Small Minnesota firms hunt funds at venture conference

  • Article by: Adam Belz
  • Star Tribune
  • October 10, 2013 - 11:21 AM


If you want to know what’s next for the Minnesota economy, you could do worse than to visit the Minneapolis Convention Center on Thursday.

The Collaborative, a group that links entrepreneurs with investors, is holding its Minnesota Venture & Finance Conference. Gov. Mark Dayton will speak, as will Dan Starks, the CEO of St. Jude Medical Inc., but the core of the conference is a series of seven-minute business presentations by Minnesota firms that have new ideas and are looking for investors.

The conference has for 27 years been a proving ground for start-ups, and is increasingly a key venue for the state’s entrepreneurs.

“It’s the best and brightest,” Collaborative CEO Dan Carr said. “If you want to know what the next big things are going to be in Minnesota, it’s as good a place as any.”

Firms such as Proto Labs, Caribou Coffee, Compellent, Select Comfort and Life Time Fitness presented to investors there in bygone days, and more than half of all venture capital invested in Minnesota firms in the past 17 years has gone to companies that made presentations at the conference.

“There’s nothing like it in the country that has the track record of the capital raised,” Carr said.

One of the companies presenting is Minneapolis-based Canopy, a start-up in its second round of funding that has built prototypes for something called the Sensus, a smartphone cover that turns the back of the phone into a second touch screen. The firm was founded by Andrew Kamin-Lyndgaard in 2009, and has been working on the Sensus about 18 months.

Canopy is always looking for new investment, and though it has already pitched to many of the more than 350 people who will attend the conference, the start-up will be one of 18 giving a quick presentation.

“It’s always a great idea to do it, and you quite literally never know where the funding will come from,” said Kate O’Reilly, a spokeswoman for the firm, which has 10 employees.

Other young firms presenting include medical technology firms Bloom Health, Kspine and Respicardia; tech firms Jingit, BuyerCurious and MicroNet and other types of firms like Fitness on Request, VaporLok Technology and Zivix.

Dayton will speak in the morning, Starks over the lunch hour. Former WCCO-TV news anchor Don Shelby will moderate a panel discussion on what’s next for the Minnesota economy, and the conference will include panel discussions on start-up financing, raising capital under the JOBS Act, and state tax credits.

Minnesota has more than 365,000 venture capital-backed jobs, 13 percent of all jobs statewide. That’s the eighth-highest percentage in the country.


Adam Belz • 612-673-4405 Twitter: @adambelz

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