The 2016 MN Cup Launches Today



Via News Release

“MINNEAPOLIS—MARCH 21, 2016—Since 2005, the MN Cup —the largest statewide new startup competition in the United States—has assisted and accelerated the development of new business ideas as the premier resource for Minnesota’s early stage entrepreneurs. Now entering its twelfth year, the free-to-enter competition will open for applications on Monday, March 21, 2016.”

Participants have until May 6 to submit for a chance to compete for a share of the prize money — which this year will nearly total a record-breaking $400,000. The MN Cup caters to entrepreneurs, researchers, inventors and small business owners working on the next innovative new business venture, or pre-existing businesses generating less than $1 million in yearly revenue who are looking to move to the next stage. The 2016 divisions include: Energy/Clean Tech/Water, Food/Agriculture/Beverage, General, High Tech, Life Science/Health IT, Social, Student and the newest division, Youth, for students 18 years of age or younger, created in partnership with Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest. For more information on each category and entry details visit the MN Cup website.

This year brings a large increase in available cash for successful entrants: MN Cup will award $75,000 in dedicated prizes to specific innovations or entrepreneurs within the competition. Again this year, the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation will provide $25,000 in seed funding to the top entry from that region of the state. Carlson Family Foundation will award $25,000 for the top woman-led business, Meda will award $10,000 to the minority entrepreneur with the most innovative business concept, Securian Financial Group will award $10,000 for an innovation that shapes the future of financial services or life insurance through technology and AARP will award a $5,000 prize for an innovation that improves the lives of seniors. And finally, two audience favorite winners will receive an additional $1,000.

More than 10,000 participants have entered the competition since its start—cementing its reputation as the nation’s largest statewide competition of its nature. Participants have gone on to successfully launch businesses, raise capital and create jobs in Minnesota. Finalists since 2005 have raised more than $200 million to spur innovation and job creation in our state.

“Each year we ask, ‘How can the MN Cup help new entrepreneurs who may not have heard of us yet, or may not have access to the business opportunities or resources they need to succeed?’” says Melissa Kjolsing, executive director, MN Cup.

“In 2014, we launched a women’s initiative, focused on creating an improved culture for women leading high-potential startups in Minnesota. Through special programming and supportive peer networking, we helped encourage this underrepresented group in business. This year, we’re adding dollars to this effort. With the support and leadership of Carlson Family Foundation, the 2016 competition will award $25,000 to the top competing woman-led startup.”

“Also this year, in partnership with Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, we are ecstatic to introduce a Youth division for students 18 years old or younger to give them a chance to compete in a space they haven’t had access to before,” adds Kjolsing. “We’ve been so impressed by innovative business ideas coming from our college-aged student division— we can’t wait to see the ideas that result from the next generation.”

Each entry must contain a description of the product or service, explanation of the market size or opportunity, a sales and marketing overview, brief operating plan and high level financial projections and assumptions. After three rounds of judging, a division winner and runner-up will be announced for each division, each division winner will receive a cash prize of $30,000 and the runner-up will receive $5,000. The Youth division will award a total prize of $20,000 — the first place winner will receive $10,000, and the second and third place winners and semifinalists will divide up the remaining funds.

After advancing past the first selection, in June, judges invite the top entries in each division to the semifinalist round, which begins in July. Selection for the final division occurs in August, when the category winners are announced. Each round advanced by competitors means opportunities to explore business ideas, gain exposure, learn about available business resources, be paired with MN Cup mentors, and meet members of the MN Cup Review Board.

The twelfth annual MN Cup will conclude with an awards event on September 22, 2016, at the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center. At that event, the judges will announce a grand prize winner, chosen from the eight category winners — and that business will receive an additional $50,000 in seed capital.

Last year’s grand prize went to Astropad, the makers of a graphics tool for the iPhone and iPad. A High-Tech division winner, the company was selected from nearly 1300 participants in the 2015 competition.

Lead sponsors of the 2016 MN Cup competition include Bush Foundation, Carlson Family Foundation, General Mills, Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, Positively Minnesota, Pentair, UnitedHealth Group, University of Minnesota and Wells Fargo. Supporting sponsors include 301 INC, AARP, ADM, ANDCOR, AURI, Best Prep, Blandin Foundation, Cairn Ventures, Clear Channel, Clifton Larson Allen, Come Up Capital, Eide Bailly, Fredrikson & Byron, P. A., Gopher Angels, Grain Millers, Gray Plant Mooty, Haberman, IBM, Impact Hub – MSP, Initiative Foundation, LifeScience Alley, Lurie, Magnet 360, Maslon LLC, Meda, Messerli & Kramer, MHTA, Midwest Pantry, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Mojo Minnesota, Mosaic, National Foodworks Services LLC, North Star Council Boy Scouts of America, Proto Labs, The Reserve, Securian Financial Group, Six Speed, Sofia Fund, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, Southwest Initiative Foundation, Spoken Impact, Star, Startec, Star Tribune, Step Up, Stinson Leonard Street, Stoel Rives LLP, TECHdotMN, TechnovationMN, The Schwan Food Company, Treehouse Health, Twin Cities Business Magazine, Venture Bank, West Central Initiative and Youthprise.

The MN Cup is a free, annual competition that seeks to support and accelerate the development of the best breakthrough ideas from across the state. For more information and details on how to enter for 2016, please visit