Minnesota offers a full menu of resources that drive entrepreneurship — from access to a wide network of investors and venture capitalists as well as public and private research & development accelerators to university-based entrepreneurial programs and business incubators.
Add to that the state’s deep pool of talent and Minnesota has easily a top choice for entrepreneurs.
“Minnesota is a culture where people try things that are innovative,” says Shawn Patterson, CEO of Good Libations, a startup that develops natural organic food additives to enhance the taste of various consumable libations. “As a result, people in Minnesota are attuned to the challenges of people who are willing to try things, and they are willing to listen, provide thoughts, help make connections, and generally provide support.”
Like many startups in Minnesota, Good Libations licensed its technology from the University of Minnesota. The University drives entrepreneurial growth in a number of ways, from technology commercialization efforts and specialized accelerators to its center for entrepreneurship within the Carlson School of Management.
“We would not exist without the University. The University has provided an adviser to work with us who has been very helpful. They have helped us identify the facility we use for producing our products. They have also helped us get connected with potential investors. We feel the University wants us to succeed,” Patterson says.
School of Thought
The University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management hosts MN Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the country. Good Libations was the University’s 100th technology-based startup since the opening of its Venture Center in 2006.
The Venture Center pairs entrepreneurs and researchers with investors to create new startup companies based on research at the University. Turing Tumble, an educational gaming company that teaches kids how to solve logic problems through puzzles, was developed from University of Minnesota technology.
“I was a professor at the University of Minnesota when I designed the Turing Tumble. They have a really great Office for Technology Commercialization. They helped a lot with thinking through how to get funding for this and how to make a business out of it. They even helped a bit with promotion,” says Paul Boswell, creator of the Turing Tumble.
The Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul is yet another driver of entrepreneurship in Minnesota. The school offers both undergraduate and graduate courses in entrepreneurial and business education.
The school also helps students find investors and develop business plans and introduces them to other innovators and change makers. The University of St. Thomas is alsohome to the William C. Norris Institute, which provides resources and assistance to Minnesota entrepreneurs, with preference to the University’s alumni and students.
Minnesota hosts a number of events for entrepreneurs to connect with potential customers. The annual Minnesota Maker Faire showcases inventions, experiments, projects and even hobbies.
Risk to Reward
“Minnesota has a really strong community of people who like to make stuff and try new things,” Boswell says. “The Minneapolis Maker Faire is a really big deal, and it’s been getting better and better every year. It’s a great place to network with other people who are also doing some really interesting things. I think it’s just kind of built into our culture here.”
Minnesota’s rich tradition of entrepreneurship, Boswell says, owes its strength, in part, to its ability to attract talent in a variety of areas and to leverage its existing talent.
“When you bring together a bunch of really smart people, you’re going to get some entrepreneurship, and everybody benefits from it,” he says.
Patterson says this attention to entrepreneurship is vital to Minnesota’s economy.
“New companies bring money from investors located both inside and outside of Minnesota. We spend money with vendors/suppliers who are frequently based in Minnesota, and that helps make all our businesses viable,” Patterson says. “Our solutions appeal to customers in all 50 states, and even now, approximately half our sales are coming from outside of Minnesota. This pumps money into our local economy.”