What does the Google / CoCo partnership mean for Minnesota tech?


CoCo’s much anticipated Google for Entrepreneurs event was all the rage.

What started with an impromptu visit from Google Chairman Eric Schmidt in 2011 has grown into an official partnership between the Internet juggernaut and the place that many of Minnesota’s emerging tech entrepreneurs call home.

Over the next two years, Google will be seeding the Minnesota tech entrepreneurial ecosystem with an undisclosed amount of cash and promotional support through the arrangement.  Google has anointed CoCo Minneapolis as the liaison between the international Google for Entrepreneurs project and the feet on the street developers, entrepreneurs and community activists.

How that plays out and specifically what impact that will have is unknown, for neither party has concrete specifics for now.  What we do know is that CoCo will be ramping-up hosted events that are locally driven and indirectly sponsored by Google.

“It’s an entre into the community…a starting point,” says Mary Grove, Google’s Director of Global Entrepreneurship Outreach.

We’re told it tangibly equates to one large scale event per quarter (which will include the next Startup Weekend Twin Cities), more meetups/user groups in general, unique virtual “hangout” sessions and special social mixers.  Beyond this fuel to the fire, it’s anyone’s guess as to what can materialize over 24 months, or plays out even further on down the road.

And it’s okay not to have the answers because Google is simply doing what (insert your established Minnesota tech company here) should have done long ago.  They are betting on the future of Minnesota’s startup scene and supporting the entrepreneurial movement to a degree that no corporation — near or far — has done before.   That’s highly respectable and long overdue.

But what is their investment interest and what does the partnership mean for Minnesota’s tech industry?

While Google’s intrinsic motivations may be genuine and just, the partnership is as much about self-promotion, product evangelism and talent funneling as anything else.  While there’s nothing wrong with that, to think that Google doesn’t have a business objective at play would be missing the point. Google can afford to be calculated yet carefree, to a degree, given the sheer amount of cash and cred it has to work with.

As the 50,000 person strong company must constantly re-invent itself, all while battling for relevancy with peer behemoths, Google just wants to win. CoCo (amongst 50+ other custom crafted global partnerships), represents a platform with access to the tech leaders of tomorrow.   There may not be a direct correlation to Google’s strategy on the surface, but soft returns will surely be measured and assessed.

“We believe that the entrepreneurs are the economic drivers and want to help fuel their success,” Grove says. “We also want to ensure that our products are readily available and understandable as needed.”

Numerous attendee’s discussed what the event and broader partnership meant to them throughout the day.  While everyone was generally excited and optimistic for the notion of more events and closer ties to Mountain View (and potentially Google Ventures), no-one can say forsure what it really means beyond an elevated profile for both CoCo and the Minnesota tech community by extension.  Google swings a big stick, drawing excitement and curiosity from many entrepreneurs and developers already operating directly in the industry as well as the common consumers interfacing from the outside.

But one thing is for sure: with the reach and the buzz generated, today drew many new faces out of the woodwork. This partnership will naturally bring a lot of fresh blood into the ecosystem — a necessary ingredient to long term growth and prosperity of any startup community. Surely Google recognizes this shared need, given their ambitions to compete in the years ahead and happens to be in a position to act on it.

“It’s about bringing more water to the landscape,” Don Ball responded when asked what the partnership represented to CoCo.

While there’s hardly a drought occurring, more cash for cultivation is a welcome gesture for the tech entrepreneurs here. Google’s increased presence here is deliberately additive to the momentum of the community and a sign of validation that Minnesota truly has become an internationally recognized startup player. 

This positive reinforcement is a testament to the quality of Minnesoata’s many fine entrepreneurs who regularly make, do and create.  Where CoCo decides to take it from here, is entirely up to their intentions and our collective imaginations.


  • http://twitter.com/LifeSciAlley LifeScience Alley

    Great news for the tech community
    here. CoCo and all the entrepreneurs deserve a lot of kudos for attracting

  • http://petekane.ee/ Pete Kane

    “Google is simply doing what (insert your established Minnesota tech company here) should have done long ago.”

    ZIIIING! Jeff, Thank you for calling this out.