Like the start-ups it aims to assist, the Minnesota Cup keeps getting bigger and better over time. It shows as entries into the state’s premier business-plan competition advance in sophistication and progress, greater numbers of participants from across the state compete each year, and more finalists attract significant capital investments.
Celebrating its sixth year of championing entrepreneurship, the Minnesota Cup has helped more than 5,000 entrepreneurs pursue dreams of launching and growing their own companies.
“The event has gotten bigger and more ingrained in the DNA of entrepreneurship in the state of Minnesota,” notes Dan Mallin, who co-founded the Minnesota Cup along with Scott Litman. “The Minnesota Cup is such a credibility gainer for these start-ups. I constantly see companies in the news that have Minnesota Cup lineage, and that just tells us that the competition is working.”
Litman and Mallin envisioned the free competition, which attracted more than 1,000 participants this year, as a way to uncover and support Minnesota’s most promising and innovative business ideas. The competition provides entrepreneurs with access to the networks, resources, and financing opportunities necessary to build the next Geek Squad, Digital River, or Capella Education.
Last year’s division winners have together raised nearly $9 million in capital since last fall. “That’s amazing when you think about what a difficult funding environment and challenging economy we’re in,” says Litman, who, along with Mallin, is the co-managing partner of Magnet360, an agency network of marketing, branding, design, and technology companies that provide integrated marketing solutions to Fortune 1,000 companies.
Last year, Mallin and Litman changed the competition’s structure to include six divisions. Division winners earn $20,000 in seed capital ($5,000 for the student division) and contend for the Minnesota Cup and an additional $20,000.