Minnesota is an innovation-driven state. We enjoy our current quality of life because of the past and ongoing efforts of our fellow citizens to harness creativity, work hard and build things that make a lasting difference - food tech, life science, information tech, clean/green tech, education tech and the list goes on. Here a few recent and upcoming MN innovation highlights that are a reminder of our robust technology and entrepreneurship scene.
Minnesota Cup Awards - September 6
The Minnesota Cup is our state's biggest business plan competition, with over 1,000 entrants and six divisions. The year-long process, sponsored by the University of Minnesota and the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship, ends with an awards presentation at the McNamara Center. This year's award ceremony, held just a few weeks ago, brought to the fore six great new companies innovating in completely different spaces.
The top prize went to PreciousStatus (also High Tech division winner), which has built a system to let medical caregivers provide families with short, real-time health updates on loved ones. The Division winners show the diversity of our economy: Envirolastech (Cleantech; thermoelastic wood replacement); Orthocor (Bioscience; electromagnetic knee pain relief); LifeFloor (General; slip-resistant flooring); Cognific (Student; web-based mental health engagement tools and therapies); Tuloko (Social Entrepreneur; social network/business directory focused on black-owned businesses).
The U's Office of Technology Commercialization and Venture Center work to locate, license and commercialize U-based technologies. The Venture Center focuses on developing and spinning out startups into the local economy. In FY12, the Venture Center hit an all-time high 12 startup spinouts. 12 in 12 is a great accomplishment. Keep your eyes open for this U tech in the local economy, creating high-quality jobs and enriching our innovation ecosystem.
EduTech Conference (TiE Minnesota) - October 8
This is the second year of the annual education technology conference hosted by TiE Minnesota. Education technology has been important part of the IT economy here in Minnesota for the past three decades and is a high-profile growth area nationally. Among the local successes was the original Oregon Trail software. There are many new education tech startups coming into the local market, which creates great possibilities to align tech innovation, job growth and the manifold challenges of modern education.
MN Venture Conference - October 13
Led by The Collaborative and the MN Venture Capital Assn, the Venture Conference provides 2 days of capital- and startup- focused networking, education and business pitches. Direct startup investments come out of this conference, which has been happening yearly since 1987. Thanks to Dan Carr and team for helping to maintain startup investment fervor.
Cleantech Open - N. Central Region Innovation Expo and Awards - October 18
The Cleantech Open is a national accelerator and competition that identifies and supports great new clean and green technology companies. The Twin Cities is the site of the North Central Region's Innovation Expo and Awards. Winners get to move on to the national competition, with support resources and a chance at a $250,000 grand prize.
U. of St. Thomas Schulze School of Entrepreneurship - Fowler Business Concept Challenge Awards - October 19
This business plan competition hosted by the University of St. Thomas challenges undergrads and graduate students to "develop a business concept that has the potential to become a viable high-growth business." The competition promotes entrepreneurship on campus and provides more than $35,000 in scholarships (including $10K each to the undergrad and grad division winners). Alum and entrepeneur Ron Fowler ('66) endowed the Challenge, which generates high quality business concepts every year.
Upcoming later this year:
MHTA Tekne Awards - November 1 - honoring MN's technology and innovation leaders, large and small
Startup Weekend Twin Cites - November 2 - 48 hours to pick a technology, research, develop and present it - startup mayhem!
MOJO Startup School - November 13 - schooling policy leaders on the entrepreneurial pathway (details shortly)
For other startup events and news, check out MOJO Minnesota, an innovation co-op working to energize Minnesota's entrepreneurial ecosystem.