Who will be the next Medtronic? What will be Minnesota's next breakthrough industry? James Walsh will provide the latest information and commentary on the people, companies and trends driving innovation in Minnesota. From visionary entrepreneurs to game changing technologies, this blog offers a window into the future of Minnesota's economy.
California-based Versant Ventures said it will open a Twin Cities office next month.
The venture firm invests in early-stage medical device and biotech firms out of a $500 million fund.
Versant is an active investor in Minnesota companies. Versant has funded local medical device firms Lutonix, Zyga Technology and RespiCardia, as well as healthcare technology business RedBrick Health. Lutonix, which makes drug-coated balloon catheters, sold for $225 million last year to New Jersey-based medical technology company C.R. Bard.
Kirk Nielsen, a Versant managing director, said he believes Minnesota is a great place to build companies.
“Our opening of an office there is a sign of our long-term commitment to the region,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen will be only investment professional in the Twin Cities office. Prior to joining Versant, he was a sales representative for Medtronic’s Cardiac Rhythm Management division.
Versant currently has three offices in Menlo Park, Newport Beach and San Francisco, California.
The Minnesota Science and Technology Authority faces yet another financial setback.
The group, focused on creating high-paying science and technology jobs in the state, failed to get the $10 million it requested from the state Legislature for the second time in a row.
Instead, the authority will operate on $107,000, not enough to fund all of its programs and two staff members.
“It’s disappointing,” said executive director Betsy Lulfs.
The state set up the authority in 2010. The authority’s advisory commission, made up of officials from the public and private sectors, sought $10 million a year for programs such as advising entrepreneurs and backing promising technologies.
But the Legislature only awarded the group roughly $350,000 for programs last year, which helped pay for student scholarships and assisting companies with federal grants.
Now, the authority will operate on even less —$107,000.
By the end of the month, Becky Aistrup, the authority’s program director for Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grants, will leave her position.
She’s accepted a job as a consultant for Michigan-based BBCetc.
That leaves only one staff member — Lulfs. The authority will work on asking for the same amount of money next year, Lulfs said.
“We’re back to where we started,” she said.
Statewide entrepreneurial competition Minnesota Cup named its semi-finalists this week.
The 49 semi-finalists were picked from more than 1,000 applicants and were selected based on the quality of their business ideas. The contestants will now compete to be one of three finalists in their specific divisions: clean tech and renewable energy; bioscience and health IT; high tech; as well as in the general and student categories.
Division finalists will be announced on Aug. 20. Then, the finalists will compete to win their divisions and vie for the contest’s grand prize of $40,000.
Below are the semi-finalists in the high tech and bioscience divisions. A full list of semi-finalists can be viewed here.
BioScience and health IT
-Fitness Formulary, a fitness and nutritional supplements firm
-General Blood, a blood products provider
-Omicron Health Systems, a firm that helps clinicians better manage health care delivery
-Pneumatic Structures, a firm that creates pneumatic structures used to improve cystic fibrosis vests and make devices such as removable splints and casts
-Quantitative Insights, a software platform that aims to help in the diagnosis of breast cancer
-United Medical Innovations, a medical device firm
-Tychon Bioscience, a biotech firm
-Tartoos, a firm that deals with injection site management
-ConnectToMe, an app that helps people exchange contact information
-CoraCove, a firm that creates online apps to process forms
-Heroic, a website that links people looking for work with paid errands
-Mashalot, a social shopping marketplace that collects the buying intent of individuals and groups
-PatentCore, an online database on patent examiners
-PointStack, a program that gives customers reward points by tracking their credit or a debit card purchases. The points can go toward cash for charities or discounts at stores.
-PreciouStatus, an app that provides updates on loved ones at care facilities, such as an elder at a nursing home.
-Proliphiq, an interface that filters experts on certain topics and ranks how helpful they are
-TelemetryWeb, a business that analyzes data from Internet-connected sensors and devices and puts it securely online
-TinderDocs, a firm that provides detailed analytics to companies on how their documents are viewed and used online
Thirty inventors will compete in Downtown Minneapolis today for an opportunity to sell their products on TV.
They’ll have only five minutes to make their best pitch in front of AJ Khubani, CEO of direct marketing firm TeleBrands Corp. and the Minnesota Inventors Congress. Promising products could get deals signed with Khubani’s company, said event spokeswoman Deena Rosenberg.
“Each person has a chance,” Rosenberg said.
The inventors were picked out of 400 applicants, with a handful of contestants from Minnesota. Their products had to fix a common problem, reach a mass audience and cost less than $20. Minnesota inventors will pitch a range of ideas from bed sheets with pockets for items like tissues and glasses to a device that helps consumers peel rinds off of oranges and grapefruits.
The presentations will be at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Downtown Minneapolis from 9 a.m. to around 2 p.m. It’s possible that more than one inventor could get a deal or none will get funded. Rosenberg said all the entrepreneurs will receive feedback from the judging panel.
Four tech firms from Minneapolis accelerator Project Skyway will present their business plans to local investors on Wednesday.
The companies are: YumZing, a business that lets users review dishes at restaurants; HypeSpark, a firm that encourages users to endorse brands on social networks; Energy Resource Insights, an information database for the energy industry; and Political Harmony, which lets voters choose candidates and campaigns to reach hard-to-poll voters.
The businesses are part of Project Skyway’s second class. Project Skyway offers promising tech firms perks such as workspace, funding and access to mentors and developers in exchange for a 9 percent equity stake.
The presentations will start at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at New Century Theater in Downtown Minneapolis. There will be a live webcast available at tech news website TECHdotMN: tech.mn/kns0h.