Six St. Paul Businesses Chosen for American Public Media’s Inaugural Lunar Startups Program
Members of Lunar Startups' first cohort. (Photo courtesy of Lunar Startups)

Six St. Paul Businesses Chosen for American Public Media’s Inaugural Lunar Startups Program

The participants in the business incubator, which has at least $1 million in funding support, span several industries and demonstrate the program’s focus on leadership diversity.

American Public Media’s recently launched business incubator Lunar Startups has announced its inaugural class of participants. Funded in part by a $1 million investment from the Miami-based John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Lunar Startups will support six St. Paul-based startups for its first 12-month program.

With Lunar Startups’ stated focus on entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities, the majority of the companies are led by women or people of color.

“This impressive group of entrepreneurs reflect the strength, talent, and promise of St. Paul’s diverse startup community,” said Jai Winston, Knight Foundation program director for St. Paul, in a statement.

Approximately 45 entrepreneurs and/or businesses applied for the program, yet the following were accepted in:

26 Letters: a data insights and analytics firm aimed at workforce development
Asiya: a social activism group aimed at increasing sports participation rates among Muslim girls by developing activewear that suits their cultural customs
Clutch SOS: a safety tech company creating virtual witnesses and other tools to help people in dangerous situations
Dojour: a calendar platform which organizations can use to post events
Monicat Data: a data management and technology solutions firm geared toward the creative economy
Take 12: a crowdfunding service themed around friends and family helping people with unpaid maternity leave struggles

“Our inaugural cohort represents the broad definition of entrepreneurship. These six high-growth startups are tackling real problems from health to safety to equity,” said Melissa Kjolsing Lynch, founding managing director of Lunar Startups, in prepared remarks. Kjolsing Lynch for years led MN Cup, the largest statewide startup competition in the country.

“We’re excited to surround them with intentional, unique and targeted resources to help them drive growth,” Kjolsing Lynch added.

The reveal of the chosen incubator participants comes just five months after American Public Media, parent of Minnesota Public Radio, announced the creation of Lunar Startups.

Kjolsing Lynch told TCB that the six companies in APM’s program were selected because they had already made strong strides within their respective marketplaces.

“It’s exciting for us,” said Kjolsing Lynch. “Bringing together six companies that are kind of within the same stride of each other so they can learn and share best practices as they’re continuing to go after customers and scale their businesses.”

Lunar Startups will be housed at the Glen Nelson Center in St. Paul’s Osborn370 building. The Cohort 1 participants will receive benefits of stewardship and team development, ongoing visibility, and education throughout the program. Their success will be measured based on growth in that time, including customers gained and milestones achieved.

“We’d love to see them at a point where they’re raising a significant amount of money to grow – or are fueled by customer growth and don’t even need to do that,” said Kjolsing Lynch. “[We want them to] feel like they’re on a really good trajectory to hit their next major milestone.”

Melissa Kjolsing Lynch (left) and Lunar Startups program manager Danielle Steer. (Photo courtesy of Lunar Startups) 

Winston said in prepared remarks that they hope the cohort will help drive growth and development in St. Paul, and Kjolsing Lynch noted she thinks companies were drawn to Lunar Startups be part of the ground floor experience of building out St. Paul’s quiet startup scene.

The cohort will begin its incubator term September 4.