Behind all the talk about innovation, startups and entrepreneurship in Minnesota are two men who have (modestly) been building the local tech community for years through a series of initiatives culminating under the brand umbrella Minne*.
“When we created barcamp, I had no idea what Minne* was going to be…I just thought Minnesota needed a barcamp…and we had one and it was a good time…then Luke Francl and Dan [Grigsby] picked up the Demo events, and it became a number of events and we needed something to support all these things,” says Minne* Catalyst Ben Edwards.
As Minne* events have become synonymous with Minnesota tech, the team (sans Grigsby) continues to push the envelope of experimentation for the benefit of the community. Last years MinneSpark awarded multiple conceptual startups with cash prizes, connections and ongoing mentorship. Currently in the works are plans to organize a new experience, namely MinneStart, which is essentially “MinneSpark on steroids” — bigger cash prizes, supporting services packages, and increased visibility. (If you or someone you know is involved in a startup, keep an eye on the opportunities here as they unfold)
The duo initially incorporated Minne* as an LLC, but have since converted the business to a non-profit and brought in Adrienne Peirce as third partner to support the growing demands of running the operation.
When not catalyzing Minnesota tech, Edwards runs Minneapolis design/development company Refactr and works closely with a (then) quasi-Minnesota company formerly known as CloudProfile which was acquired for $8.8m in March 2010 by ReachLocal which in turn completed a $54m IPO in May 2010. Francl is known for his 2009 participation in Y-Combinator with FanChatter, a company he has since left to pursue his own consulting business — yet he remains open to being a part of “the right” Minnesota startup in the future.
It is probable that TECHdotMN would not be around today without the ongoing efforts, sacrifice and connections from two of Minnesota’s longest running startup champions; no doubt there are countless others who have experienced the benefits of participation over the years. Tune in for the details…