The Bartmann Group
Kim Bartmann’s universe is in transition. So what else is new? She recently tapped former Famous Dave’s CEO Christopher O’Donnell as an investor to help grow her business and improve its financial performance. This fall she agreed to sell her oldest extant concept, Bryant-Lake Bowl (1993), to a longtime employee. Her remaining mini-empire of eight Minneapolis restaurants—including Pat’s Tap, Tiny Diner, and Book Club—will be joined by a bakery-coffee shop and a restaurant at Vicinity, a downtown Minneapolis apartment project set to open in 2019.
In conjunction with its $65 million round of fundraising at the start of 2018—the largest by any startup in Minnesota this year—Metavention ushered in someone new to lead the charge. Because of Berg’s track record routing his last three med-tech startups toward acquisitions, he is seen as one of the executives in the industry with the coveted “magic touch.” With fresh capital in its coffers, the Maple Grove company is set up to shake up the type 2 diabetes care market with its flagship transcatheter device designed to lower blood glucose levels.
Jessie Houlihan Bingen
Women-run construction businesses are a rarity, especially when that leader is young, as is the case of Stahl Construction’s Jessie Houlihan Bingen, age 31. The company named her president in 2014, and since then she has emerged as one of the local development industry’s more articulate leaders in addressing its gender and age imbalances. As a board member of the Urban Land Institute of Minnesota, Bingen serves on its Young Leaders Executive Committee, which seeks to involve more young people in an industry now dominated by aging baby boomers.
Center for Economic Inclusion
Good things are happening on Minneapolis’ North Side, and Tawanna Black is a major force in the economic development taking root. Beyond her already-critical role as executive director of the 20-member Northside Funders’ Group, Black this year founded the Center for Economic Inclusion. With a mission “to boldly advance an inclusive regional economy,” the new center is convening area leaders for information-sharing and dialogue, aligning public and private investments in housing and transit to better support jobs and economic development, and elevating the benefits of “shared prosperity” projects that take advantage of community assets and build wealth in communities of color.
The Media Manager
After working in Minnesota media companies for nearly a decade, Brian Bos struck out on his own in 2013, launching the Media Manager, a Rochester-based advertising firm specializing in direct response. Five years later, the company landed on the 2018 Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies, at 103rd in the nation and first in the state, with a three-year revenue growth of 3,562 percent. Bos says that Media Manager had passed its 2017 revenue mark of $7.1 million this past September.
St. Paul is becoming an unexpected incubator for new technology companies, and Scott Burns is among those leading the charge. Burns was co-founder and CEO of GovDelivery, a St. Paul-based government information technology firm that launched in 2001; it saw strong growth and sold for $153 million in 2016. He’s now CEO of another tech startup, Structural Inc., a human resources technology company. Burns is also an investor—and a tenant—in Osborn370, the former Ecolab headquarters, which has been overhauled to draw emerging companies. In an office market that has long faced challenges, Osborn370 has become a bright spot for downtown St. Paul.
North Coast Ventures
Target Corp. first turned to the 30-something Casey Carl in 2011 in the wake of its disastrous website debut, counting on him to be its “chief agitator” on tech innovation. The best known of those ideas came in 2015 when he revealed plans for a robotic “Store of the Future.” Target, however, switched emphases and never built the prototype. Carl left two years later and has since founded North Coast Ventures, a retail consulting and early-stage venture capital firm specializing in “the future of retail, brands, experience design, leadership, and organizational transformation.”
Xcel Energy–Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota
Chris Clark, appointed president of Xcel Energy’s Minnesota operations in 2015, came from the utility’s regulatory side, where he was in charge of its frequently contentious dealings with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. His expertise in that key area has been essential for Xcel's landmark four-year deal in 2017 allowing the utility to raise residential rates by 10.6 percent. Clark recently announced that in the Upper Midwest, Xcel has set a goal of 85 percent carbon-free energy by 2030. Much of it will be wind energy. Clark's efforts earned approval for the largest wind energy expansion in the region's history. Over the next two years, construction will begin on eight wind farms in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
Vice president, global inclusion & diversity
Greg Cunningham’s elevation in 2016 to U.S. Bank’s corporate-wide vice president in charge of inclusion and diversity was a natural move, given his status as a high-profile black executive; since then, the bank has kicked off a multimillion-dollar multicultural marketing campaign. But it’s Cunningham’s skills as a marketing guru that are behind his latest achievement: the establishment of the U.S. Bank Possibilities Index. The new consumer survey seeks to identify its customers’ top concerns in their lives, data that’s used to develop brand strategies especially for underserved communities.
The pharmacy benefit management industry is the kind of behind-the-scenes business that never gets much publicity, so Jim DuCharme’s leadership of Prime Therapeutics normally would draw little notice beyond insider health care circles. But when you’re successful enough to construct a new 400,000-square-foot office facility in Eagan, folks get the message that you’ve done a pretty good job. Under DuCharme’s watch, Prime’s revenues have grown to approximately $5 billion while serving 17 Blue Cross Blue Shield health plans. The company was expecting to take occupancy of its new digs late in 2018.
Gray Plant Mooty
Since Gray Plant Mooty has been around since 1866, it’s tempting to assume it’s one of Minnesota’s more tradition-bound law firms for employee demographics. But that would be wrong, thanks in part to the leadership of attorney Sarah Duniway, who has made diversity in hiring at the firm one of her main objectives. An expert in laws governing nonprofits, she herself is a rarity as a female co-managing partner of a big law firm, but it doesn’t stop there: As Gray celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016, some 21 of the 26 attorneys hired during that year were also female.
Land O’Lakes Inc.
Beth Ford made history in July when the Land O’Lakes board promoted her to CEO, becoming the first woman to lead the agricultural cooperative, which reached $13.7 billion in sales in 2017. She’s also the first openly gay woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. Reporting second-quarter results, she noted, “We face significant headwinds across the agricultural economy.” Farmers are under financial strain, and consumer food choices are evolving. Ford is factoring those changes and other variables into the business model as she looks to expand the mega-cooperative.
Ever since founding her private equity firm LFE Capital in 1999, Leslie Frecon has established a strong identity as an investor in and advocate for female-owned and -led businesses. Her interest in women in business is obvious from her work with Minneapolis-based WomenVenture and the Minnesota Women’s Economic Roundtable. Her firm has also provided growth equity to emerging companies in the health and wellness sector, such as the Big Know. Frecon’s strategies also seem to be working for investors: After fully investing in a pair of previous growth funds, she launched a third in 2016, seeking to raise an impressive $75 million, some $21.4 million of which had already been sold at the time of SEC filing.
Luz Maria Frias
A lawyer, Luz Maria Frias joined the YWCA Minneapolis as CEO two years ago. She’s a veteran racial-equity advocate, and expanding opportunities for people of color is among her top priorities at the YWCA. The nonprofit, with a history of convening people to discuss issues of race, is going one step further. Beginning in December, the YWCA is launching the “It’s Time to Act!” series to focus on concrete steps people can take to support inclusion. Frias also is increasing understanding about race and social justice issues as a principal on MPR’s Counter Stories podcast.
Oppidan Investment Co.
Blake Hastings led the local office of CBRE Group Inc., the world’s largest commercial real estate services firm, for nearly six years; Los Angeles-based CBRE is a global operation with a large local presence of more than 225 real estate pros here. Hastings made a big change this fall, joining Excelsior-based Oppidan as the firm’s president. Oppidan is much smaller than CBRE, but the development and construction company is seeing strong growth, expanding beyond its track record in retail projects to multifamily, industrial, and senior housing. Oppidan owner and founder Joe Ryan remains CEO, but Hastings brings deep industry intelligence to help steer the firm’s continued growth.
Hyde Development isn’t a big name on the level of Opus or Ryan in development circles, but it was part of one of the largest recent redevelopment projects in the Twin Cities, Northern Stacks, on a 122-acre Superfund site in Fridley. Paul Hyde co-founded the Minneapolis company in 2012 with his father, Mac, who died in 2013. (The pair previously ran Real Estate Recycling.) At Northern Stacks, Hyde and joint venture partner M.A. Mortenson Co. built a series of buildings in phases that totaled 1.75 million square feet of industrial space, which is nearly full. Many saw the site as too large and challenging; Hyde had a vision and rolled up his sleeves.
Senior vice president
Colliers International Minneapolis-St. Paul
John Johannson was a college hockey standout for the University of Wisconsin before getting into the commercial real estate business. Today he’s known and respected as one of the best, most experienced retail real estate brokers. But he also has skin in the game as a developer and owner of his own portfolio. Johannson was a development partner with Minneapolis-based CSM Corp. on Central Park Commons in Eagan, a 434,000-square-foot retail center completed in 2017. The successful project, anchored by a Hy-Vee grocery store, is one of the largest local retail developments in recent years.
Spoon and Stable, Bellecour
Twin Cities native Gavin Kaysen made a name for himself as a rising star chef in the New York City kitchens of chef Daniel Boulud before making the utterly Minnesotan choice to return home as middle age approached. His first effort, Spoon & Stable in the North Loop, was named by Food & Wine as one of the 40 Most Important Restaurants of the Past 40 Years for its Midwestern approachability and ambitious fare. Bellecour, in Wayzata, his riff on a traditional French bistro, is the classic yet exacting spot that Wayzata realized it always needed but never had. Kaysen, this year’s James Beard Best Chef Midwest, just announced his next venture: Demi, a small tasting-menu restaurant, to open in the North Loop in 2019.
Ann Kim and her husband and business partner, Conrad Leifur, have pioneered a series of Twin Cities restaurants of brilliant originality. First was Pizzeria Lola in South Minneapolis’ Armatage neighborhood, with its signature French copper pizza oven; then came the evocative, precise, and also pizza-driven Young Joni in Northeast Minneapolis, the latter incorporating more of Kim’s Korean heritage fare. The couple announced this summer that they are taking over the now-shuttered Lucia’s space in Uptown for a Mexican concept to open in 2019. With a new direction in a part of town that has become unfriendly to serious restaurants, the coming year will likely be Ann Kim’s most ambitious yet.
City of St. Cloud
In a period of divided politics, St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis is pursuing a path to unity. The former Republican state senator, running a predominantly white community of 68,000, invites people of all backgrounds, including many Somalis—whose growing presence in the city has been the source of some tension—to his home for dinner and conversation. Kleis and a majority of the City Council opposed efforts to ban refugee resettlement. He is one of the most accessible public officials in the U.S., holding weekly town hall meetings. Kleis has run unopposed three times. In 2019, he’ll be exploring ways to replace lost jobs at the doomed Electrolux plant.
Spawned by the University of Minnesota’s Learning Technologies Media Lab in 2012, Flipgrid (formerly known as Vidku) aimed to modernize the classroom with an app that lets students and teachers create and share videos on all kinds of subjects. Under Jim Leslie’s leadership, the Minneapolis startup made the strategic decision in 2016 to go all-in on the education market, ditching its plan to create a stand-alone version of its service for businesses. The refocus set up Flipgrid to be acquired by Microsoft in 2018, merging it into the tech giant’s suite of office products. With its service now free for schools, Leslie will usher Flipgrid into a new era fueled by Microsoft resources.
Melissa Kjolsing Lynch
Just about everyone in the local startup community knows Melissa Kjolsing Lynch, who previously led the MN Cup entrepreneurial competition. She served as the founding manager of the Lunar Startups business incubator for American Public Media. And now she helms her own startup, St. Paul-based Recovree. The company’s software is designed to help addiction peer-support counselors stay organized, manage their time, and connect with clients. The company is off to a good start. Recovree won the Impact Ventures division of the MN Cup competition this year and also received an award from the Carlson Family Foundation as the top woman-led business in the competition.
Founder of 16-year-old Minneapolis digital agency Clockwork, Nancy Lyons has built a national reputation as an expert on technology, entrepreneurship, and workplace culture. Compelled to make a difference beyond the office, she’s become increasingly political, publicly championing politicians and points of view that promote inclusion, access, and equality. She emceed the Women’s March MN in 2017, she’s chair emeritus of the national board of directors of the Family Equality Council, and she’s always willing to show up for LGBTQ causes. (Follow her @nylons on Twitter for daily doses of insight, outrage, humanity, and humor.) Lyons created the MN Tech Diversity Pledge and leads regular discussions about how companies large and small can become more inclusive. “Representation matters,” she says.
Medical Alley Association
When Shaye Mandle took over the leadership of the local biomedical trade association in 2014, it was called LifeScience Alley and viewed mainly as the political voice of the state’s big medical device makers. But a 2016 rebranding sought to reconnect the now-renamed Medical Alley Association with a broader cross-section of the med-tech industry, including buzzworthy upstarts such as the digital health sector, and to facilitate new research. Now Mandle is greatly expanding Medical Alley’s visibility with its partnership in the Manova Summit, a new “global expo” touting Minnesota’s life sciences expertise to a worldwide audience.
Bind Benefits Inc.
Tony Miller is a classic serial entrepreneur. His new company, Bind Benefits, offers “on-demand health insurance.” The concept calls for enrollees to be able to add benefits beyond core coverage as needed. Miller was co-founder and CEO of Definity Health, which started in 1998; UnitedHealth Group acquired it for $300 million in 2004. He then founded Carol Corp. in 2006 and led it until its sale to UHG’s Optum. He’s also managing partner of Lemhi Ventures, a health care-focused venture capital firm (and Bind investor). In June, Bind announced it had raised $70 million in financing. Some big players clearly have faith in Miller: Bind’s backers include UnitedHealth.
2019 Minneapolis Final Four Organizing Committee
Now that the Super Bowl is over, Minneapolis’ next big sports event is the NCAA Final Four, and come April, the city will once again be inundated with tens of thousands of sports fans, celebrities, and wall-to-wall media exposure. Kate Mortenson rightly deserves the lion’s share of the credit, first as the leader of the bidding team that landed rights in 2014 and now as head of the local organizing committee. Her achievement is impressive for many reasons, not the least of which is showing once again that a cold-weather city like Minneapolis can land the biggest sporting spectacles under the right leadership.
Projecting Apple’s explosive success years before the iPhone and predicting its move into the living room with the AppleTV six years before its announcement made Gene Munster a legendary figure among tech investors worldwide. But it’s only more recently—after leaving investment firm Piper Jaffray after 21 years and launching his technology-focused research and venture capital firm Loup Ventures in 2017—that Munster has become a fixture in business news as he shares his takes on Tesla, Apple, and the tech industry at large. Munster’s controversial take on Target is a function of his knowledge of Amazon, which he sees inevitably needing a brick-and mortar strategy beyond Whole Foods. He sees Target as the most logical acquisition. In an exclusive interview with TCB, Munster detailed what a high-tech future will look like across America and how he expected it to further change the retail landscape.
Connector, brand builder, and champion of innovators, Erin Newkirk sold her social correspondence app, Red Stamp, to Taylor Corp. in 2013. She’s an advisory board member to three local companies and one of the most sought-after coffee dates in town. Newkirk spent most of 2016 and 2017 at Bright Health, helping to build the foundation for a simplified health care plan. In March, she joined St. Paul-based Local Crate, which is working to marry convenience with healthy eating and a sustainable supply chain. In each city Local Crate expands to, meal kits are prepared locally, connecting growers, makers, and chefs with distributors. “The meal kit is the what,” Newkirk says, “not the why or the how.”
Republic, Red River Kitchen, Delicata Pizza, Bar Brigade, Spring CafÃ©
Matty O’Reilly has never met an empty space in a new complex that has appealed to him. Instead, the fiercely independent restaurateur chooses to pick up struggling locations and rehab them into winning concepts. The most recent turnaround—the restaurant at Como Park pavilion, which is now clipping along as Spring CafÃ©—fell into his lap due to his reputation. He executes these flips so consistently and effectively that he’s quietly operating six restaurants, a couple of food trucks, and a liquor catering truck, while still looking for other opportunities. O’Reilly has a knack for reading a neighborhood and, along with his culinary partner, chef J.D. Fratzke, has figured out how to create interesting but affordable menus that garner a loyal following, wherever they land.
Director of economic development and placemaking
Destination Medical Center Economic Development Authority
After 20 years as CEO of the St. Paul Riverfront Corp., which drove the revitalization of the capital city’s central business district, Patrick Seeb is helping make over another downtown. This time, it’s Rochester’s turn, as the city transforms itself via the $5.6 billion Destination Medical Center initiative, a project that will take 20 years to complete. Since 2015, Seeb has been guiding the transformation of central Rochester around several “subdistricts” that interweave new commercial and residential development with public amenities like parks and trails.
Jeremy Segal’s business has exploded since he transitioned his company from wholesale to e-commerce in 2015. Revenues doubled from $10 million in 2014 to $20 million in 2017, and this year he projects $35 million. Based in Eagan, Proozy is a daily deals website similar to Groupon. The company sells brand-name golf, fitness, and outdoor apparel and accessories at discounts. This month, Segal will open a retail store and Crossfit gym at Proozy’s new 50,000-square-foot headquarters and grow his team to more than 120 employees. For 2019, he’s focusing on adding private-label brands.
In late 2017, Lee Wallace became Peace Coffee’s owner, after enlisting the help of an outside financer and buying it from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. In Wallace’s first year, 11 staff members were added. This year, the three-location, $7 million-plus business added a new store in downtown Minneapolis. Peace Coffee is working to double its roasting capacity to boost retail coffee sales. Wallace has also helped ramp up efforts to promote sustainable, ethically sourced coffee trade. Through a grant set up in 2016, the company started supporting projects by farmers in Peru, Honduras, and Ethiopia that address climate change. Wallace plans to continue that program and other mission-based efforts, as well as continue expanding the company’s retail presence, which currently includes Cub Foods, Lunds & Byerlys, and Coborn’s.