More than a handful of entrepreneurs will soon take up residence in downtown St. Paul as part of the first accelerator cohort led by Lunar Startups.
Lunar Startups, the incubator housed in the recently renovated Osborn370 building, announced Monday that it had selected six early-stage companies to work out of its shared office space in the downtown building. The startups will also receive help accessing professional networks, gaining national exposure and other goals.
The majority of the businesses are led by a person of color and more than half are led by women.
"One company might be in safety tech and they are selling their product to consumers and businesses whereas another business might be in the maternity and paternity leave space. … They can learn a lot from each other even though they are in completely separate industries," said Melissa Kjolsing Lynch, founding managing director of Lunar Startups, in an interview.
Including entrepreneurs who are historically underrepresented in the startup community was a focus of the selection process.
"The groups that we are focusing on typically have the least amount of access to venture capital and opportunities for exposure," Kjolsing Lynch said.
'Skin in the game'
For the next year, each entrepreneur will pay $100 monthly for a desk in the space and access to mail services and other office benefits to make sure they have "some skin in the game," Kjolsing Lynch said.
Lunar Startups doesn't take equity stakes in the companies. As of yet, funding for cohort participants isn't tied to the program though Lunar Startups is working on creating a network of investors.
Lunar Startups is a startup itself launched earlier this year with a $1 million grant from the Knight Foundation. It's the first program at the Glen Nelson Center shared workspace at the Osborn370 building.
"This impressive group of entrepreneurs reflect the strength, talent, and promise of St. Paul's diverse startup community," said Jai Winston, Knight Foundation program director for St. Paul, in a statement.
The Glen Nelson Center was funded by more than $1 million in gifts made to Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media.
It is named after Glen Nelson, a longtime board member at both who died in 2016.
Lunar Startups and its group of entrepreneurs plan to move into the building in early September when its space is finished.
Lunar Startups will be dispersing applications for its second cohort, which would start in March, by the end of the year.
The Osborn370 building, the former Ecolab offices on Wabasha and 5th streets, has started to become an entrepreneurial hub in St. Paul. The building houses software firm Structural, and the commercial kitchen appliance-repair company Smart Care, a former arm of Ecolab.
The six companies in Lunar Startups' inaugural cohort include:
• 26 Letters — a data insights and analytics startup that helps institutions recruit, retain, and grow talent.
• Asiya — a social enterprise that develops activewear that enables Muslim girls to participate in physical activity and sports.
• ClutchSOS — a safety startup that makes virtual witness technology.
• Dojour — a calendar system that allows organizations to post and share their events on the web and social media.
• Monicat Data — a strategic agency providing data management and technology for the creative economy.
• Take 12 — a crowdfunding service focused on financial gifts in lieu of a traditional baby registry.