From the very first story I wrote on a virtual experience at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, to Work Well (my weekly tech.mn series on the health and wellness of startup founders), I’ve loved every minute interviewing the Minnesota startup community.

I fell into the space when I was still at the U of M in 2017, and haven’t left since — starting out not even knowing what a startup is (arguably, there are multiple definitions of this!) and now feeling so intertwined with the community that one connection always seems to lead to another.

There’s a saying I used to throw around at events (remember those?). I said I knew more about startups than anyone should for someone who doesn’t work at one. I hear terms like “pre-seed,” “accelerator,” or “bootstrapped” but I’m not raising funds. I’m surrounded by venture capital and cohorts but not in any “stage.”

I’m in the sphere, in the stereotype, the community — but (mostly) just observing. And I like it.

In writing about Minnesota startups — from healthcare to pet care to work scheduling to supplements — I’ve gotten to explore a realm I never would have even previously understood. There’s an energy that sets startups apart from any other industry I’ve written about — a tenacity, a dedication, and a common understanding.

When you interview a CEO of a multi-million-dollar company, you typically get pre-recorded or pre-approved answers from marketing specialists; cleanly formatted (and usually slightly boring) answers that make the company look good.

But when you interview a founder, you get gritty, honest truths of how hard it really is to build a business; stories of failure, starting from scratch, tough layoffs, and struggles with depression. Even heartwarming tales of getting into birdwatching to spend more time with their kids. Origin stories that, more often than not, start with a personal connection to a problem they now are devoting their lives to solve.

This is my favorite part of my role in the community. I get to hear these stories and share them, showcasing aspects of the business maybe the investors or mentors don’t get to see. I get to hear about their kids, their take on the “hustle” mentality (my favorite one? That it’s, “BS.”), and their humble regards about being interviewed in the first place.

Especially in a year like this, it’s more evident than ever that the Minnesota startup community is resilient; just the fact that I still have a job writing about all the cool things that are still happening amidst a global pandemic is astonishing.

After it all, I admire the people I interview more than ever.