Great North Labs is a new technology incubator in St. Cloud to “build new startups that apply breakthrough technologies to disrupt large markets.”
It’s founded by serial Minnesota tech entrepreneur and investor Ryan Weber who most recently exited NativeX (formerly W3i/Freeze.com) and is spearheading the operation in collaboration with local St. Cloud universities, including the SCSU Computer Science and Information Technology department.
Together with brothers Rob Weber & Aaron Weber, they founded the company in their St. Cloud dorm back in 2000 and diversified their profits into peer founders over the years. Since then, Ryan and Rob have become among Minnesota’s most active entrepreneurs, mentors, and angel investors backing some 25 ventures including Field Nation, Zencoder (acq. 2012), and Kidizen — and are limited partners in MatchStick Ventures.
“We are starting Great North Labs in St. Cloud because there is a critical blend of talented academics and professionals that can take modestly funded startup ideas and bootstrap them to traction followed by growing them to scale,” he says.
With programming already underway and more to follow — Great North Labs provides participants with free practical training focused on product/market research, lean startup and engineering direction through a number of boot camps. They also offer paid internship opportunities for those selected from boot camps to work on incubator backed startups. For the time being, they are focused on recruiting students from neighboring colleges, though the opportunity to work with Great North Labs is open to all.
“Launching of Great North Labs is a wonderful thing for our students, involving them in the process of technology and product development in the industry, right from the grassroots. I am very thankful to Ryan and the rest of the team, and their wanting to bring their valuable experience back to SCSU and the community,” says Sarnath Ramnath, Professor and Chair, Dept of Computer Science and Information Technology (CSIT), St. Cloud State.
“Nothing grows a career or our communities prosperity faster than successful start-ups. And nothing accelerates a startup like leveraging the expertise of an experienced team of technology and business mentors,” Weber continues.
On that note, they are actively seeking qualified mentors to support the new tech startups that emerge and full-time/ part-time engineers + designers who want to get involved on the ground level.
Weber hints that they have sights set on an early stage seed fund later this summer and geographic expansion as part of the evolving vision for Great North Labs.
This initiative is the latest to arrive on scene for nascent entrepreneurs to get up and going with a higher probability of success through support from experienced entrepreneurs and active investors.
Minnesota newcomer Gener8tor is launching their first accelerator class here in Minneapolis this summer while The Syndicate Fund recently announced similar plans to put real resources behind pre/seed stage ventures earlier this month.