CoCo hosted the Google for Entrepreneurs crew at the Grain Exchange for the first entrepreneurial training experiment with Minneapolis’ STEP‐UP program.
Over 65 youth came on Sunday, their day off from school, to learn about technology and entrepreneurship. Forming six teams (YouTube, Android, Play, Drive, Chrome and Gmail) and matching with mentors, their mission was to combine various Google products with “moonshot thinking” to address societal issues such as gangs, education, healthcare and bullying.
Multiple components of creation were considered — naming/branding, application, rollout, revenue, competition — even failure. Their solutions ranged from the streaming of class lectures to mobile devices for students without consistent transportation, to a platform that would help increase mentorship alignment between adults and kids with similar interests or personalities.
Actor and entrepreneurial ‘Pitch Doctor’ Chris Carlson provided the youth with confidence boosters and best practice techniques for their final presentations, held live. Each team had the stage to make their case and convince the judges and their peers that they had the best possible solution to a given problem.
Mary Grove and Evan Rowe from Google were joined by CoCo partner Kyle Coolbroth and Eman Abdullohi of STEP-UP for judging; they challenged the teams with a blend of questioning, feedback and reinforcement.
In the end it was team Drive who was the official winner with their “Friendly Bully Investigators” social network.
“Google took the time to make it fun and memorable,” said 10th grader STEP-UP Achieve student Michael Beverly, one of the more vocal entrepreneurs in the audience who was consistently questioning assumption. Win, lose, or draw, the majority of participants were engaged and appreciative about various aspects of the training received.
Yet it was difficult to tell who was more inspired, the participants themselves or the volunteers who came out to support them? Dave Kleist, Paul Prins, Derek Rockwell, Paul DeBettignies, Matthew Raskin, Phil Gapp, Tyler Olson, Curt Prins, Peter Kane and John Cosgrove were some of the local developers and entrepreneurs who selflessly gave their time.
“It’s rewarding to see these young and fearless entrepreneurial minds in action,” Coolbroth said of the experience. “I give them all a ton of credit. Thank you to the mentors who came out.”
“We appreciate the opportunity for our kids to address the kinds of challenges they face in their own community using technology tools and entrepreneurship skills,” added Jeremiah Brown, STEP-UP Achieve Director.
Mary Grove, Google’s Director of Global Outreach, was bullish on the experience, saying that “It’s been amazing to be a part of this today, these students are brilliant and among some of the sharpest I’ve ever seen.”
It is interesting to observe how Google is investing resources into Minneapolis, now digging deeper into the emerging market for raw ideas, energy and talent. While not perfect and perhaps overtly Google, events and activities like this address a major pain point in Minnesota’s tech industry.
Many Minnesotan’s lament over the lack of innovation and entrepreneurial activity here, even lobby for government handouts and push jobs through legislation. But until corporate (read: for profit business) stakeholders roll up their sleeves and get down to the ground level — like Google is — nothing serious, scalable or sustainable will manifest.
How can you reap something if you don’t sow it first?