Twin Cities Startup Week in Review
Attendees and participants interact at Beta Showcase, a key Twin Cities Startup Week event. (Photo courtesy of Beta.MN)

Twin Cities Startup Week in Review

Participants in what was the Twin Cities’ biggest startup week ever weigh in on the success, opportunities, and growing pains.

After a week that saw hundreds of people lined up outside First Avenue not for a rock band, but for tech startups, organizers and participants of Twin Cities Startup Week are basking in the afterglow.

“I think the main message is we have full-on arrived,” says Reed Robinson, executive director of Beta.MN, the startup support agency that has organized TCSW since its 2014 start.

Numbers are still being tallied, but efforts to draw more out-of-town participation and venture capital clearly paid off this year, Robinson says. Among other big accomplishments: the first Blacks in Technology event helped to address diversity challenges, and more corporations, from Ecolab and Cargill to U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, participated. “All of a sudden I think people have embraced this idea that Startup Week is for more than startups.”

Now, the goal is to spread the word nationally. “Twin Cities Startup Week is a great barometer for a lot of the activity that’s taking place here, and that’s the whole point: to make people aware of the incredible companies and talent,” Reed says. “I’m confident that we’re past the point of: ‘I’m interested I this, but I’ll wait until it gets bigger.’ We are here, and it’s established.”

From crowds to collaboration, venture capital to corporate involvement, TCSW participants share their observations.

“Twin Cities Startup Week 2018 was wonderful — in the quantity and quality of presentations, in the many engaging experiences, and in the mood of the participants. The entrepreneurial community is energized! It gives hope that the inventive glory days of Minnesota in the 1960s and 1970s will become a cultural norm again. Our social and economic future depends on innovation and entrepreneurship.” —Dan Wallace, marketing and brand strategist, Idea Food Inc.

“Minnesota has staked its claim to being the problem solving capital of the new economy.  Twin Cities Startup Week 2018 showcased the talent and energy that has made our region diverse, resilient and able to tackle some of the most complicated challenges we face including feeding the world sustainable and keeping people healthier.  The collaboration and partnership to bring Food & Ag Ideas week and Manova together was inspiring and a tiny bit overwhelming—and to get great outcomes, you need to take big at-bats!” —Jennifer Alstad, founder and CEO, bswing

“The number of out of town VCs who came in for the week is a huge change.  When we were raising money for Red Stamp 10 years ago, you would never bump into someone from out of town; you went to them.  I was probably introduced to more non-Twin Cities VCs than locals this week.  Investors are paying more attention nationally because of the number of success stories happening here.” —Dan Wick, co-founder, Omnia Fishing (featured at Beta.mn)

“By the time I got around to checking out the schedule, most of the events that I was the most interested in were listed as ‘full’ — which is both good for the community (lots of interested people!) and bad for me. I did make it to MinneDemo… it felt like there was a lot of energy surrounding the whole week. I think as a local full-time digital agency practitioner who is also really interested in supporting startups in the area, the amount of programming over the week was a little overwhelming. I probably would have needed to take the whole week off from my full-time job to be able to attend all of the sessions that interested me. I would love to see some of that content spread out over the course of the year, but I also think there’s a lot of power in generating excitement into a condensed week of events.” —Micah Spieler, director of experience design, Clockwork

“The side hustle movement is real.  I was taken with the number of people I met that have a full-time gig and are doing something on the side and taking the time to learn more at TCSW events to help and grown the side hustle. I was left wondering, why are they not looking to learn more for their full-time gig? It would be nice to have seen more organic presence by leaders and individuals involved with some of the biggest corporate companies in town. It feels like the ideas in our startup world are broad, and that we are failing as a community to dig deeper and support deeper in the categories that we can really own and grow.”  —Alexis Walsko, founder and visionary, Lola Red PR

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