Launch Minnesota: Cultivating Capital, Talent, and Culture in 2020

by Valerie Lockhart

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Launch Minnesota Coffee and Conversation event December 2019

This week, Launch Minnesota hosted a “Coffee and Conversation” event at its new space in Osborn370 in downtown St. Paul. We caught up with Neela Mollgaard, executive director, for an update on how the first quarter has gone and what’s coming up for Launch Minnesota in 2020.

October 1st was the official kickoff of Launch Minnesota, the new initiative brought together by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). Focused on engaging and supporting the tech startup scene throughout the state by providing opportunities for “capital, talent, and culture,” Launch Minnesota aims to be a valuable resource for Minnesota entrepreneurs, particularly those working in the innovative and high tech arenas.

“We hit the ground running, and it’s been full speed ahead,” Mollgaard said. “I’m very excited about the traction we’ve made. We’ve been meeting with folks from across the state, and it’s been so great to see their passion. Entrepreneurs, investors, support organizations, and community members, all interested in figuring out how to collaboratively work together, all passionate about helping entrepreneurs succeed.”

Launch Minnesota has a number of grant opportunities open. There are three Innovation Grants available: business operations, housing or childcare, and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR). The grants vary in levels of support and are being considered on an open-calendar schedule.

“There was far more demand than the $1.6 Million we have available,” Mollgaard said.

Applications are currently in internal review and awards should be announced in early February.

The other type of grant available is an education grant which requires a more robust application process. There will be only one award per DEED region and successful applications will include a mix of organizations working collaboratively and cohesively to serve their community of entrepreneurs. The deadline for the education grant application is January 17th, 2020.

“The organizations chosen for these grants will be the foundation [Launch Minnesota] will build on to successfully serve startups throughout Minnesota,” Mollgaard said.

Mollgaard said the aim of Launch Minnesota is to, “focus on and build initiatives to provide the capital, talent, and culture” to support the Minnesota entrepreneurial eco-system. There are already plans to hire a new program manager sometime in 2020  to keep up with the growing workload and make sure partners are well taken care of.

“Giving startups the knowledge needed to scale, saving them time and money by showing them how and where to plug in, and connecting them to resources and experts to help them at every turn — Launch Minnesota is helping to move the dial on all of these things,” Mollgaard said.

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