Techstars Farm to Fork is scheduled to physically commence in Minnesota this spring following earlier news that Ecolab and Cargill would be jointly sponsoring the new food + tech accelerator in 2018.
While the two industry behemoths are divided between our major cities – with Ecolab headquartered in St. Paul, and Cargill in the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata – it was stated that neither had any intentions of bringing the program in house.
At the time, Farm to Fork Managing Director Brett Brohl was unsure where it would officially land, though that decisions seems to have been made according to a paywalled report in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal citing city documents (without actually providing them). It says that Techstars Farm to Fork will occupy 10,000 square feet inside Osborn370 in downtown St. Paul under a deal that involves a $200k forgivable loan from the City itself; the forgivable component was overlooked in the original report:
“St. Paul’s housing and redevelopment authority voted late last month to provide Techstars with a $200,000, three-year loan. The funding will go toward office space improvements and the purchase of equipment and furniture, according to City of St. Paul documents. Techstars’ partners on the accelerator — Cargill Inc. and St. Paul-based Ecolab Inc. — are providing it with $160,000 to cover rent and related expenses. “
‘Farm to Fork’ is Techstars’ second major accelerator in the Twin Cities after that of Target’s retail themed, which is simultaneously embarking on a third year together under the initial three year relationship.
Osborn370, Ecolab’s old headquarters, has positioned itself as the central place for tech in St. Paul. While financed by a group of private investors, it is increasingly politicized as the City of St. Paul gets more involved in situations like these.
Like it nor not, the City is inadvertently perpetuating entrepreneurial inequity in tech by favoring certain businesses over others, as evidenced by their direct financial role in this forgivable loan transaction — certainly not an option extended or granted to all. A forgivable loan, as it turns out this instrument is, doesn’t actually require repayment:
“Each scheduled yearly payment on the loan would be forgiven if Techstars continues to occupy their space and operate their program.”
The following Minnesota tech companies are based there, while APM’s quasi for/nonpofit accelerator Lunar Startups is also scheduled to be part of a forthcoming ‘coworking’ initative inside Osborn370. It’s not clear if the city is also playing a financial role in that arrangement?