Dan Grigsby

Founding partner, Drivetrain Agency
Dan Grigsby

• Cutting app development down to weeks rather than months

Microsoft acquired Dan Grigsby’s first start-up in 1998; in 2000, he sold a six-month-old PayPal competitor for 20 times what it cost him to build. But Grigsby wearied of working in Silicon Valley, where every project had to aspire to be a billion-dollar company. He moved back home to the Twin Cities, driven by a desire to make a living doing creative and interesting work. In software, that means keeping it small and focusing on emerging technologies. That way, Grigsby says, “you can move very quickly. You can embrace the new, new thing.”

Late last year, along with fellow programmers Tom Brice and Pete Schwamb, Grigsby started a Minneapolis mobile application development agency called Drivetrain. Instead of taking six months to present a prototype, Drivetrain says it can have one ready in two weeks. Clients include stationery e-tailer RedStamp, wellness plan provider RedBrick Health, and Paul Douglas’s WeatherNation.

To those who say that Minnesota should nurture the next Control Data or Google, Grigsby says: “Let a thousand flowers bloom.” Small, nimble companies don’t need big backing—they just need to fill market needs. To help water the garden, Grigsby cofounded MinneBar and MinneDemo, two of Minnesota’s largest tech-entrepreneur networking events.