2020 Entrepreneur of the Year Finalists

2020 Entrepreneur of the Year Finalists

Minnesota Finalists

Tony Miller, Founder and CEO of Bind
Tony Miller, Founder and CEO of Bind

Tony Miller
Founder and CEO
Bind

Founded: 2016
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Mission: Make health care affordable by providing a consumer-driven insurance model that offers people cost information prior to making treatment decisions.
Major impact: Miller founded a venture capital fund that was targeted to supporting disruptive businesses redesigning health care. He wasn’t finding the fledgling businesses that he hoped to fund, so he started his own health care insurance company with a staff of eight people. He wanted affordable and equitable health insurance and wanted the company’s consumer interfaces to be navigable. Within a few years, employers enrolled in Bind plans are annually saving up to 20 percent on health care costs. The vast majority of the time Bind members are choosing the most efficient, effective treatment.


Andrea Abbs, founder of BRIGHT Research Partners
Andrea Abbs, founder of BRIGHT Research Partners

Andrea Abbs
Founder and managing partner
BRIGHT Research Partners, Inc.

Founded: 2008
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Mission: The clinical research organization provides clinical and regulatory strategy, study management and execution, study auditing, and inspection preparedness activities.
Major impact: This company was created on the belief that the clinical trials market should do better by its clients. Starting as a solo entrepreneur, Abbs now employs about 25 clinical research and regulatory consultants, biostatisticians, and business operations professionals. They focus on clinical and regulatory strategy and execution for medical devices, in vitro diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, and biologics. The company emphasizes building sustainable relationships with its clients and employing a collaborative approach with the Food and Drug Administration. It aims to improve the quality and speed of clinical trials.


Nadim Yared, President and CEO of CVRx
Nadim Yared, President and CEO of CVRx

Nadim Yared
President and CEO
CVRx

Founded: 2001
Headquarters: Brooklyn Park
Mission: Provide implantable technology for the treatment of heart failure and high blood pressure that is designed to trigger the body’s own natural blood flow regulation system.
Major impact: CVRx developed the world’s first cardiovascular neuromodulation device, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August 2019. It triggers the nervous system to use the brain to reduce symptoms of heart failure, a condition that often produces early death, poor quality of life, and high medical costs. CVRx and the FDA used a novel trial design that had two parallel phases, which allowed this product to be placed on the market more quickly. Over nearly two decades, CVRx has raised more than $340 million from investors.


Charlie Youakim, CEO of Sezzle
Charlie Youakim, CEO of Sezzle

Charlie Youakim
CEO
Sezzle

Founded: 2016
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Mission: To financially empower the next generation through building a transparent, inclusive, and seamless payment option for online and in-store purchases.
Major impact: Sezzle enables e-commerce businesses to offer installment-based payment plans to their retail customers. Those customers can break up purchases into six interest-free payments, which unlocks their purchasing power while permitting retailers to increase order volumes. Sezzle’s chief source of revenue comes from charging a fee to the retailer as a percentage of each transaction. There are more than 10,000 active retail partners on the platform. More than 1 million consumers are using Sezzle, especially people who are in Gen Z or are millennials.


Sameer Kumar and Aneela Idnani, co-founders of HabitAware
Sameer Kumar, CEO and co-founder, and Aneela Idnani, President and co-founder of HabitAware

Sameer Kumar
CEO and co-founder
Aneela Idnani
President and co-founder
HabitAware

Founded: 2015
Headquarters: St. Louis Park
Mission: To provide a smart bracelet that can help 20 million Americans who deal with body-focused repetitive behaviors.
Major impact: The gesture detection technology allows people to deal with stress in better ways. This husband-and-wife team, and two other co-founders, patented their invention called Keen. The device tracks wrist movements and vibrates to remind people where their hands are, so they’ll stop nail biting and other behaviors. Since the 2017 product launch, Keen has helped tens of thousands of people in more than 50 countries. HabitAware’s breakthrough product created a new wearable category for mental health.


Chad Stelzig, President and CEO of Image Sensing Systems
Chad Stelzig, President and CEO of Image Sensing Systems

Chad Stelzig
President and CEO
Image Sensing Systems

Founded: 1984
Headquarters: St. Paul
Mission: To improve public safety and air quality by producing advanced technology sensing platforms for the transportation industry.
Major impact: The company’s products use machine vision, radar signal processing, and artificial intelligence to provide actionable data to cities, counties, and state agencies. Government leaders take that data to help them make decisions and influence driver behavior. The overarching goal of this data application is optimizing safety and efficiency of public roadways. Image Sensing Systems is a small, publicly traded company. It invests in upfront research and development to create a product concept that can be taken into the marketplace to solicit validation by potential customers.


Chad Hetherington, CEO of The Stable Group
Chad Hetherington, CEO of The Stable Group

Chad Hetherington
CEO
The Stable Group, LLC

Founded: 2015
Headquarters: Minneapolis
Mission: Serves as a multidiscipline agency to connect consumer product brands to their audiences across all consumer touchpoints.
Major impact: The business was launched out of a conference room at The Minneapolis Club. It had no clients. The Stable was founded to create a fully integrated, cross-platform agency built solely for consumer brands. It brought together brick-and-mortar, e-commerce, creative, and social/digital services under one roof. Within two years, the employee base grew from 16 to 65 people. With staff deployed in offices in Minneapolis, Seattle, and Austin, Texas, it helped to generate nearly $1 billion in retail sales in 2019.


Joe Welu, CEO of TotalExpert
Joe Welu, CEO of TotalExpert

Joe Welu
CEO
Total Expert

Founded: 2012
Headquarters: Golden Valley
Mission: It provides a software-as-a-service platform that’s an enterprise-grade marketing operating system specifically built for regulated financial services organizations.
Major impact: The platform integrates industry-specific data and compliance requirements. The company’s marketing operating system allows financial services businesses to create customers and members for life. Mortgage lenders, banks, and credit unions use the Total Expert marketing operating system to stay ahead of how consumers expect to learn about, shop for, and manage their financial lives.

Eight of the nation’s top 15 lenders are Total Expert customers, and they are able to reach their consumers with targeted, automated, and personal communications.


Michael E. Jordan, CEO of UNRL
Michael E. Jordan, CEO of UNRL

Michael Jordan
CEO
UNRL

Founded: 2013
Headquarters: St. Paul
Mission: To provide high-quality sportswear and accessories at reasonable prices.
Major impact: The company produces activewear tops and bottoms, which can be worn on the athletic field or out in the community. UNRL emphasizes creating top-of-the-line products from scratch by combining premium, hand-selected materials with expert workmanship. Its business model incorporates a “consumer-value approach.” It strives to provide the same level of product quality as high-end sportswear companies, but to deliver those products at prices of 40 percent or less than its competitors. Retailers that carry its products include Scheels and NHL pro shops.


Beyond Minnesota

Troy Vincent
CEO
Navigate Wellbeing Solutions

Founded: 2008
Headquarters: West Des Moines, Iowa
Mission: Provide employee engagement software that helps businesses enhance the overall well-being of their employees, including their health, financial circumstances, and career development.


Matthew Dunlevy
President and CEO
SkySkopes

Founded: 2014
Headquarters: Grand Forks, North Dakota
Mission: Offer professional drone services that help businesses make good decisions. Services include optical imaging, surveys and mapping, and data collection through sensors.


Thomas Cardella
Founder and President
TLC & Associates

Founded: 2007
Headquarters: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Mission: Operate a results-oriented contact center that focuses on delivering high-quality customer service to support long-term relationships.