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DEED, State Leaders Celebrate Minnesota's Startup Community
Minnesota Ag Connection - 11/23/2020

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) hosted a virtual event to celebrate Minnesota's startup community and Launch Minnesota's first anniversary. Participants included two state legislators, six startups and seven partners from across the state who are part of the Launch Minnesota Network.

Launch Minnesota is a statewide collaborative effort to accelerate the growth of startups and amplify Minnesota as a national leader in innovation. It began last year with bipartisan approval and funding from the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Tim Walz.

"This investment in our innovation ecosystem helps our state's economy both now and into the future," said Governor Tim Walz. "It creates an upward spiral with new technologies and innovations giving rise to new jobs, improving people's health, fostering knowledge, attracting talent, and making Minnesota an even better place to live and work."

"It is a challenging time, but I think it is a hopeful time for startups," said DEED Commissioner Steve Grove. "New business starts have kicked up nearly 60% compared to a year ago. Minnesota has such as diverse economy and such a great community of entrepreneurs and startups, we think we have a real shot at becoming an epicenter of new startup growth and problem-solving as we invest in economic recovery."

"Minnesota has always been known for innovation and ... Launch Minnesota is helping us regain that spirit," said State Senator Eric R. Pratt (R-55), who supported the creation of the program. "Tough times are often the catalyst that fosters innovation. I looked back at some of the grants and successes this year and I was really impressed -- especially those in technology. And I'm just really excited to see that success for entrepreneurs in 2021."

"From health care to education to commerce to logistics -- every aspect of our lives is impacted by the new technologies that you are working on and you will be working on in the future," State Representative Mohamud Noor (DFL-60B), who introduced the Launch Minnesota bill in the Minnesota House, told the startups at the event. "We need to triple down on how we invest in the future of technology -- and you can count on me to provide more support."

Since its kick-off last fall, Launch Minnesota has focused on three areas: putting capital in the hands of startups; connecting Minnesota's innovation ecosystem corner-to-corner; and increasing entrepreneurial talent -- and odds of success -- by providing tools and training.

"Our first year was not what anyone planned or expected, but like Minnesotans, our startups and community persevered and were resilient," said Launch Minnesota Executive Director Neela Mollgaard. "Each day, I witnessed the passion of our innovators for solving real and urgent problems, and the dedication of our startup ecosystem to providing support in new ways to help startups succeed."

Mollgaard outlined the initiative's first-year progress, detailed in its annual report, which includes:

- Awarding over $2M in Innovation Grants to 63 unique startups -- with 56% of them going to innovators in targeted populations -- and incentivizing over $40M in private funding through the Angel Tax Credit program.

- Developing the Launch Minnesota Network, a first-of-its-kind hub-and-spoke model, which brings together six regions, seven hubs and over 60 program partners to better coordinate services and help entrepreneurs navigate the wealth of resources available in Minnesota.

- Working with partners across the state to provide lean startup training to over 380 people since April; and developing, with the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Expert Exchange to connect innovators with experts and advisors statewide.

Speakers representing Launch MN Network partners included Carla Pavone, University of Minnesota, statewide partner; Precious Drew, West Central; Stacy Nimmo, Southeast; Yvonne Cariveau, Southwest; Alex West Steinman, Twin Cities; Dave Hengel, Northwest and Launch MN Advisory Board; and Jodi Hubler, Launch MN Advisory Board.

Startups who participated included Michelle Tran Maryns, We Sparkle; Susan Langer, Live.Give.Save.; Wes Wierson, LEAH Labs; Ann Holder, Odonata Health; Nhat Nguyen, Otrafy; and DeLonn Crosby, SayKid.

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