Lucien Justin, who works for U.S. Bank, chatted with Hoban Ibrahim, 18, a Southwest High School student, during the STEP-UP mock interview program last month. She hopes to work in a law office, and eventually become a lawyer.

Richard Tsong-Taatarii •,

Marie Johnson

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AUM Cardiovascular raises funds, moves toward European launch

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY
  • Star Tribune
  • April 7, 2014 - 4:37 PM

Marie Johnson, the biomedical engineer and CEO of AUM Cardiovascular, has raised $5.4 million from mostly Minnesota individual investors since winning the Minnesota Cup entrepreneurial competition in 2011.

“And we’re raising more money right now,” Johnson said last week.

AUM’s CADence device, a handheld instrument to spot blockages in the blood vessels around the heart, is being tested in a clinical trial with more than 725 patients at 14 sites throughout the country. Johnson hopes to launch CADence in Europe in August and as early as 2015 in the United States, pending regulatory approvals.

“Things are going better than expected,” said Johnson, whose company includes 10 employees and contractors. “In terms of things we can control, things are going great. We’re grateful to the Minnesota Cup for validating our product and team. I believe that had a positive impact on our ability to raise capital, most of it from individual Minnesotans. And the state angel tax credit was a help.”

Johnson developed the CADence technology while working on a doctorate in biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota. AUM’s CADence technology spots blockages in the blood vessels around the heart with sensors that detect pressure within the blood vessels. The device can detect “clinically relevant lesions,” much as a stream current changes as water rushes around rocks. These lesions, which can go undetected, can lead to heart attacks.

In addition to technical expertise, Johnson has a passion for successful development of this product. Her husband, Robert Guion, died of an unexpected heart attack in 2002.

10th Minnesota Cup Now open for entries

Minnesota residents with a “breakthrough idea” or a fledgling company with less than $1 million in annual revenue are eligible to register for the Minnesota Cup and compete in seven categories for $300,000 in prize money.

More than 8,000 Minnesotans have participated since 2005 and finalists from the last five years, including AUM Cardiovascular, have raised more than $70 million in capital. Launched 10 years ago, the competition aims to help entrepreneurs and inventors start businesses.

“The Minnesota Cup has helped thousands of entrepreneurs build better business plans and work toward achieving business success,” said Scott Litman, co-founder of the Minnesota Cup “We are always continuing our work to grow the Minnesota Cup and further establish it as a permanent feature of our state’s business landscape.”

Last year’s grand prize winner was Preceptis Medical, a device manufacturer developing surgical tools for lower-cost ear-tube procedures for kids that can be performed outside operating rooms.

The growing list of sponsors includes: Wells Fargo, the University of Minnesota, Carlson, General Mills, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, Blandin Foundation, Cleantech Open, Split Rock Partners, StarTec Investments and Magnet 360. For more information, visit


Business Steps Up for STEP-UP Interns

More than 400 Twin Cities business professionals in late March conducted mock job interviews at the Minneapolis Convention Center for four nights for the annual STEP-UP youth employment program, which connects professionals with 1,800 Minneapolis youth who are preparing for summer internships.

The interviewers included Todd Klingel, CEO of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and Bryan Everett, senior vice president at Target.

Founded in 2005, and managed in partnership with AchieveMpls and the Minneapolis Workforce Centers, STEP-UP recruits, trains and places Minneapolis youth at businesses, nonprofits and public agencies. STEP-UP disproportionately serves teens from low-income families, minority kids and recent immigrant families. The business mentors interview and coach each STEP-UP intern, modeling professionalism and providing feedback to help interns strengthen their skills and confidence.

“STEP-UP is now the country’s top program for youth workforce development and has provided life-changing opportunities for thousands of young people,” said Richard Davis, CEO of U.S. Bancorp, who founded the program in 2004 with former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. “These amazing interns are courageous, enthusiastic and ready to roll, and are the future of our workforce and our prosperity.”

The 400-plus business volunteers included 50 employees from Accenture, 50 employees from Wells Fargo, and representatives of Allianz Life, Best Buy, Bremer Bank, CenterPoint Energy, General Mills, Health Partners, Children’s Museum of Minnesota, Padilla Speer Beardsley, Piper Jaffray, Target and U.S. Bank. For more information, visit

Sheila Bair addresses Hendrikson Forum at SMU

Remember the 2008 financial crisis that led to the federal bailout of the financial industry?

Sheila Bair, former chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, will give her first Minnesota keynote address at the annual Hendrickson Forum at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota on Tuesday. Tickets are available for her address, “Main Street vs. Wall Street and the New Financial Paradigm,” and a lunch for $40 at HendricksonForum or 612-238-4517.

Bair, a Republican, has been critical of megabanks that dominate the financial system.

Also, Land O’Lakes CEO Chris Policinski will be honored by the Hendrickson Institute for Ethical Leadership at St. Mary’s at the same event. The moderator is Fred de Sam Lazaro, director of the university’s “Under-Told Stories Project” and correspondent for PBS NewsHour.

Twin Cities-based Travel Leaders Expanding

Travel Leaders Group, created in 2008 from the former Carlson Leisure Group and Tzell Travel Group, is forming Travel Leaders UK. The move will consolidate Travel Leaders, Tzell UK and Protravel UK under one roof and be the platform for a European expansion. Since 2008, the Travel Leaders business has grown from about $5 billion in consolidated sales to $20 billion through its 6,000-plus travel agencies in the United States and Canada.

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