Veteran educator and nonprofit executive Maria Ploessl has signed on as the first executive director of Minnestar, the nonprofit conference organizer that supports emerging Minnesota technology companies with popular events that have topped 1,000 people.

“It’s been completely run by  volunteers for the last 10 years, funded by [about 40] sponsoring companies of various sizes,” Ploessl said. “  ''The board is looking to promote sustainability and the growth of minnestar. Our events are popular and routinely sell out, so there’s momentum in this incredible tech community. We have to look at what else can we do to help the technology community in Minnesota thrive.”

Minnestar is known for its signature events where software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, and investors come together to connect and share ideas. The annual Minnebar conference, long dubbed the ‘unconforence,’ features sessions conceived and run by tech community members. And three times a year Minnestar runs Minnedemo where community members, companies and startups share their ideas and projects in short live demos. 

The organization has run on a budget of about $250,000 annually..

 “Hiring Maria is great news for our local technology community,” Minnestar Casey Helbling Minnestar board chair said in a prepared statement. “An executive director adds needed capacity to deliver on and grow the organization operationally and strategically.”

Ploessl, 31, has a decade of program management, administration, and community-engagement experience in the nonprofit and education sector. Most recently she served as campus director for the Iron Yard, the former software-coding school, She was program manager for City Year Boston. She began as an educator in the Minneapolis Public Schools. She also was a Fulbright Scholar in Bragança, Brazil where she developed university-level educational programming and events.

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