On Wednesday, July 24th, just as the end of a bustling day neared, passionate entrepreneurs, investors, and corporate innovators made their way to the Palace Theater in Saint Paul. Inside, people mingled, grabbed drinks and food, and listened to music being spun by a DJ.
Excitement radiated from the large theater. It was a big night, the start of a revolution in the entrepreneurship and startup culture in the Greater MSP region. It was the public launch of Forge North: a coalition of many different people and organizations working together to create bold goals for innovation in the metro area.
By 5 p.m., the theater started to get loud, bustling with music and conversation. I wandered around the theater as people networked and got to know one another before the program began. Investors, corporate leaders, and entrepreneurs were among the mix. They were from different companies, including the Bush Foundation, Medtronic, TripleTree, and the Glen Nelson Center.
They all had the same goal: to create a stable ecosystem that will support and provide resources to startups and entrepreneurs. All the people I talked to expressed how strong the Greater MSP region business community is, especially because it’s flourishing with many Fortune 500 companies, but that isn’t a reason to stop trying to thrive. Our ecosystem needs a diverse set of businesses and innovators, and they were passionate that the success of Forge North will contribute to the region’s success.
I talked to a leader from Capita3 (an early-stage venture capital fund investing in women startups) She has worked on growing this community since 2011. The evolution from then to now has been tremendous, she notes. The biggest change she’s seen is the recognition of how important it is to support and grow a vibrant startup ecosystem. Additionally, she said the connection to resources and programs to support startups is something that was nonexistent before Forge North introduced its Resource Compass.
Another leader from Glen Nelson Center (an organization that accelerates tech and media startups) talked about the big picture of the Greater MSP region in the next upcoming years. He wants to solve the puzzle of how to attract the best and brightest startups to the region. He also commented on how Forge North lays a fertile ground for creating the next big company that will eventually generate jobs in the Greater MSP area.
Someone from a government partner expressed how important it was to include Sustainable Development Goals from the United Nations in this startup community. Working in food business development at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, she conveyed her hopes that all companies—from startups to Fortune 500 companies—think about the global challenges we face in poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice when building their companies and growing Greater MSP’s business community.
Whether they’ve been working to build the startup community for years or just learned about Forge North that night, these innovators, entrepreneurs, and corporate leaders were no doubt passionate about where Forge North will lead them in the future.
Selena Thor, student, University of Minnesota, CLA Agency