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MHTA 2019 Tekne Awards Recap

As new MHTA CEO Jeff Tollefson said at the beginning of last night’s soiree, the Tekne awards are, “…not just awards. They are a celebration of the community built around the innovative culture of MN tech.”

This morning, Tollefson reflected on the entirety of the evening, “The Tekne Awards is truly a night of celebration as we shine a light on the new and exciting ways technology is reshaping our community and the world. Each year we are amazed and inspired by the work of so many great Minnesota innovators and innovations, and 2019 was no exception. The 36 finalists represented a broad spectrum of companies driving technology innovation in the State of Minnesota, and the MHTA is proud to honor their achievements and support their continued success.”

Tekne Awards - Phil Soran Lifetime Achievement One of the highlights of the evening was Phil Soran being presented with a lifetime achievement award. During his acceptance speech, he gave the best advice to the room. “The local market is the hardest to crack. We have to take care of these entrepreneurs.” Emcee Paul Douglas remarked on Soran’s award, “Phil, you are a category 5 human being… and we are damn lucky to have you here in Minnesota.”

Two of the MHTA Foundation scholarship winners spoke, and both of their stories were incredibly moving. First, Radhika Tandon told the story of a day when she was interning at NASA, and video chatting with her parents. The contrast of their environments, her sitting comfortably at NASA, and her parents sitting in a convenience store, hit her emotionally. She said it was very eye-opening to think of the difference for first generation immigrants and how important her education is because of what her parents have sacrificed.

Tekne Awards - scholarship recipients Hassen Jama, another scholarship recipient, talked about taking care of his family, both here and back in Somalia. He said that while it has been incredibly difficult to keep working full time, while also pursuing his degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering, “…the end is in sight. My family and I have found a home here in Minnesota.”

Here’s a short recap of this year’s winners:
(sourced from MHTA)

AGTECH – Calyxt

Calyxt, Inc., is a food ingredients company founded as a subsidiary of biotech firm Cellectis. It’s elevating food to make it more functional and healthier by using cutting-edge plant breeding and gene-editing technology. Partnering with like-minded farmers and food companies, Calyxt produces plant-based products that are healthier, sustainable and traceable.


Flywheel is a biomedical imaging research platform automating scientific workflow processes and leverages cloud scalability so research centers and clinical and life science organizations, can manage AI discovery processes within an automated, organized, collaborative and reproducible scientific workflow. As a result, principle investigators and research teams avoid time and money lost to IT issues and significantly improve scientific research capabilities. In short, its motto is “Do less IT and more Science™.”


C.H. Robinson believes in accelerating global trade to seamlessly deliver the products and goods that drive the world’s economy. Using the strengths of its knowledgeable people, proven processes and global technology, it helps customers work smarter, not harder. As one of the world’s largest third-party logistics providers (3PL), it provides a broad portfolio of logistics services, fresh produce sourcing and managed services, delivered through TMC, for more than 124,000 customers and 76,000 active contract carriers through an integrated network of offices and more than 15,000 employees.


Founded in 1998, PCs for People has been a driving force behind digital-inclusion efforts. Every project, program and initiative is centered on getting low-cost computers and affordable internet into the homes of low-income individuals. Today, PCs for People is a thriving social enterprise distributing refurbished technology to income-qualified individuals while providing them with digital-literacy education. With four locations and an online store, PCs for People has been able to provide computers to more than 250,000 individuals in all 50 states and Puerto Rico


Code42 is the leader in data loss protection. Today, the company secures the ideas of 50,000 of the most recognized brands in business and education worldwide. Using its Code42(R) Next-Gen Data Loss Protection solution, organizations can detect risky file activity across computers and the cloud as well as quickly investigate unusual file behavior and respond to data loss, leak and theft. Code42’s solution can tell organizations where their data lives, when and what data leaves and who has, or ever had, access to it. Code42 is proud to have been named a 2019 top workplace by Star Tribune.

EDTECH – Code Championship

Code Championship offers fun, competitive, week-long coding bootcamps in Minnesota for coders 9-15 years old. At Code Championship, they believe that Code Is Sport! By utilizing MIT’s Scratch language in conjunction with their bot creation framework, Code Championship coaches are able to lead young coders through a progressive series of coding challenges focused on teaching fundamental concepts. Code Championship’s aim is to foster a passion for programming in young coders and enhance their experience through presenting our material in a competitive way.

FINTECH – Total Expert

Total Expert is a fintech software pioneer of the first enterprise-level Marketing Operating System™ (MOS), a marketing and sales solution built specifically for banks and mortgage lenders. The Total Expert MOS enables financial services organizations to create customers and members for life by re-humanizing complex financial decisions. Mortgage lenders, banks and credit unions leverage the Total Expert MOS to stay ahead of how consumers expect to learn about, shop for and manage their financial lives in the digital era. Today, more than 100 customers, including eight of America’s top 15 lenders, work with Total Expert to improve their customers’ financial experiences.

INDUSTRY 4.0 – Tower Solutions

Tower Solutions provides high-quality portable towers across a wide variety of markets and applications, including communications, surveillance and military. It is proud to be a leader and innovator in system-integrated tower technology supporting infrastructure, homeland security and the United States armed forces.

INTERNET OF THINGS – Digi International

Since 1985, Digi International Inc. has pioneered in wireless communication, developing connected devices to support developers taking an idea to market. Before the IoT, it built wireless devices and optimized data communications around the most advanced protocols and emerging technologies. From RF modules to gateways, cellular routers, networking devices and embedded system on modules (SOMs), Digi’s solutions have continually grown to serve the range of applications across the IoT landscape. Today, its IoT offering includes sensor-based solutions, a sophisticated platform for remotely managing device deployments and professional services to help teams carry out their vision, no matter how large or small.

MEDTECH – Abilitech Medical

Abilitech Medical is building a suite of mobility devices to support and assist the arms and hands in functional tasks required for independence in daily life. The Abilitech Assist should receive FDA clearance in January 2020, followed by a hand device in 2021 and a robotic assist device that uses voice commands in 2023. Abilitech Medical has a passionate and experienced team of four full-time employees and several contractors, and it works with five of Minnesota’s finest clinical institutions to build and deliver a meaningful device for patients and clinicians.

STARTUP – Anatomi Corp

Anatomi Corp is a stem-cell engineering firm operating in the biotech research tools market. Its flagship technology is the Chrono™ Platform, which drastically shortens the production of human neurological diseases in a dish from 35 days to only 7 days. Anatomi Corp’s products will accelerate breakthroughs and treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.


Creating IT Futures helps unemployed and under-employed people develop interest, secure opportunity and discover success in careers working with technology – especially groups currently under-represented in technology fields, such as women and people of color. Its IT-Ready education, training and job-placement program helps adults change careers later in life, particularly military veterans returning to the civilian workforce. Creating IT Futures is a 501(c)(3) charity whose mission is transforming the nation’s workforce for the digital age by helping communities of people develop their digital skills.

Photos and video coverage of the evening will be available on the Tekne Awards site within the next couple of weeks.

Valerie Lockhart
Valerie is proud to spend her time immersed in the Minnesota tech scene, whether she’s writing articles for, designing websites, or coordinating events for the Minnesota Women in Technology meetup group.