As Twin Cities Startup Week gets underway, attendees across the state will have the opportunity to connect with thousands of other entrepreneurs, investors and corporate execs — all in matter of days.
Cramming that much networking into one week is part of the allure that's made the multiday event one of the most popular of its kind in the nation.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) has partnered with a Twin Cities startup to extend that weeklong networking capability to 365 days of the year.
In July, Launch Minnesota — an initiative through DEED that supports the state's early-stage businesses — introduced Minnesota Exchange, a free online platform where people starting a business anywhere in Minnesota are matched with experts, mentors and investors. It was built on software created by Kinetic, a Minnetonka tech company that developed a social network where introductions are curated between business professionals of similar interests.
Nearly 150 people have registered for Minnesota Exchange, which automatically makes weekly introductions based on a user's availability.
"We're trying to find tools and trying to increase the impact and sustainability of our startup ecosystem," said Neela Mollgaard, Launch Minnesota's executive director. "This is a tool our startups can use and our entrepreneur support organizations can use, and those across Minnesota that want to engage in our startup community."
In June of 2020, just months after he launched his company's viable product, the state contacted Kinetic co-founder Kris Eul about using his software. After learning of Kinetic's progress in the ensuing months, a deal moved forward.
"It's helping create additional access and opportunities," Eul said. "It doesn't necessarily matter where you may live or reside. That's one of the big barriers we continuously hear, especially for networking and connecting with others in an industry and others who can help."
This past April, Kinetic was awarded a $6,800 innovation grant from Launch Minnesota to help develop its software. Kinetic so far has more than 1,000 members. Launch Minnesota, which started in 2019, is one of the startup's largest clients.
"Kinetic is solving a problem that we were facing as a state," Mollgaard said. "What they solved was providing a platform where we connect the expertise needed for our startups to succeed. There was not another software platform or another way that I could find that would provide the solution that we needed."