Minnesota is stepping up its commitment to startups with another round of grants. On Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced that it has awarded $450,000 to six organizations as part of its “Launch Minnesota” initiative.
The organizations will form the basis for the state’s Launch Minnesota Network. The grants, which have been matched with nearly $900,000 in private funds, were awarded through a competitive request for proposal process. Applications will open for next year’s grants in the fall.
“We really wanted organizations that had a proven track record helping scale and support high-tech innovative businesses,” said Neela Mollgaard, executive director of Launch Minnesota Mollgaard said. “This statewide network is really purposeful in connecting critical networks that can support startups, and so that’s academia, government, and our private sector.”
The organizations receiving funding are the Greater Bemidji Launch Pad, Red Wing Ignite, Mankato State University, Forge North, Metropolitan Economic Development Association, and St. Cloud Development Corporation. They’ll be responsible for recruiting entrepreneurs and startups into the pipeline. The organizations are also tasked with educating and counseling, Mollgaard said. Each of the hubs has a physical space for coworking and convening.
“They’ll act as a conduit and convener for outreach in their regions,” she said. “Now we’re going to have this robust network of great organizations and smart people and expertise that if one region doesn’t have the answers or the right resources, there’s a clear way to find that resource.”
Founded in October of 2019, Launch Minnesota is legislatively mandated as a pilot program that focuses on high-growth, high-tech startups aiming to solve problems with innovative, disruptive technology, Mollgaard said. Out of its $1.6 million for innovation grants, the organization has allocated about $700,000 in its first round, with more announcements pending soon, she added.
“Capital, talent, and culture,” Mollgaard said. “All the work we do will be focused around those three efforts. Those are the three key components of any innovative ecosystem––and that’s really what we’re creating.”
Launch Minnesota aims to provide startups support at each stage of their endeavors with resources like capital, knowledge, shared best practices, mentoring, and ways to save time, Mollgaard said. The network connects almost 60 program partners across the state. And, as one of the partners, the University of Minnesota will provide courses on the lean startup model and mentoring opportunities.
“We’re improving coordination and adding capacity across the ecosystem to really empower great organizations to maximize their impact, and really elevate Minnesota as a national leader in innovation,” she said.