MESA Modestly Marches On


MESAMinnesota Emerging Software Advisory (MESA) marches on in 2015, picking up new portfolio startups and mentors to support them along the way.

The group of local veteran software executives first convened in 2009 with the intentions to “spark a movement to make Minnesota’s software economy rank among the most vibrant and respected in the nation.”

Their approach was to identify, organize and match prequalified C-level tech execs with up and coming software startups with the potential for greatness.

It began with a small group of six mentors that incubated three software firms.

Since then, they have consistently (although quietly) increased the roster on both sides.  MESA isn’t one for talking loudly about their org, whether that be chirping on social media or pursuing public platforms that position them as the panacea.


They are modestly focused on actions that produce tangible outcomes for the entrepreneurs themselves — with 8 program grads to date. Designed to “accelerate growth through reducing execution risk”, MESA summarizes the value proposition to participating startups as one of “intellectual capital” delivered over the course of 1-2 years.

While organized as a nonprofit, MESA does charge nominal fees (starting at $500), but they “have never and will never” seek public funding for their cause, Spanbauer says.

The org’s primary goal isn’t to turn a profit, although it seeks to cover the basic overhead associated with 12-18 months of ongoing activities and also see some ‘skin in the game’ from mentees.  He notes that the startups engaged typically have revenue and are sourced from inbound applications or network referrals.

The newest startups to enter MESA’s portfolio of 10 companies include:

  • AutoIce – scheduling saas for ice rink associations.
  • Docalyticsdocument tracking, analytics, and intelligence for salespeople and marketers.
  • Kidizen – mobile marketplace for second-hand kids items.

A total of  16 individuals are now MESA mentors, including the latest additions:

  • John Fox – COO, Network Guidance 2.0

As MESA continues to grow, Spanbauer says he’s exploring new ways to strengthen relationships between those living it and those who have experienced it. This could include an extended term for companies that graduate and a means of engagement earlier stage pre-revenue companies.   A stated goal of the group is to reach 22 mentors by the end of 2015 to prepare for more scaled service to startups going into the following year.

“It’s a constant balance to find the right mentors and the right startups,” Spanbauer concludes, noting there’s a ways to go in fulfilling the mission set forth. “We’re always learning as we go along, similar to how startups operate in the early days.”