Minnesota is home to more “Fortune 500’s companies per capita than any other state,” according to Positively Minnesota. The state has also been a magnet for budding tech start-ups, especially in the last few years. Local (un)conference, Minnebar has been giving a platform and voice to the forefathers and mothers of the tech and design community for almost 7 years. This year’s conference, (held Friday at Best Buy Headquarters in Richfield,) boasted higher attendance than prior years. After selling out of nearly 1200 tickets, (a rise of 33% since 2010,) Minnebar packed the halls of local giant, Best Buy and offered passionate users of all ages a full schedule of discussion topics including: application development, programming, social media, branding and career development.
“We tried to do a couple of things differently this year compared to prior years. The Uptake was onsite streaming the largest session and others are going to be placed on YouTube. I loved seeing everyone together, actively engaged in technology and networking; the energy and excitement in the air is the best part.”
Pain points and funding were large emphasis of this year’s (un) conference. TechdotMN was on-site to facilitate a fundraising session before lunch. While presenting the panel, Jeff Pesek and Mike Bollinger utilized hash-tagging for audience participation. Some staggering numbers ignited the conversation. In 2010 alone, Minnesota tech start-up investments totalled $30M. In the last 45 days $2.62M has been raised for four, individual companies in Minnesota. The companies featured in the panel, (Zencoder, PedalBrain, CaSTT, Workface, INC) shared that most their financing, (a median of 75%,) was raised in Minnesota, alone.
Who attended Minnebar? High-profile attendees from the local and national market included former Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, whose passionate influence as President over the MHTA did not go un-noticed. While sitting in a session about Women in Technology, she spoke up to the future of women in STEM Careers and beyond stating, “Women are key to Minnesota’s tech future. We need to inspire and engage.” Led by Jacque Urick and Liz Tupper from SieEnt, co-founders of SieEnt, (a gaming company specifically targeted at women,) both Jacque and Liz advocated for more women’s voices in technology. Only months away from launching their first game,SieEnt was on-site to facilitate the discussion around females in the tech world and also to spread the word about their upcoming launch. During the session, (which focused mainly on lack of women’s access to technology jobs,) Teresa Boardman spoke up. “I can do anything I need to. I’m no longer willing to fight the glass ceiling.” That sentiment sparked an even larger discussion about how women in Minnesota are shaping trends for the nation.
“We’re giving most women the opportunity that they have not yet experienced in their real lives. In doing so, we are having them discover something new about themselves. SieEnt takes the often underutilized world of gaming and we empower women to strategize and role play to create a better world.” - Jacque Urick
As the morning turned into evening, other technology start-ups vocalized their brand and messaging to capture new audience and hires. Look no further than Chalk, a national application development company who was on-site to learn and advocate. Nic Shlueter, co-founder and former producer of Taxi Magic, spoke about clients such as GM, Conde Nast, “It’s simple, we found the right time and projects to form a business. The rest is history.” Chalk’s powerhouse team includes co-founders Matt “Charpie” Charpentier and Jason Hummel, whose work has been featured on Stephan Colbert and GE.
Local entrepreneur Tim Erickson has high aspirations for Cliq.ly which promises to be, “Reddit for brands.” With the launch of Living Home, (Cliq.ly’s first working model,) it appears that while Social Media offers a text-based sharing program, this is entirely visual. “Basically, it’s google on steroids,” Erickson explained. Offering a combined space for Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and more, the application allows the user to feast visually while connecting to other, like-minded individuals. A powerful aggregator, Cliq.ly could be a force to be reckoned with.
Minneapolis’ own, IPHouse was on-site offering free notebooks to Minnebar attendees and supporting the message of bringing more start-up and technology funding to Minneapolis. Up and comer, BidNear.Us who TechdotMN claims as, “affordable, efficient and environmentally friendly localized services,” networked during sessions and explained it’s re-launch through CEO Colin Lee.
“Our name needed to be about finding affordable services.This is about addressing choice and competition arguments by providing efficiency. BidNear.Us is about finding the pain point of our consumers, which surprisingly isn’t about money, but safety.” - Colin Lee
“There is so much how-to information out on the Web, so I tend to go to the sessions on esoteric subjects that might have no immediate application– but are fascinating nonetheless, such as computer-brain interfaces or the dynamics of innovation networks.”
Clearly, Minnebar offered it all. With the highest recorded numbers in 2011, Minnebar promises to be a catalyst in unleashing the dramatic potential Minnesota still holds for expansion in the tech world.
This article was featured on Pollen / MinnPost.