Greater MSP on Wednesday night will formally launch a new coalition aimed at stimulating startup activity in the Twin Cities.
Dubbed “Forge North,” the initiative brings together more than 100 local organizations to help make Minnesota “the problem-solving capital of the new economy,” Greater MSP officials say.
The coalition includes startups, investors, and big-name companies like UnitedHealth Group, U.S. Bank, and Securian. The project has been in the works for at least three years, says CEO Peter Frosch.
“Our region and state are rich with talented people and high-performance organizations focused on entrepreneurship,” he says. “Over the last few years, dozens of these leaders have come together out of a recognition that they could do even more.”
One of Forge North’s key goals: Connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need to grow their businesses. That could include mentorship, financial capital, workers, and more, Frosch says.
“All of those things exist in this region, but it’s about how to find them,” he says. “Forge North helps anyone … step into the ecosystem, navigate it quickly and find what they need.”
In Frosch’s view, access to opportunity has been “one of the greatest challenges in the startup and innovation space.” His aim is to open up access to opportunity so that entrepreneurs – regardless of their gender, class or race – can make their ideas a reality.
Greater MSP is launching the effort at a time when the region is seemingly awash in incubators and accelerators. (Even retail giant Target has jumped on the accelerator trend in recent years.)
But Frosch says Forge North will work in concert – not competition – with existing incubators and accelerators. In fact, many have played a key role in helping build out the coalition.
“They’re part of this ecosystem,” Frosch says. “Together, we compete against the country and the world. We don’t compete against each other.”
What’s more, the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro actually lags far behind its peers in terms of startup activity, according to Greater MSP. Last month, the organization reported that the region is in dead last for startup activity among 12 major metro areas in the U.S.
Over the last five years, 9,336 new companies have been formed in the Twin Cities. That may sound like an impressive figure at first blush, but it’s a far cry from startup activity in places like San Francisco, where more than 140,000 new companies have set up shop in the last five years.