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Minnesota Digitally Connects in the Midst of COVID-19

Over the last week or so, we have seen the resilient, innovative people here in Minnesota using technology to do some pretty amazing things.

There are numerous groups organizing on Facebook, such as Covid-19 Minnesota Solutions, bringing together makers, technologists, corporations, medical professionals, and volunteers to help solve community problems at a record pace. A database is being compiled of open source diagrams, information, distribution points, and tips for getting personal protection equipment made up to regulation standards very quickly. It’s incredible to watch and a testament to how when things get tough, people get motivated toward finding solutions.

Musicians are also adopting technology to help them continue their weekly open mic nights and jam sessions. One Facebook group, organized by some of our local Minnesota musicians, is  called “Livestream Cover Challenge!” Nearly 24,000 musicians are now sharing livestream performances and challenging each other to learn and perform a certain song within 24 hours. It’s a great way for people to share their talent, create new connections, and use music and technology to fight the sadness that isolation and separation can bring.

In the days of social distancing, Minnesota tech organizers are switching over to hosting livestream and/or virtual versions of already scheduled events. Instead of cancelling or rescheduling, these groups are keeping things moving, adjusting as they go, and giving the rest of us things to look forward to and a way for our tech community to stay connected in a time of need.

The Spring 2020 BETA.MN cohort is all virtual. This will not only  provide assistance to small businesses and startups in a time of great need but also help Beta build out the structure needed to focus future energy on startups from across the state. One of the things that this first virtual cohort of startups will learn is the importance of being agile and adaptable.

“Adaptability is the leading indicator of success in startups,” Casey Schultz, Executive Director of Beta, said recently.

And what a good time to drive that point home. The 12-week program will focus on bringing in experts and advisors (remotely of course) as well as exposing the startups to a number of virtual networking events and meetings with angel investors.

Gener8tor has multiple programs that have now all transferred over to being 100% virtual.

“Everyone seems to be excited about staying safe while still having a community to rely on.” said Kate Evinger, MN Program Manager.

The med-tech program made the switch to virtual about half-way through March, and wrapped up last week with a virtual pitch-night on Thursday, April 2. The upcoming On-Ramp Insurance Accelerator will also be kicking off at the end of April and will run through June 23. This will be the first time the program will be run virtually. Evinger is hoping it will be a good learning experience for her organization with takeaways to make programs even more effective after returning to in-person practices. Gener8tor has taken steps to put together a comprehensive Emergency Response Program that offers resources to small businesses and companies affected by Covid-19. These include daily lunchtime webinars, information on SBA disaster loan eligibility, and other programs offering relief. Volunteers are also needed to assist with these efforts.

“In this time, we all need to come together and support each other to provide resources,” As Evinger said.

Whether it is companies keeping operations going via Zoom or friends having virtual happy hours over Google Hangouts, our world has definitely changed — and we are adapting. Where the will to build and sustain a community is strong, we will find solutions and ways to foster it.

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.