike.

 Entrepreneurship matters. It’s time to start rethinking our definition of an entrepreneur.

Women Entrepreneurial Panel Says the Money Is Out There To Fund Local Women-Led Businesses

Photo courtesy of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.

Photo courtesy of Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc.

Last week over fifty intrepid women braved a winter storm to attend a Women Entrepreneurs Forum on funding sources. The event, led by Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. and Saint Mary’s Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, provided a connection point for business women in the local ecosystem and brought to the surface funding pain points experienced by these innovators. 

The forum included a panel discussion featuring Jennifer Gowin, a Commercial Local Officer with Premier Banks Rochester, Cathy Connett, CEO and Managing Partner of the Sofia Fund, an angel investment fund for high growth potential women-led businesses, and Laura Hart, Loan Officer with the 504 Corporation

Although at the national level, women-led businesses receive less investments and less capital via bank loans than male-led companies, Gowin and Hart aren’t necessarily seeing this phenomenon at the local level. Though Gowin sees the same size of business loans being awarded to men and women, she’s observed more men than woman applying for loans to fund their company. Hart explained that the funding is out there. But it’s unclear to her if women are not aware of these opportunities or choose to not pursue them. In the venture capital and angel funding world, where there are more male than female investors, the picture is a little more lop-sided.

“Typically, unfortunately, like invests in like,” Connett explained.

Although there are less women investors in general, female business owners, Connett said, also typically wait too long to seek equity investment than their male counterparts.

“Women often want to have everything lined up before they [seek funding]. Whether it’s a bank loan, or whether it’s equity, or anything else,” she explained. 

Women, Connett said, are just as likely to be risk takers as men.

“But I think we don’t want to expose ourselves to risk sometimes,” she explained. 

When looking at loans and investments to any business, the panel said, several factors contribute to the final decision. As a bank, Gowan explained, her employer is fairly conservative when granting loans. Banks typically assess business collateral. If light, the bank will also look at personal assets and personal credit. They will also closely assess the business owner and her level of understanding of her business and the associated industry plus her ability as a founder to overcome any associated risks. 

The team’s capacity to overcome adversity, Connett explained, is a significant factor in angel and venture capital investment.

Excitement, passion, the ability to tell a compelling story, and a clear need for the business in the community are all vital pieces to secure funding, the panel explained.

Resources to fund female, and male, owned businesses are out there. As women, we just have to put ourselves out there and go after it. 

“Events like this are important as they allow entrepreneurs to come together and learn, develop community, and share resources. This event specifically created a venue for women entrepreneurs to increase their knowledge on the opportunities and barriers they face in funding their businesses,” said Christine Beech, Executive Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. “The speakers and roundtable discussions were designed to help these entrepreneurs develop new strategies to identify opportunities to fund and grow their businesses.”

Future events and workshops like this funding forum are in the planning stages to address additional unmet needs for local business women.

"Poultry Patrol" Robot Wins Inaugural Ag Tech Challenge

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After three months of competition, the winner of Ignite Minnesota’s Ag Tech Challenge was announced last week in Red Wing. Rising above over fifty other innovators throughout the contest, engineer Jack Kilian walked away with the grand prize with his concept Poultry Patrol. 

The Ag Tech Challenge was officially launched in October during the Twin Cities’ inaugural Food Ag Ideas Week by Ignite Minnesota, a national network to accelerate next generation technologies. The contest aimed to uncover new hardware, software, or data solutions for agriculture.

During the first phase of the competition at the end of 2018, semi-finalists Poultry Patrol, Tile Drainage Monitoring and Control, and Robotic Sod Weed Farmer concepts were selected from the pool of applicants. Two of these ideas won $2,500 at this stage of the challenge. All three semi-finalists pitched last week in Red Wing during the final phase of the competition for the chance to win up to $10,000 for their projects.

Mark Swanson, a Minnesota State College Southeast computer programming instructor, pitched the concept Tile Drainage and Monitoring System. This idea targets farm sediment and nutrient runoff, a significant problem in the Minnesota River Valley. Currently, farmers may mitigate this issue through methods like protecting exposed soil, slowing down and storing water, or by implementing catchment systems. However, these techniques only serve as partial solutions. Swanson proposed the development of a low-cost monitoring device to help farmers measure runoff and the effects of runoff mitigation on their farms for targeted elimination efforts.

Robotic Sod Farm Weeder, pitched by Nick Fragale, enables non-chemical-based weed removal on an industrial scale with robotics. Fragale is also the co-founder of Rover Robotics, a Wayzata-based tech company that creates cost-effective, rugged robots for startups. Robots, Fragale explained, perform repetitive tasks like weeding very well. Other weed removing robots do exist on the market, such as a solar powered robot that Fragale estimated to cost between $50,000 to $100,000. Instead, he proposed to construct a robotic weeder on a much cheaper scale, primarily by eliminating the use of a robotic arm on the machine, a part that can dramatically drive up costs. Without an arm, Fragale must test the efficacy of other methods, such as drilling and zapping, to kill weeds with his more economical robotic prototype. 

Jack Kilian, University of Minnesota Twin Cities electrical engineering master’s student, pitched the winning concept Poultry Patrol. This idea addresses problems in industrial poultry housing. Poultry growers, Kilian explained, need to walk through these large housing units several times a day to check for and remove dead and diseased birds and to assess the overall functionality of equipment in the houses. These areas are also bio secure, requiring growers to change their clothes and shoes each time they enter or exit the facility. To make this process more efficient, Kilian aims to develop a robot that would identify sick birds and alert the growers of the exact location of the animal using digital mapping. The robot could also check the status of vital equipment in the facility as well, eliminating the need for growers to perform multiple daily surveillance walks through the poultry houses. Much of the hardware for this concept is already created, Kilian explained. He proposed targeting turkey growers for initial use of his robot to stick to the Minnesota ties of the concept. Minnesota remains the largest turkey producing state in the US.

Congrats to all of the contestants in Ignite Minnesota’s Ag Tech Challenge. Head to the Red Wing Ignite Facebook page to view all of the final pitches.

State of the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community- January 2019

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2018 was a significant year of growth and change for the Rochester entrepreneurial community. Here are some of the highlights.

 

Events and Competitions 

This year saw record interest in existing competitions, development of brand-new pitch events, and continued elevation of ongoing initiatives in the community. 2018 saw continued growth of 1 Million Cups Rochester, a monthly educational event for entrepreneurs, providing a platform for seven different Rochester startups to tell their story and leverage the help of the community. This year the community hosted its second Techstars Startup Weekend, a 54-hour event to go from idea to minimal viable product. The sixth Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week also took place this November, with over six hundred people attending twenty-two different events.

Walleye Tank, a Minnesota based life science business pitch competition, hit record numbers this year with a standing room-only event at Mayo Clinic’s Mann Hall with twenty-two different companies pitching their life saving technologies.

This year also saw the development of a brand-new pitch competition in Rochester, the Assistive Tech Challenge. This event was organized by Destination Medical Center’s Discovery Square team to prototype and seek solutions for persons with disabilities. Twenty-eight different teams applied to compete in this inaugural event.

 

Investment

2018 was also a strong year of regional investment, forecasting opportunities for growth. $725M was raised by eight-six companies in Minnesota’s Medical Alley, including $319M in digital health, $259M in medical device, and $144M in biotech sectors. The Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund closed in June with $2M raised from fifty-six different investors. To date, the fund has invested over $500,000 in seven different healthcare companies including Rochester based Sonex Health, Vyriad, Geneticure, Marblehead Medical, and Ambient Clinical Analytics.  

Vyriad, a Rochester biotech company developing cancer therapeutics, also secured $9M of convertible debt note funding this year, facilitating the buildout of a 25,000 square foot Good Manufacturing Process facility for the company on the IBM campus in northwest Rochester. This financing included participation from Mayo Clinic, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., and the Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund. Vyriad also secured a $370,000 commitment from the state of Minnesota and the City of Rochester for equipment funding.

 

Opportunities 

This past year saw much opportunity for space in downtown Rochester for entrepreneurs and established businesses. This included the opening of two new co-working spaces, the Offices at China Hall and Collider 424. Construction on Destination Medical Center’s One Discovery Square Building also saw significant progress over the past year, with space commitments from Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota Rochester, and Epic. 

Teams from Rochester showed a strong performance in the 2018 Minnesota Cup, the largest statewide business pitch competition. Five Olmsted County teams advanced to the semifinal round including Mill Creek Life Sciences, Thaddeus Medical Systems, B.A.S.I.C. BALSA, Busy Baby LLC, and LipiQuester, LLC. Two of these teams, Mill Creek and Thaddeus Medical Systems, advanced to the semi-final round in the Life Sciences/Health IT Division. 

Team B.A.S.I.C. BALSA, composed of five Rochester Public Schools girls, entered Minnesota Cup through Technovation, a global competition to teach girls coding to solve real-world problems. The team was the top-ranking high school group at the state’s Technovation competition, called Appaplooza, and also won $10,000 at Minnesota Cup. 

This year, Rochester artificial intelligence startup Spark DJ was admitted to the Techstars Music Accelerator program in Los Angeles. The Hatchery, a wet lab space for life science entrepreneurs, also opened early this year within Mayo Clinic. In 2018 the Ignite Minnesota regional partnership was also launched to convene, elevate, and promote the work of innovative businesses and entrepreneurs in Minnesota to keep the region globally competitive.  

Rochester also had an entrepreneurial presence at several national events in 2018 including the NFL’s 1st & Future startup competition in Minneapolis early in the year. A contingent from Rochester also attended the Kauffman ESHIP Summit in Kansas City this summer to create regional and national partnerships to build and strengthen our entrepreneurial ecosystems.

 

Notable visits 

Several distinguished guests also visited the Rochester entrepreneurial community this year. This included serial entrepreneur, author, and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk who headlined the Stationary Astronauts inaugural Meeting of the Minds event in July. The community was also visited by Kira Blackwell, Program Executive for NASA iTech, an initiative that searches for solutions to NASA’s most pressing issues. In December, Rochester was also visited by Jun Axup, Scientific Director and Partner at the San Francisco life science accelerator IndieBio


Losses

The community saw several businesses shut their doors in the downtown area including The Doggery, Soul Purpose Boutique, and Firefly Barre Fitness. This year also ended with the closing of EDGE Fitness in the southwest portion of the city.

 

Threats

Rising downtown rental costs threaten to push small and emerging businesses and entrepreneurs out of downtown Rochester. However, this creates an opportunity for clustering of businesses in other portions of Rochester, such as the IBM campus.

New Cowork Space Offers Hub for Winona Entrepreneurs

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Located just one block from the Mississippi River in Winona, Minn., The Garage Co-Work Space aims to promote and foster entrepreneurship. The coworking facility, Winona’s first, is the fruition of a two-year collaboration among dedicated community members to fuel entrepreneurship and provide a local hub for innovation. 

The Garage Co-Work Executive Director Samantha Strand, far left. Garage Co-Work Owner Eric Mullen, right. Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

The Garage Co-Work Executive Director Samantha Strand, far left. Garage Co-Work Owner Eric Mullen, right. Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

“The Winona Community is and always has been a very entrepreneurial place. One thing it has been lacking is a center for entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial events. This is a key void The Garage can fill,” said Owner Eric Mullen. “The Garage Co-Work Space plans to be a place to host and coordinate these types of things to further connect the community.”

The name of the coworking facility pays homage to the humble beginnings of businesses started in basements or garages, to entrepreneurs who just needed some type of space in which to create. The coworking facility offers a central location for Winona’s entrepreneurs to link up, problem solve together, and allow their businesses to thrive. 

“If you just give people space to think and to dream and to do and to reach out and connect to people, sometimes that’s all they really need,” explained Samantha Strand, Executive Director of The Garage Co-Work Space.

After a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 14th, the coworking facility is officially open to the public. Now, Strand says she’s excited to share the space and help others understand the benefits of coworking in Winona.

The Garage Co-Work has an open space coworking format, with no private offices. The facility also houses two conference rooms, a lounge area, kitchenette, and two private phone booth areas. Desk space can be rented daily, weekly, monthly, or permanently.

The Garage Co-Work is the pinnacle of a two-year brainstorming partnership between many local supporting entities in Winona who wished to create a focal hub for entrepreneurs within the city. Winona State University School of Business, the City of Winona, the Port Authority of Winona, and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, Strand said, were all instrumental in the ideation and launch of the coworking facility.

In addition to the physical space, The Garage Co-Work will also provide business development programming and networking events to help facilitate local business growth and education. Upcoming events include 1 Million Cups Winona on December 12th and The Garage Co-Work’s first Fireside Chat with the Founder of WinCraft on December 17th.

Strand, a Twin Cities native, was drawn back to the area after completing her bachelor’s degree in Entrepreneurship at Baylor University. Although she has ideas for starting a business of her own someday, now she’s driven to help others succeed.  

“At the core of what I really love is entrepreneurship and helping other people believe that they can be entrepreneurs…and they can go out and do big things and they can make a difference,” she explained.

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Photo courtesy of The Garage Co-Work.

Strand said there’s a definitive energy around entrepreneurship and strong grassroots entrepreneurial movements already occurring in Winona. She thinks, however, that even more innovation activity could be occurring, which the Garage Co-Work Space could help to facilitate.

Even if you don’t consider yourself entrepreneurial, Strand suggests just placing yourself on the mailing list of your local coworking space. You never know when you might benefit or be able to help someone in that extended network.

R.A.V.E. Honors Local Entrepreneurs at Fifth Annual Celebration

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Last week the fifth annual Recognizing Awarding Valuing Entrepreneurs (R.A.V.E.) event took place in the Rochester community to celebrate and share stories of regional innovation. R.A.V.E. is hosted by Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. (RAEDI), Journey to Growth, and 504 Corporation as part of Rochester’s Global Entrepreneurship Week.

The 2018 R.A.V.E. event drew in over two-hundred attendees including entrepreneurs, supportive services, established businesses, and community leadership.

“Look around the room. Look at the crowd we have,” explained Ryan Nolander, President of RAEDI. “It’s a wonderful evening, a wonderful event where we get to showcase our entrepreneurs and the future they have in front of them and the great things they provide for the community.” 

This year, R.A.V.E. honored local companies: Sprouts Childcare and Early Education Center, Trailtopia Adventure Food, and Vyriad.

Sprouts Childcare and Early Education Center was founded by husband and wife team Krystal and Patrick Campbell in 2018 to fill a growing childcare need in Stewartville, Minnesota and the surrounding communities. The facility is licensed for up to ninety-nine children from six weeks to twelve-years-old. Trailtopia was founded in 2013 by local entrepreneur Vince Robichaud. This Byron-based, family-run company creates and sells freeze-dried and dehydrated foods in specially engineered bags, in which the food can both be cooked and eaten. Vyriad is a Rochester clinical stage biopharmaceutical company founded in 2015 by Mayo Clinic investigators Dr. Stephen Russell and Dr. Kah-Whye Peng. Vyriad is developing multiple oncolytic viral platforms to deliver cancer therapeutics with proprietary reporter gene technology.  

From 2014 to 2017, R.A.V.E. has honored sixteen regional businesses, ranging from biotech to pet product companies, including: Mill Creek Life Sciences, BrandHoot, Imanis Life Sciences, DoApp Inc., Transfuse Solutions, LiquidCool Solutions, Ambient Clinical Analytics, GoRout, Rochester Home Infusion, Area 10 Labs, Resoundant, Enlightened Equipment, Licks, Sonex Health, Envirolastech, and River Bluff Technologies.

A 2014 R.A.V.E. honoree, Mill Creek Life Sciences, a Rochester company producing clinical grade cell culture media, has grown sales by twenty-five percent annually over the last three years. The company also placed second this year in the Minnesota Cup Life Sciences/Health IT Division. Mill Creek is additionally expanding from a research reagent into a cancer therapy company.  

Since being honored in 2014, Rochester website and mobile app development company BrandHoot moved into a new, larger office space. This business has also more than quadrupled their revenue since 2014 to add on additional team members.

 A 2015 R.A.V.E. honoree, hardware and software football technology company GoRout has more than doubled their sales over the past three years. The company has customers in every major college football conference and recently made their first international sale. In 2017, GoRout deployed their own private national network exclusive to their technology. Since this time, over 300,000 plays have been sent over this network. The company has recently moved to a larger location in Rochester to accommodate their growth.

Sonex Health, a 2017 R.A.V.E. honoree and creator of the SX-One MicroKnife to enable minimally invasive carpal tunnel release surgery, has more than doubled in growth and revenue from 2017-2018. The company recently graduated from the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator and has moved into a larger space in Rochester to assist their 100% increase in staff over the last year. Sonex additionally built a specialized training facility in their new location for physicians to learn how to use their technology.

Steve and Umbelina Cremer, CEO of Harmony Enterprises and Executive Director of Harmony Kids Learning Center respectively, were also honored as R.A.V.E. Lifetime Achievement Honorees. And finally, the Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund was granted the R.A.V.E. Warrior Award for their advocacy work for Rochester entrepreneurs.

What's Happening in the Rochester Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Startup Weekend, The Assistive Tech Challenge, and Global Entrepreneurship Week

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The past two weeks have witnessed a significant amount of activity in Rochester’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Beginning with Startup Weekend and ending yesterday with twenty-two different events taking place across the community, the last fifteen days have offered a wide taste of the culture and diversity of Rochester’s current innovation community.

 

Techstars Startup Weekend (Oct 26-28th) 

Startup Weekend is a fifty-four-hour event, powered by the global Techstars accelerator program. Approximately forty individuals joined in Startup Weekend this year as participants, coaches, judges, and organizers. At this event, many began the weekend on Friday evening as strangers and quickly formed strategic teams around the top ideas. Teams spent the remaining hours building out a business canvas, performing customer validation in the community, and preparing business pitches. Six teams pitched to a panel of judges on Sunday night, which included Julie Henry, Enterprise IP Contract Manager at Mayo Clinic; Xavier Frigola, Director of the Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator; Stephen Ekker, Director of the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship; Sarah Miller, Owner of White Space; and Matt Smyth, President and Chief Strategist at Headland Law.

The Smarter City team, composed of Garrett Lieffring, Josef Chlachula, and Jeremiah Harbach, won third place in the competition. Smarter City helps Rochester residents and visitors wayfind and locate food, activities, lodging, and key information around the city of Rochester using Smart City QR tags. These tags could serve as catalysts to direct individuals to local resources and experiences and to facilitate self-guided city tours.   

Sajal Kherde, Anthony Kyle, and Phil Stubbs took second place at Startup Weekend with their 20 x 20 concept. 20 x 20 is an online platform for local artists to sell their oil paintings and wall hangings. The platform also provides analytics and includes a story about the art and the artist behind the creation. By Sunday evening, the team already had artists signed up to use their platform.

Team E3, composed of Grace Pesch, Jay Franson, and James Perreault, won Startup Weekend with their “What Were You Thinking?” card game. This game, based on the nine Enneagram personality categories, could function as a unique way to teach empathy, improve personal relationships, and provide team building opportunities. The team marketed their game on Facebook and had preorders by Sunday evening. 

If you missed out on the event, you can catch up with the pitches by checking out the Facebook live video on our social media. You can also visit our video of the weekend to better understand the impact an event like Startup Week has on the Rochester community.

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 The Assistive Tech Challenge (November 3rd) 

The Assistive Tech Challenge pitch event took place on Saturday November 3rd as part of the Assistive Tech Expo at the Rochester Technical and Community College Heintz Center. This business pitch competition sought solutions to eliminate employment barriers, reduce dependency on caregivers, enable richer social interactions, and elevate access to community infrastructure for people living with disabilities. The competition was facilitated by the Destination Medical Center Discovery Square Team, The Arc Minnesota Southeast Region, and the disABILITY Mayo Clinic Employee Resource Group.

Twenty-eight teams applied to compete in this inaugural competition, DMC’s very first tech pitch event, including a team from Naples, Florida. Teams competed in two divisions, an Open Competition for ideas from the community and a Professional Division, for businesses with less than $250,000 in annual revenue. First and second place in each division received $5,000 and $2,500 respectively from The Arc Minnesota.  

In the Open Division, Samantha Grover came in second place with her concept AbleKitchen. AbleKitchen is an all-in-one recipe, meal planning, and shopping application to make cooking more accessible for people with, and without, disabilities. Rochester team of Cody Schmidt and Nick Elliott won first place in the Open Division with their “Adapt-A-Cart” prototype, a device that allows for seamless attachment and detachment of a wheelchair to a grocery cart to make shopping simpler and more efficient.

In the Professional Division, Minneapolis business Mobility 4 All won second place with their “kinder, gentler ride service for senior and people with disabilities.” Vitals Aware Services, also from Minneapolis, took first place in the Professional Division. This business created technology that enables real time communication between first responders and persons with mental illness during times of crises.

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Global Entrepreneurship Week (November 5th-9th)

Rochester’s Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is a grassroots, weeklong effort to celebrate entrepreneurship across the city. Twenty-two events took place over the course of the week, organized by multiple components of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, including: Rochester Rising, Collider Coworking, Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc., 1 Million Cups Rochester, Community and Economic Development Associates, The Commission, Destination Medical Center, Grand Rounds Brewing Company, Gray Duck Theater, The Half Barrel, the Mayo Clinic Office of Entrepreneurship, Mayo Clinic Ventures, Mortenson, NAMI Southeast MN, Rochester Entrepreneurial Network, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, Café Steam, Taco Jed, Techweek, Winona State University, Women in Science and Engineering Research, BrandHoot, and Narrative Experiential Designs.

These events brought in over 600 participants, offering a wide taste of this city’s entrepreneurial culture. Events such as these are essential for an entrepreneur-led community. You can see all that happened by searching for the hashtags #gewroch on social media. Check back in over the next week for more in-depth stories about some of the events that took place during the 2018 Rochester Global Entrepreneurship Week.

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Here's What you Missed at Startup Weekend Rochester 2018

Techstars Startup Weekend Rochester is a 54 hour event to take a concept from the idea stage to the beginning states of a startup over the course of a single weekend. Startup Weekend is a great chance to explore entrepreneurship in a collaborative, encouraging environment while learning lean startup skills.

Locally Designed Prototypes on Display in DMC's Heart of the City Subdistrict for Next Month

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Three Rochester innovators will see their creations come to life this month as part of this city’s downtown infrastructure. After a two-year journey, these public health prototypes, created during a city-wide prototyping festival, are on display in Destination Medical Center’s Heart of the City subdistrict for further development as the structures seek their final home.

All three concepts- “the Artery,” “Info Alley,” and “Multilingual Pedestrian Signage”- were born in June 2016 at the Rochester “Idea Jam,” an event to engage the community to tap its creative side and transform the built environment to better support public health. This initiative- supported by DMC, the Rochester Art Center, and Downtown Rochester Alliance- brought together fifty-five community members to develop concepts engaging nature, food, connectiveness, inclusivity, accessibility, diversity, or art to improve health. Twenty different ideas for prototypes, or small models to test a concept, emerged from this session.

Over the next few months, ideas for prototypes were submitted as proposals, with sixteen concepts chosen to be built and displayed during a three-day PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival in September 2016. During that time, about five thousand people interacted with the prototypes.

Now, three of these original concepts have been scaled to an even larger level and are on display for the next month for further refining and testing in the Peace Plaza. These prototypes include: “The Artery,” “Info Alley,” and “Multilingual Pedestrian Signage.” 

Development of “The Artery” is led by local artist Eric Anderson. This art piece displays “the profound moments of hope and healing happening within our healthcare institutions every day.” This installation changes color based on real-time data from Mayo Clinic to signal health events such as a birth, organ transplant, or chemotherapy treatment completion. 

The “Info Alley” prototype team is led by local business owner Sean Baker. This installation is “an interactive multimedia display that enhances an otherwise underutilized space by projecting live video, event listings, social media activity, and other relevant community information.”

Development of the final community prototype, “Multilingual Pedestrian Signage,” is led by Edgar Mtanous. This prototype is designed “to advocate for a collaborative, healthy, and vibrant community by forming stronger cultural and infrastructure links between Rochester, its citizens, and visitors.”

All three prototypes were unveiled on October 17th as part of DMC’s 2018 Annual Meeting. The installations will be on display in the Peace Plaza for thirty days.

#Emerge Episode 22 with Janessa Nickell

Today on #Emerge we sit down with Portland native and current Rochester resident Janessa Nickell. Janessa is a business strategist turned entrepreneur who also formerly trained for Olympic weight lifting. Janessa recently launched her entrepreneurial vision with her brand-new business Sacred Circle, which she runs in her home in southwest Rochester. Sacred Circle is a space for people to learn, connect with like-minded individuals, and grow while understanding more about themselves through introspection and reflection.

“On paper it seemed like I had my stuff together. I was pretty successful by a lot of measurements. I was also incredibly burned out and tired.” -Janessa Nickell, Founder of Sacred Circle

Building An Entrepreneurial Ecosystem- Where Do We Go From Here?

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An entrepreneurial ecosystem, as defined by the Kauffman Foundation, is defined as “people and the culture of trust and collaboration that allows them to interact successfully.” A productive entrepreneurial ecosystem permits the accelerated flow of “talent, information, and resources” to entrepreneurs at all stages of growth. An entrepreneurial ecosystem also harnesses the ability to bolster the local and national economy. Powerful entrepreneurial ecosystems create jobs and attract and retain people.

Important to the process of building an entrepreneurial ecosystem is uncovering resources and initiatives already taking place to support entrepreneurs and connecting these entities to bolster and spur innovation 

In entrepreneurial ecosystem building, no one community stands alone.

No single city, organization or entity has enough resources and expertise to provide all the support that an entrepreneur requires. Instead, we need to all work together, as a region, to fully enable our startups and small businesses to achieve the highest level of success. 

What could this process of entrepreneurial ecosystem building look like in southeastern Minnesota? The first step is to examine what supporting resources we have in our region, understand what initiatives are working, and connect the dots across this portion of the state. 

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of attending a southeastern Minnesota entrepreneurial ecosystem building summit, organized by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and the University of Minnesota Extension. The purpose: to connect conversations about entrepreneurship taking place across the region and to raise awareness of innovation efforts occurring in our various communities.

This gathering included representation from across southeastern Minnesota including the Austin Startup Factory, a fifty-two-week educational partnership program between Austin Community Growth Ventures and Iowa State University; the Albert Lea Tiger Cage, a brand new, three-phase entrepreneurial startup competition; and Garage Cowork, a coworking space opening in October to keep talent in Winona, Minnesota and to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship in that community. 

To start connecting these various pieces across the region and building infrastructure that works for our entrepreneurs, we should examine lessons learned from other communities. We have a great example locally with Forge North.

Forge North is a “movement of entrepreneurs, investors, collaborators, and allies from all industries working together to grow Minnesota’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.” This organization is an initiative of Greater MSP, an economic development authority focused on the sixteen counties of the Twin Cities metro area, which has had recent increased statewide and national focus. 

Forge North serves as a neutral convening organization to bridge multiple different parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem together in a larger “network of networks” to spur and support entrepreneurial initiatives and to sustain that entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

What has worked best, Forge North Manager Meg Steuer explained, are community-based grassroots efforts where the entrepreneurs feel that their voices are being heard.

“It’s really about people. It’s about the people we support and how do we involve them in this work to truly create a system that benefits its entrepreneurs,” she said.

Based on all of these thoughts, here are eight suggestions of how we can begin to build a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in southeastern Minnesota.


1.     Just show up.

2.     Trust and support each other.

3.     Let your actions speak louder than your words.

4.     Take risks and help others who want to do the same.

5.     Include everyone who wants to participate.

6.     Encourage and uplift those who have failed.

7.     Let the entrepreneurs lead.

8.     Be patient.

Roadmap to the Rochester Entrepreneurial Community (2018)

Sometimes the most difficult thing about entrepreneurship is just figuring out how to get started. This guide serves as a list of local resources, events, and information to get you plugged into the Rochester entrepreneurial community and learn ways to fund your business within the city.

This roadmap is updated annually to provide the most up-to-date information on our entrepreneurial community.

Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Building Lessons Learned from Kauffman ESHIP Summit

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This past week, I had a great time in Kansas City at the Kauffman Foundation’s ESHIP Summit. The purpose of the summit was to bring together entrepreneurial ecosystem builders to solve the most pressing issues facing today’s entrepreneurs. The summit was intended to take place in three phases: discover, design, and deliver. During “Year One” of the summit, in 2017, over 450 entrepreneurial ecosystem builders convened to discover the most challenging issues facing entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystem builders. During “Year 2,” over 600 entrepreneurial ecosystem builders gathered in Kansas City last week to design real, tangible steps to work toward solving these challenging issues.

But first, why should we care about entrepreneurs? Why do entrepreneurs matter?

Entrepreneurs are the doers, makers, and dreamers who turn ideas into reality and create things of value to address societal and community challenges. Entrepreneurs start businesses and grow businesses. Entrepreneurs drive progress; they are diverse in gender, race, religion, age, and background.

The entrepreneur of today looks nothing like the entrepreneur of yesterday.

Entrepreneurship can be a solution to some of the most pressing issues facing today’s society. Entrepreneurs are nimble and move quickly, creating wealth, jobs and value in their communities. Entrepreneurship can pave the way out of poverty for an individual and that person’s family.

But there are significant barriers to entrepreneurship, especially for women, minorities, LGBTQ individuals, older Americans, people with disabilities, and veterans. Although entrepreneurship has increased interest in the US, entrepreneurial activity in this nation is in a 30-year decline. Voices and talent are being left from the innovation table and there is no level playing field. Ninety-five percent of venture capital money goes to white and Asian men. Women are half as likely as men to own businesses, with only 2.7% of venture capital going to companies with female CEOs in the US. Only 0.2% of these funds go to companies with black female founders, even though these individuals comprise the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs. Minorities own half as many businesses as non-minorities. These businesses are more likely to start small and stay small.

When everyone cannot participate in an entrepreneurial ecosystem, that ecosystem fails to meet its full potential.

The ESHIP Summit suggests that we may need a new economic development model, one that’s more human-centric and aligned around individuals in the community who are developing economic value organically: the entrepreneurs.

One way to accomplish this change is through the fostering and nurturing of entrepreneurial ecosystems. These communities are inclusive and allow for “talent, information, and resources to flow quickly to entrepreneurs as they need it.”

An entrepreneurial ecosystem, or entrepreneurial community, is “a group of people that trust each other and believe they belong together,” according to Fabian Pfortmueller, a Swiss community builder.

An entrepreneurial ecosystem consists of many interconnected pieces which allow entrepreneurs to find the resources they need quickly at each stage of their company’s growth. These pieces include: entrepreneurs, talent, people and institutions, champions and conveners, onramps, intersections, stories, and culture.

People are always at the center of a healthy entrepreneurial ecosystem.

These ecosystems are built and nurtured by entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, which, admittedly, are novel and innovative positions themselves.

Ecosystem builders foster human-to-human connections and “connect, empower, and collaborate with others to build the system.” These people often work behind the scenes to foster trust and collaboration, functioning as a kind of invisible infrastructure.

Anyone can be an entrepreneurial ecosystem builder. The only requirements are patience, understanding, and true dedication.

Seven best practice design principles exist to build healthy entrepreneurial ecosystems:

1.     Put the entrepreneur front and center. Entrepreneurs should lead entrepreneurial ecosystems. They know what is needed and what will work. Find people leading in the community and support what they are already doing.

2.     Foster conversations. Connect people with the resources they need.

3.     Enlist collaborators. Welcome everyone.

4.     Live the values. This is a network, not a hierarchy, although there are leaders. Dream, listen, rethink failure, and give before you get.

5.     Tell a community’s authentic story. Don’t try and be anyone else. Tell your true narrative and showcase your leaders.

6.     Connect people.

7.     Just start, and then be patient. Ecosystem building takes time and patience.

The ESHIP Summit served as a Firestarter for entrepreneurial ecosystem builders to learn from each other and co-create ways to best position our individual communities, and the ecosystem as a whole, to create a new economic development model focused on entrepreneurship and building real solutions.

Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is Rochester is young and we have a unique opportunity right now to build it into something that can work for everyone. Each of us has an important role to play in that process. I challenge all of you to be innovative and be collaborative. Create. Talk. Share. Trust and believe. Speak the truth and speak that truth loudly. Don’t shame or hide failure but learn and grow from it. If you want to create a group, event, or start an initiative in the community, don’t wait for somebody to tell you that you can do it. If you want to build something in this community, then just start. #StartSomething

******Reference: ESHIP Playbook Version 2.0*********************