High Technology

Business-nonprofit veteran to lead MHTA

Jeff Tollefson, the former venture capitalist, has been named CEO of the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA). Tollefson also ran for about a decade the Twin Cities office of Genesys Works, a job-training nonprofit that collaborates with industry.

Tollefson, 57, succeeds Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who resigned after eight years to lead the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Tollefson, through his work with Genesys Works, also served as chief growth officer for the Houston-based nonprofit, and industry liaison.

“MHTA must be a respected thought leader, convener and collaborator driving the success of Minnesota’s innovation economy,” he said.

Through public policy and internships, the MHTA is also engaged in workforce development for the employee-hungry tech trade.

“Jeff brings excellent experience building, growing and leading organizations, a demonstrated ability to catalyze teams around missions and strategies and great skill in developing and leveraging partnerships,” said Scott Singer, chairman of MHTA’s board.

At Genesys, Tollefson helped provide pathways to careers for thousand of low-income high school students through skills training and yearlong internships. Tollefson credits the early success of the program to connections and credibility that the MHTA provided for its Twin Cities launch in 2008. Genesys Works trains and places about 4,000 students annually in several cities.

Twenty years ago, Tollefson was a partner in Crescendo Ventures, with offices in the Twin Cities and Silicon Valley. It raised more than $1 billion from investors and boasted a $1.2 billion “profit” in its portfolio when the tech boom went bust in 2001-2002. Some of the anticipated seven-figure gains disappeared for partners and investors.

“I had tried not to confuse brains with a bull market and I [was] fortunate ... to invest in a hot market,” Tollefson once recalled.

A dispirited Tollefson spent a few more years shutting down several portfolio companies and working with others. He eventually resigned and opened the local branch of Genesys in 2008.

The MHTA job paid Kelliher about $240,000, according to the organization’s most recent tax return.

Neal St. Anthony

delivery services

Foodsby expands to downtown Minneapolis

Fast-growing Foodsby, with 150 employees, is moving to downtown Minneapolis.

CEO Ben Cattoor said Foodsby has vacated 7,000 square feet on NE. Broadway Street and moved to 16,000 square feet of interim space in the Baker Building at 705 Marquette Av. It plans to move to 34,000 square feet of renovated space on Baker’s third floor by the end of the year.

Foodsby, which will have room for 350 workers, has raised $22 million in venture capital and private-equity funds.

“The majority of our people are in sales,” said Cattoor. “There also are people downtown in technology, marketing, operations and finance.”

Cattoor, who worked in operations at CHS, formed Foodsby after determining that restaurants could increase revenue through a delivery service that centralizes orders and arranges meal deliveries to the same buildings at prescribed times.

“You must get your order in by 10:30 a.m., through our app and website with a credit card,” Cattoor said. “Lunch for less than $14 and Foodsby gets $1.99 per delivery. That fee becomes our revenue. Foodsby charges less than 10% per delivery. The restaurants, which deliver the food, get incremental business.”

Foodsby’s national partners include Noodles, TGI Fridays, Buffalo Wild Wings, Schlotzsky’s and local restaurants in 18 metro markets. Foodsby has processed $150 million-plus in gross sales since 2016, half of it last year. It expects to double revenue this year.

Neal St. Anthony

white collar crime

Former Starkey president behind bars

Former Starkey Hearing President Jerry Ruzicka began his seven-year prison sentence July 8 after being convicted of mail, wire and tax fraud. Ruzicka spent 38 years at Starkey until his firing in 2015. He was known for transforming the once lackluster Starkey into a major hearing aid manufacturer, now the largest in the United States. Ruzicka, 62, was convicted in March 2018 for his role in stealing $18.9 million in restricted stock, fake commissions, fees and bonuses from Eden Prairie-based Starkey and a supplier, Sonion.

Ruzicka is at the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth, along with former Starkey CFO Scott Nelson, serving a two-year sentence for conspiracy for assisting Ruzicka with misdeeds at Starkey. Nelson pleaded guilty and testified against Ruzicka.

Ruzicka’s co-defendant, former Sonion President W. Jeff Taylor, also began his prison sentence July 8 in Duluth. Taylor was convicted in March and sentenced to 18 months in prison for defrauding Sonion and Starkey.

Dee DePass