Roderick Lindner had an announcement to make at Target + Techstars’ Demo Day: His startup was moving to the Twin Cities from Belgium.
“During the Techstars program, we fell in love with Minneapolis,” said the co-founder of SpotCrowd, who sported a maroon and gold Gophers scarf at the Wednesday night event. “I’ll have to buy some snow boots.”
SpotCrowd is a seven-person software company helping retailers spot shoplifters in real time through surveillance video. StoryXpress, a six-person firm based in New Delhi, also told the crowd of hundreds at First Avenue it was moving here.
Others revealed pilot projects with Target at Demo Day, the culminating event of the three-month boot camp when the 10 participating startups deliver polished pitches to potential investors as well as mentors and friends.
Executives for both SpotCrowd and StoryXpress said Minneapolis made sense as their home base because of the connections they made during the program and because of the other big retailers and major corporations who call the Twin Cities home.
SpotCrowd had planned to move its headquarters in New York City before the program started, but executives changed their mind over the summer once they saw what Minneapolis has to offer.
“It’s a very friendly city — it’s very progressive, very open, very Scandinavian, very European in a lot of ways,” Lindner said after the event. “There are so many Fortune 500 companies in the Twin Cities and the region that it would be stupid not to take that very seriously.”
In addition to helping fine tune the companies’ business plans and strategies, one of the Techstars program goals is to convince some participants to relocate to the Twin Cities. By that measure, this year’s class mirrors the results of the inaugural class last year when Inspectorio and Branch Messenger decided to move their headquarters to the Twin Cities.
Minsok Pak, Target’s new chief innovation officer, started off the event by noting they were gathered in a special place that was a springboard for many visionary artists — among them Hüsker Dü, the Replacements and, of course, Prince.
“Tonight, this will be your launchpad,” he said to the startups.
During the pitches, most of the companies highlighted some sort of test underway with Target. Half of them are leaving the program with formal agreements with the Minneapolis-based retailer for pilot projects while others are still in talks.
St. Paul-based Local Crate, a meal kit delivery service similar to Blue Apron, said it has created a retail meal kit during the program that will be sold at 10 Target stores around the Twin Cities starting Sunday. The five different two-serving meal-kit varieties will range in price from $16.99 to $19.99.
The company also has joined forces with renowned local chef Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable to create some recipes for the meal delivery service. Local Crate CEO Frank Jackman said later that the firm plans to expand its services to Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa in the coming month or two.
Target will use Bybe, a startup that embeds alcohol rebates into retailers’ apps, in select states starting in early 2018. Kokko, which uses its color-matching technology to recommend cosmetics to customers based on their skin tone, is exploring ways to expand a test to more Target stores and to Target.com. Savitude, which gives clothing suggestions based on a person’s body shape, will be tried out on Target.com.
And StoryXpress, the firm moving to Minneapolis from India, is finalizing an agreement to create thousands of product videos for items sold on Target.com.
As it did last year, Target has extended an invitation to the startups to continue working out of its headquarters for several months before finding their own office space.