Neela Mollgaard has been named executive director of Launch Minnesota, the state’s latest initiative aimed at fostering entrepreneurialism. She’ll take the reins August 26.
The program was developed, in part, during the 2019 legislative session through a collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
Launch Minnesota brings private businesses and nonprofits together to provide financial incentives, training, and grants to individuals—especially women, veterans, and people of color—who want to start companies in technology sectors including aerospace, agriculture, nanotechnology, and medical devices.
With an annual budget of $2.5 million, the program is aimed at minimizing the risks associated with launching new companies.
As Launch Minnesota’s executive director, Mollgaard will build out the rest of the program team and further develop its infrastructure with business partners throughout the state.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to have Neela at the helm,” said DEED commissioner Steve Grove in a statement. “She is a proven leader in Greater Minnesota and has a track record of getting things done for entrepreneurs and small businesses across the state.”
Mollgaard has long worked in the nonprofit and philanthropic space. Most recently, she founded Red Wing Ignite, an economic development organization aimed at facilitating growth in the city of Red Wing. The organization just won a $750,000 contribution from the U.S. Department of Commerce, through the 2019 i6 Challenge.
DEED credits Mollgaard with creating a model in Greater Minnesota that has received national attention. The agency says she’s brought together government, academic, corporate, and organizational partners to develop a varied ecosystem of economic initiatives, including makerspaces, an investment fund, and more.
She’s also served as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. In addition, Mollgaard founded and chaired Women Cents, which helps inform Red Wing women on how national issues affect them and their community.
“We’re excited for Neela to work with ecosystem leaders and entrepreneurs across the state to kick off Launch Minnesota, and help elevate and amplify all the great work that’s taking place in Minnesota’s innovation economy,” said Grove.
Launch Minnesota is officially slated to kick off October 1.