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TC Startup Week Day 1: Out-of-Staters Descend upon Minneapolis

The region’s sixth annual startup week draws entrepreneurs from across the country.

TC Startup Week Day 1: Out-of-Staters Descend upon Minneapolis
This year, organizers are hosting two physical headquarters for the event: One at the IDS Center in Minneapolis (pictured) and another at the Osborn370 building in St. Paul (Olivia Simon)

Seated near a window at Fueled Collective’s downtown Minneapolis co-working space on Wednesday, Asha Carroll and her husband Andy McCullough plugged away at their laptops.

Carroll, a natural foods entrepreneur who hails from Minneapolis but now divides her time between Vermont and New York City, says she originally flew into town for the Twin Cities Marathon. But she decided to change her flight plans to stick around for Twin Cities Startup Week, which officially kicked off yesterday.

It’ll be her first time attending the sixth annual event. Carroll is founder and CEO of Phasey, a recently launched startup that sells foods aimed at alleviating menstrual symptoms. McCullough, meanwhile, is global marketing director at Shopping Feed, an ecommerce tech company. At startup week, Carroll hopes to connect with entrepreneurs of all stripes.

“I’m excited about the diversity at startup week – people from my industry, people from parallel industries” she says. “I want to broaden my scope here.”

Carroll is one of hundreds of out-of-staters who have descended upon the Twin Cities for startup week, which will run through Oct. 16. As part of the event, Fueled Collective, WeWork, and a number of other co-working spaces around town have opened their spaces to the public for the week. Of course, there’s a lot more to the agenda than co-working; the week will feature more than 200 events, including pitch competitions, panel discussions, and networking functions at venues across the Twin Cities.

Organizers expect the event to attract about 20,000 attendees. In the past, startup week has drawn more than 17,000 people, says Beta.MN executive director Reed Robinson. (Beta.MN is a Minneapolis-based business development organization that manages the event.) Typically, about 10 percent of the attendees hail from out of state, according to Robinson.

“We’re hoping to see that bump this year,” he says.

A few dozen out-of-staters will drop in through the event’s “fly-in program,” which pays airfare and local transportation costs for a select number of entrepreneurs. This year, organizers are bringing in 50 out-of-state entrepreneurs through the program.

To be sure, there will be plenty of other attendees flying in from startup hotbeds on the coasts. Eric Radtke, director of growth at Minneapolis-based ad agency Bionic Giant, says there’s something unique about the startup scene in the Twin Cities.

“Having spent better part of the last decade in the ad tech startup world in New York and California, there’s no doubt in my mind that my Minnesota homecoming is paired with feelings of pride and hopefulness,” Radtke says. “Candidly, the coasts have nothing on our communities.”

Meanwhile, organizers are testing out a big change at this year’s startup week: This year, they’ll have two physical headquarters for the event, one in the IDS Center in Minneapolis and the other in the Osborn370 building in St. Paul. The temporary setups are designed to serve as information hubs, Robinson says. They’ll also host a number of talks throughout the week.

“In the past, we haven’t had the physical embodiment to startup week,” Robinson says. “If you weren’t plugged into the right channels, you never knew it existed.”

Robinson hopes the hubs will attract a few passers-by, too.

Twin Cities Startup Week organizers worked with the Minneapolis Foundation to secure a place in the IDS Center. Located on the first floor across the way from the FedEx store, the space has been used for Super Bowl events, along with NCAA tournament happenings.

This year’s startup week happens to coincide with President Trump’s planned rally in Minneapolis on Thursday. Some organizations – such as the Children’s Law Center of Minnesota – have cancelled programming during the week, but Robinson says all startup week activities will go on as planned. He notes that many of the events are on the Twin Cities’ periphery, so they won’t be affected by the expected uptick in traffic.

Here are a few things we’ll be looking out for on Thursday:

  • Target’s “Retail Track:” A series of talks about the future of retail. The event, which takes place at Target Plaza Commons, began on Thursday at 8 a.m. and runs until 6 p.m.
  • Diversity talks: There are two diversity-oriented panels on Thursday: The first is a panel discussion with five female founders of color at 9 a.m. at the Finnovation Lab. The second panel takes on biases in HR. That takes place at 11 a.m. at WeWork North Loop
  • Cryptocurrency currents: Should business owners worry about cryptocurrency? A few speakers will fill you in. This talk takes place at 2 p.m. at Novel Coworking in Minneapolis.
  • “The Business of Doing Good:” It’s back to the Finnovation Lab for a discussion on companies’ social impact.
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