And then there were 27…
MN Cup, the largest statewide entrepreneurial competition in the country, advanced to the divisional finalist stage on Monday by naming the three contenders for each of its nine categories.
Unique to this year’s list is the number of remaining businesses run by women, minorities or veterans that are still fighting for a piece of the record $500,000 in prize money.
A whopping 19 of the 27 finalists — over two-thirds — are led by one or more woman, vet or minority individual. Last year’s MN Cup, once a previous best for representation of these groups, had 11 of its 24 division finalists led by women, veterans and/or minorities.
Finalists were selected from a pool of 1,661 participants, each vying for the title of Minnesota’s best new entrepreneurial idea. Last year’s MN Cup began with roughly 1,300 entrants — a 22 percent year-over-year increase.
Adding to the list of records: Approximately 45 percent of the 2018 competitors featured at least one woman member. Likewise, it was a year of bests for minority and veteran inclusion: 27 percent of entrants included minority team members, while 8 percent included veterans.
Here is each finalist by division:
Notably, one of the startup finalists, Recovree, is run by Melissa Kjolsing Lynch, the former executive director of MN Cup. After leaving her role last year, Lynch went on to help found Lunar Startups, an incubator launched this summer by American Public Media.
Division winners, which will be selected next month, automatically receive $30,000 as they advance toward the final round and $50,000 grand prize. Divisional runners-up will take home $5,000. The Youth division, however, offers a $20,000 prize pool: half for the winner and the other half split between the second and third place winners and semifinalists.
The winner of the 2018 MN Cup will be crowned at an awards celebration at the University of Minnesota in October.