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Videotect continues to bring levity to serious design issues

Now in its fourth year, Architecture Minnesota’s popular Videotect contest, created “to bring more voices and more creativity into public debates about key built-environment issues,” is getting a bit of a makeover. The basic parameters remain the same: Inspired by the contest’s open-ended, sometimes offbeat prompt related to architecture, design, or the use of public space in the Twin Cities—this year it’s “Two people walk into a bar…”—entrants create informative, entertaining videos.

This year, the entries must be between 30 and 90 seconds in length, which is shorter than in the past. “The first year, entrants had four weeks to create two- to four-minute videos,” says Chris Hudson, Architecture Minnesota’s editor and Videotect’s originator, “and they just about killed themselves” getting it done. That first contest—the topic was the Minneapolis skyway system—produced some memorable videos, though, including a hilarious 3D rap battle about streets vs. the skyways.

Also this year, in addition to a shorter main entry, contestants can submit as many six-second Vine videos as they like. The ultra-shorts must promote contestants’ main entries in some fashion, but don’t come with any other restrictions. “Vine? Everybody’s doing it! So we wanted to, too,” Hudson says.

“Two people walk into a bar…” has inspired entries that focus on design’s power to promote quality social interaction in bars, cafes, and eating establishments. All 15 videos are available for public viewing in the Videotect section of Architecture Minnesota’s website. Notable entries include “Sharing Space,” a heartwarming series of drawings that re-imagines bars as “impromptu performance spaces;” “Taproom Roadshow,” a humorous send-up of the PBS classic, set at Minneapolis’s Victory 44 restaurant; a time-lapse video of Alchemy Architects’ design and construction of the tiny, circular Bang Brewery in Saint Paul.

The contest winners and runners-up are chosen by a rotating panel of notable judges: Top prize is $2,000 and runners-up receive $500 each. There’s also a $1000 Viewers Choice Winner created through public voting on the website. This year’s judges include Omar Ansari, founder of Surly Brewing Company, who has become the panel’s resident expert on the business of socializing, an architect from Gensler, and two local film experts. “We’ve gotten lucky [with the judges],” Hudson says. “We ask people with expertise in film or in the theme, and they're generous enough to say yes.”

WCCO’s hilarious Jason Derusha hosts this year’s Videotect presentation on March 13 in the Walker Art Center’s Cinema. During the event, videos are shown, the audience roars with laughter, judges astutely comment, and attendees hobnob. Hudson wants Videotect to be about much more than a night of conversation and laughter, though.

Videotect welcomes submissions from design and architecture experts, but the contest’s true aim is to get regular folks talking about the important, if sometimes dry and complex, issues that vex people who work in the business. Architecture Minnesota originally planned to organize a more formal design competition for younger architects, but soon discarded that idea in favor of an open-to-all video contest with looser rules and an offbeat approach to weighty questions.

He hasn’t looked back. “I think Videotect's biggest achievement is simply making a subject matter as intimidating as urban and architectural design a whole lot of fun,” says Hudson. “What the videos have lacked in sophisticated design commentary, they've more than made up for in entertainment value…[that’s] a very valuable thing.”

Source: Chris Hudson
Writer: Brian Martucci

Art Leadership Program a win-win-win

Corporate sponsors have long played an integral role in the development and dissemination of art and culture. OST USA, an IT company with a 125-employee office in the North Loop's TractorWorks Building, is further advancing corporate sponsorship.

As the highest-profile partner of the Art Leadership Program (ALP), an ongoing collaboration that provides emerging artists with resources, guidance, and access to markets, OST supplies studio space (ArtLab 111) near the building’s loading dock for the dozen or so artists-in-residence it has already sponsored (usually for three to six months), and a lobby gallery (Gallery One) that regularly hosts exhibitions and openings for ALP’s participants.

“OST is the quintessential corporate partner,” says Ron Ridgeway, ALP’s founder and chief visionary, who launched the partnership. Ridgeway is also a mixed-media artist and corporate branding consultant. “We maintain a meaningful venue [for our artists], as well as curatorial services and placement… as exhibitions are becoming an art form in themselves. These days, it’s all about the experience.”

One ALP alumni launched from the program into high-profile commissions. In early 2012, local artist Elizabeth Simonson displayed her “systems-based” installations at BMW of Minnetonka’s Gallery One—an off-site ALP exhibition space. That same year, she built on a commission for the Walker Art Center’s lobby with a $25,000 fellowship grant from the McKnight Foundation.

Simonson “set the benchmark for our program,” says Ridgeway, but there’s nothing stopping future ALP participants and residents from notching their own victories. Ridgeway describes ALP’s corporate sponsorship model as a classic win-win-win: Artists get funding and market exposure, corporations get the positive PR that accompanies art patronage, and business districts or neighborhoods gain valuable physical assets.

“What’s been most beneficial [about working with ALP] is just getting our work out there,” says Twin Cities artist Booka B (aka Adam Booker), a recent graduate of Metropolitan State University who is showing new work with Lindsay Splichal, a recent graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, beginning March 6 in Gallery One. But creating art is just one piece of the puzzle, he adds: “You also have to connect with the community.”

Traditionally, companies that invested in art curated permanent collections that would eventually “gather dust,” as Ridgeway puts it. The rotating installations or exhibitions put on by ALP’s visiting or resident artists, in contrast, feel like organic additions to offices, building lobbies, and other public spaces, he adds.

ALP has also hosted an exhibition at International Market Square and is currently working with potential tenants of Nicollet Avenue’s 9’s on the Mall. “We hope to build a sustainable model for this type of partnership,” Ridgeway says.

Sources: Ron Ridgeway, Art Leadership Program; Adam Booker
Writer: Brian Martucci

WholeMe launches line of healthy products

For most people, a diabetes diagnosis is a wake-up call. For WholeMe co-founders Mary Kosir and Krista Steinbach, it was a business opportunity.

In the mid-2000s, Kosir’s husband developed adult-onset Type I diabetes—an unusual, but not totally unheard of, condition that progresses differently than the age-related insulin resistance we know as Type II diabetes.

The news forced the family to eliminate gluten, grains, and most dairy products from its diet. Kosir embraced the new restrictions, sharing experimental cereal and bar recipes with friends, neighbors, and associates at her local CrossFit gym.

That’s where she met Steinbach, the former pastry chef at Minneapolis’ Bachelor Farmer. Steinbach was coming off a lifestyle change of her own: In 2011, she’d competed in (and won) a 30-day “food challenge” that required contestants to eliminate refined sugar, gluten, grains, and certain other substances from their diets. By the contest’s end date, her chronic gastrointestinal issues had vanished and her energy levels were higher than they’d been in years.

“The challenge taught me how much food impacted my daily life,” she says, “and pushed me to learn more about nutrition.”

The two women had a lot in common, so they officially joined forces in early 2013. Kosir’s first creation, the energy-dense DateMe bar, was already making waves—“Everyone was telling me to start selling them,” she says—but Steinbach brought years of culinary expertise to the table. In addition to the DateMe bar, the duo created the WakeMe cocoa bar and EatMe cereal.

And so WholeMe was born. Thanks to their CrossFit connections, the co-founders had a ready-made market of active, health-conscious clients. Kosir and Steinbach also have stocking arrangements with gyms across the metro area, and they’re looking to find other places, like yoga studios and food co-ops, that attract a similar clientele. “We want to be closer to our customers,” says Steinbach, not tucked away on a shelf at a big-box store.

WholeMe’s bars and cereals are made from whole foods that haven’t been treated or altered in any way. “Our goal is to create relatively simple products where taste comes first,” says Kosir. “At the same time, we need to be mindful of what we’re putting in our bodies.” She’s quick to note, wryly, that WholeMe’s only preservative “is a refrigerator.”

Kosir and Steinbach think they’ve found a sweet spot for their products. “There’s lots of room to grow in this segment,” says Kosir. Many “healthy” foods don’t taste very good, she argues, and most tasty foods aren’t that healthy.

The two women hope WholeMe’s simple promise—healthy, delicious food for all—resonates beyond Minnesota’s borders. Less than a year after their official launch, they’ve already shipped to gyms and stores in North Carolina, California, and Hawaii. Their burgeoning e-store puts the rest of the world at their fingertips. In March, they hope to make some new friends at the Natural Foods Expo West in Anaheim, California.

It doesn’t hurt that they have a cheeky, catchy brand campaign and an experienced chef. They plan to expand their “gear concept” with more merchandise options, like T-shirts and hats, says Kosir. They expect WholeMe’s “beta testing” arm, branded NewMe, to produce seasonal or limited-release products exclusively for online sale. If a NewMe creation is well received, says Steinbach, it could become a permanent addition to the lineup.

Ultimately, Kosir and Steinbach would like to see WakeMe, DateMe, and EatMe—and whatever else they dream up—in the likes of Whole Foods, Lund’s, and Byerly’s.

Their ambition doesn’t come cheap. To cover their travel expenses and fund WholeMe’s ongoing expansion, they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign that aims to raise $40,000 by February 24. To encourage participation, Kosir and Steinbach plan to give donors dibs on the first-ever NewMe creation.

Source: Mary Kosir
Writer: Brian Martucci

CoCo starts new school for "inspired and dangerous"

For some time now, CoCo has set the standard for creative and professional collaboration in the Twin Cities. The coworking space recently opened its third location, in Uptown, and now boasts well over 100 startups, creative firms, designers, and developers in its membership rolls.

Two of CoCo’s founders, Kyle Coolbroth and Don Ball, have launched a brand-new project, Jump! A School by CoCo. The school aims to actively develop participants' creative ambitions rather than passively providing a place for them to play out.

“Since starting CoCo four years ago…we've seen many [business owners] succeed. We've also seen many fail,” says Ball. “It's really sad to see the pain that someone goes through when they can't make their dream a reality.”

Part motivational seminar, part team-building exercise, and part business incubator, Jump! aims to give entrepreneurs a head start and reduce the likelihood of “preventable failure.” Ultimately, says Ball, the school can fill a gaping need in the region’s creative economy.

“I'm not sure what else is like Jump! school,” says Ball, although he identifies the School of Life in London and Chris Gillebeau’s World Domination Summit as kindred spirits. “[Currently], entrepreneur education focuses on skills—how to program, design, manage a business, pitch to investors, and so on. All of that is important, depending on what you're up to. But are you up to the right thing? We didn't see anyone helping people figure out that fundamental question.”

Jump!’s mission—to give anyone wanting to launch a radical career shift, charity, business, or other special project the self-confidence, motivation, and practical tools necessary to take the plunge into the startup world—is embodied in three course offerings. The first, Springboard, is a 90-minute crash course in Jump!’s philosophy and approach. The $50 class, which will happen at least once per month through June, promises to “leave [attendees] inspired and dangerous.”

Intrigued Springboard attendees—or truly motivated folks who want to dive right into an intensive curriculum—can sign up for FlightPlan, a two-day, $500 marathon that encourages attendees to strip away external expectations, outgrow learned responses to stress, and discover “what truly activates [their] passion and imagination.”

Graduates of FlightPlan may move on to Solo Club, a practical, immersive experience that runs for 90 days and results in the creation of a formal business plan or creative project. More detail about this offering will emerge as Jump!’s student body grows.

Where does this all lead? Ball and Coolbroth haven’t even taught a class yet—the first Springboard meeting is scheduled for January 20—but the future looks bright. The Twin Cities area has no shortage of creative talent, and Jump! has no direct competitors. Should the school pan out, there’s also nothing stopping Jump! from exporting its model to other creative regions.

“We want to help people zero in on what is truly motivating because it comes from deep inside,” says Ball. “If you build your life's work on that foundation, then you're much more likely to be successful in that work. And everybody from customers to partners to investors [gravitate] to people who are coming from a place of power and authenticity.”

Source: Don Ball, co-founder, Jump! A School by CoCo
Writer: Brian Martucci

Hackmobile snags top prize from Ford

Last month, a team from Twin Cities Maker, a nonprofit organization that runs a community workshop known as the Hack Factory, snagged the $10,000 grand prize in the Ultimate Maker Vehicle Challenge. Ford Motor Company and Make Magazine sponsored the contest. 

The challenge was to reinvent the Ford Transit Connect commercial vehicle to equip makers on the go. Ten teams around the country participated in the contest, by invitation from Ford. 

“Makers were given an imaginary budget and certain build constraints, while being encouraged to define what is 'ultimate' to them as a blueprint for a potential vehicle,” the Ford website reads. 

The public voted for standout designs in an online platform during the first round, which lasted nearly a month. From there, judges from Ford and Make evaluated several finalists. The Twin Cities Maker’s Hackmobile, as the group calls it, rose to the top.  

Now, Ford plans to build the vehicle that came from team members Jon Atkinson, Becca Steffen, Riley Harrison, and Michael Freiert, according to Twin Cities Maker materials.

The Minneapolis-based team created a vehicle that “centered around the idea of a maker or artist being able to fabricate anything they needed out of the back of a vehicle,” a statement from the group reads. 

In some ways, the Hackmobile builds on an idea the group already had for a trailer, which it could bring to events, Freiert says. “When Ford invited us to participate, it seemed like a good opportunity to create what we’d been dreaming about over a beer,” he adds.  

When the Twin Cities Maker team members put their heads together, they decided that everything within the vehicle should perform multiple functions. It wasn’t about cramming things into the vehicle. “It wasn’t [like the game] Tetris, with components in it. It was a more unique storage and work surface solution all in one,” he says. 

The resulting vehicle combines a woodshop, welding, and electronic studio. It also has 3D printing capabilities along with storage for supplies. 

The work surface folds away like a Murphy bed while a single tool has several heads that allow for different uses. “I don’t think anyone else had the deep multi-purpose” aspect, he says. In the mobile workshop, someone could “knock together an Adirondack chair,” as just one example, he adds.

However, the Hackmobile is aimed more at coarse work than finishing work. “The Hackmobile isn’t an artist’s studio on wheels,” he says. 

Now, the group is deciding how to put the cash prize to best use. That could mean creating a Hackmobile-like trailer for the group or starting a tool lending library, among other possibilities. “We need to look into what’s viable. We’ve got a lot of projects we haven’t been able to get off the ground yet,” he says.  


Source: Michael Freiert, founding member, TC Maker 
Writer: Anna Pratt 






Groundswell hosts artwork from MMAA/Galtier School collaboration

During a two-week residency, a group of 33 students from St. Paul’s Galtier Community School collaborated with the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) on a multifaceted art project called CuratorKids. The 4th and 5th grade students’ artworks will be exhibited at Groundswell, a nearby coffee shop, from Dec. 16 through Jan. 19. In the spring of 2014, the childrens' artwork will also be exhibited by MMAA.    

MMAA developed CuratorKids to address “the shortage of art education in our public schools by offering a program that brings art and practicing artists directly to the kids,” MMAA  materials state.

Through the program, students examined a handful of artworks from the museum’s collection, according to Heidi Swanson,  technology integration specialist at Galtier. Students then wrote poems about the museum pieces. The following week, students responded to the artwork in a different way -- by making mixed-media collages. In their collages, Swanson says, "They made artistic choices relating to color, objects, and emotion.”   

Diana Johnson, a consultant to the program, says the museum pieces became “source material" for the students. “These kids really were responding emotionally and aesthetically" to the museum works, she says, which they "turned into their own work."

After the residency wrapped up, the students recorded podcasts of their poems and videos of their collages. Their poems can be listened to online here.  

Johnson hopes the project helps the students gain confidence in artmaking, as well as in academic subjects. The school hasn’t had an art program for a number of years. But CuratorKids shows students that “they can do things they didn’t know they could," she says. "If they stick with it, they can surprise themselves and see that the world around them cares and is interested in them."   

As if in response to that sentiment, a group of school volunteers pitched in $300 to frame the collages for the coffee shop exhibit, according to Swanson. At Groundswell, the students’ recordings will be accessible online via QR codes that can be scanned by smartphones.  

Swanson hopes the residency inspires students’ ongoing creativity. Through programs like CuratorKids, she says, "We hope to build a bridge to our community and create opportunities for our students to share their successes beyond the school walls." 


Source: Heidi Swanson, technology integration specialist, Galtier Community School
Writer: Anna Pratt 















New mobile app development school strives to push local tech scene

Smart Factory, a new school for mobile app development located in Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood, is on a mission to deepen the tech talent pool in Minnesota. 

Jeff Lin of Bust Out Solutions, and Mike Bollinger of TechdotMN and Livefront, who are friends and colleagues, founded Smart Factory, which held its inaugural classes in October.   

The need for Smart Factory rose out of rapid changes in the web and mobile industry, Lin says. “Formal academic training can’t keep up” with the changes, he says, adding that some developers find it difficult to stay on the cutting-edge while working a full-time job. 

The tech scene is “already being pushed forward by market forces and people’s desires and interests. We hope to help that cause by training people directly,” he says.

Smart Factory's program is aimed at experienced designers and engineers who want to expand their skills, especially those related to web and mobile app technology. Companies can also send employees to the school to gain software development skills, as opposed to having to outsource those skills.     

Six-week classes, led by leaders in the field, cover Mobile UI Design, Ruby on Rails, Web Production, iOS Development, and Android Development. Students follow along with the lessons on their laptops. 

Class sizes are no more than 16 people, to ensure everyone gets plenty of individual attention, Lin says. Two mentor-teachers lead the classes, as well. “In programming and design courses, there’s a lot of hands-on activity, so it’s always good to have one-on-one time with teachers,” he says. 

Additionally, students are expected to spend another 10 to 15 hours on their studies outside of the classroom, according to Smart Factory materials.  

Lin hopes the school fosters collaboration within the local tech community. “We want to educate people about what we’re passionate about," he says. "It’s less of a competition and more of a collaboration. Collaborative competition is good too."

Although schools like Smart Factory are popping up around the country, few exist in the Twin Cities. With the opening of Smart Factory, Lin expects other schools to will launch within the next couple of years. 

Source: Jeff Lin, co-founder, Smart Factory
Writer: Anna Pratt 






New microgrants program aims to "Make It Happen"

A new microgrants initiative will spur ideas within the Jewish community, locally and internationally. 

The Minneapolis Jewish Federation is a community partner to the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, which is leading the program called, Make It Happen

Debbie Stillman, director of community partnerships and engagement at the federation, says the initiative has already stirred “lots of buzz in the community.” Often, people have good ideas, but not the means to “step into the game and to say, ‘I want to try this out,’” she says. 

That’s what the program is all about: “This isn’t aimed at organizations or meant to augment somebody’s operating budget. It’s meant for individuals to enter the game with an idea that they think is worthwhile,” she says, adding that young leaders can get involved in the decision-making process, as well. 

Projects might relate to cultural, educational, spiritual, or social aspects of Jewish life. For example, pop-up trucks, musical mash-ups, Shabbat dinners, and service projects are just a handful of the possibilities, according to program materials. “Selected projects will identify creative means of engaging, serving, and leading local Jewish communities,” a prepared statement reads.  

Schusterman will award $1,000 and $5,000 microgrants to 50 projects, which it will select on a rolling basis between now and December. At the same time, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation will separately dole out additional microgrants through the spring.   

Around 10 to 15 projects will be granted locally, depending on the scope of individual projects, Stillman says. 

Projects will be uploaded onto the website, which will double as a kind of idea share. “There are a lot of pluses to the platform as well as the microgrants themselves,” she says. "Organizations can look in their own communities and across the globe and if they see an interesting idea, they can execute it. They can see how it might work or how they can change it."  

  
Source: Debbie Stillman, director of community partnerships and engagement, Minneapolis Jewish Federation
Writer: Anna Pratt 







"Creative Care" exhibition and events underscore art's healing power

The Twin Cities is home to a diverse arts and healing community – perhaps the largest nationwide, according to Jack Becker, who leads Forecast Public Art, a nonprofit public art consulting agency based in Saint Paul.

The Twin Cities, Becker adds, is “an arts-rich community, and we’re huge for healthcare and technologies devoted to medicine and bioscience and research into healing. These realms come together in a variety of ways.” 

Those intersections are the subject of an exhibit Forecast put together in collaboration with Hennepin County’s Multicultural Arts Committee. Titled "Creative Care: Art + Healing in the Twin Cities," the exhibition is at the Hennepin County Government Center’s gallery in downtown Minneapolis through Jan. 29.

The exhibition pulls together visuals from nine arts-healing organizations in the area. In addition, an opening celebration today, and related forums and performances, are in the works for the coming weeks. 

The exhibiton is “about the idea that art can have healing benefits,” Becker says, a notion that often goes unacknowledged in daily life.
 
As a part of the kickoff for "Creative Care," which begins at 11 a.m., representatives from the exhibiting organizations will be on hand. Some groups, including Illusion Theater, Hopewell Community Choir, and Wilder Band will also perform at the event while county commissioner Peter McLaughlin will make an appearance and T. Mychael Rambo will serve as its emcee. 

The show represents all different approaches to art and healing, from Hennepin County Medical Center’s Inspire Arts program to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Healing Arts Therapies.  

As such, the displays are just as diverse as the participants. People can meander through a labyrinth on the floor -- a meditative intentional walk on a path that leads to peaceful calm in the center-- or view snapshots, paintings, installations, and more.  

For those who are sick or depressed or are facing other challenges, art can “focus the mind for a period of time on something other than the problem, the ailment, the pain,” Becker says, and art does so in a holistic way. He adds that art can come in the form of a relaxing piece of music or a public memorial in a war-torn community, as just a couple of examples.  

Forecast also published a related directory that includes 40 local art-healing programs in order to “raise awareness and increase access to these programs,” he says. 

Source: Jack Becker, executive director, Forecast Public Art 
Writer: Anna Pratt 








TreeHouse "innovation center" opens in Loring Park

TreeHouse Health, an “innovation center” with an emphasis on healthcare IT and care coordination, opened its doors on Oct. 17. 

The idea behind the for-profit “innovation center,” based in Minneapolis's Loring Park neighborhood, is to help emerging, and larger more established healthcare companies, grow and solve industry issues, the TreeHouse website states. 

TreeHouse is in a position to do so, thanks to its six partners with extensive expertise in healthcare and investment. 

Jeffrey (J.D.) Blank, the company’s managing director, says TreeHouse can offer networking opportunities, office space, cash for startups, and other resources. Blank’s dad is Dr. John Blank, TreeHouse’s chairman of the board, who is also the president of Dalmore Investments, an angel fund in Minneapolis. “We offer access to customers, make introductions, allow them to leverage the relationships of our partners,” says J.D. Blank.      

Collaboration is key, he says. "We view an 'innovation center' as an ecosystem, an environment that supports entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, the innovators within a larger organization.” 

“We’re hoping to get small and large companies from every sector of healthcare,” all of which bring different views to solve healthcare issues, he says. “The industry is so broad and complicated that we think having every angle represented, creating a 360-degree ecosystem will help parties navigate the challenges.” 

Creating that ecosystem means “getting the right companies with the right mindset, that are willing to collaborate and contribute to the ecosystem at large,” he adds. 

As such, TreeHouse intends to cultivate a network of service providers and business professionals that can offer support to companies. TreeHouse intends to bring companies into the fold for six months to two years. “We think companies will see the value in it,” he says. 

Already, TreeHouse has signed on RiverSystems LLC, a startup that developed HomeStream, “a tool comprised of easy-to-use, computer-assisted capabilities designed to improve the quality of life for seniors and aging baby boomers,” a prepared statement reads. 
 

Source: Jeffrey (J.D.) Blank, managing director, TreeHouse Health 
Writer: Anna Pratt 






Minnesota Blogger Conference gains momentum

Even though bloggers are constantly connecting with readers and each other, it can still feel like a lonely task to send thoughts out into the world and wonder if anyone is reading them.
 
That's one of the reasons that the Minnesota Blogger Conference, started four years ago, is gaining prominence among the state's busy bloggers. Held on October 12th this year, the conference is a new venue, at Concordia University, and co-founder Arik Hanson says that the change in location should help to draw more interest from students.
 
Also, this year's lineup is particularly solid, Hanson adds. "It's a very diverse range of individuals, and we're excited about it," he says. "It's such a great chance for us to all learn from each other."
 
In addition to schmoozing with other bloggers, attendees will able to learn about optimizing content for mobile devices, using WordPress, tapping into Google Analytics tools, and making the most of Tumblr.
 
An ending keynote on the future of blogging will veer away from the technology of blogging and into the cultural and social implications of this unique form of writing. Weber Shandwick digital strategist Greg Swan will join MinnPost media writer David Brauer, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Oden, and Fluence Media principal Blois Olson to chat about what blogging could look like in the years ahead.
 
The conference, in general, is a nod toward the broad blogger community in the Twin Cities, and it's no surprise that it's a growing scene here. Technology and culture are both rich local sources of innovation and creativity, and blogging is at the intersection of those two distinctive arenas.
 
"This is one of those grassroots conferences that let you geek out for a day," Hanson says. "People won't look at you sideways when you talk about plug-ins."
 
Source: Arik Hanson, Minnesota Blogger Conference
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Minnesota Cup announces 2013 winner

Crossing the finish line in the heated Minnesota Cup entrepreneurial competition is Preceptis Medical, a device manufacturer that's developing surgical tools for pediatric patients.
 
The company bested almost 1,100 competitors to nab the $40,000 grand prize, as well as $25,000 as the Life Science/Health IT division winner.
 
What got the judges' attention for Preceptis was the company's focus on the development of surgical innovations that would allow ear tube procedures to be performed with reduced pain and surgical time for children. Any parent who's watched a child suffer through multiple ear infections is likely to laud the kind of relief that Preceptis promises. Ear tube surgery is the most common pediatric surgery in the United States.
 
Now in clinical evaluation, the ear tube device and procedure have been tested on 60 patients, and Preceptis CEO Steve Anderson notes that it reduces trauma and risk, and offers greater efficiency for the surgeon.
 
"This year has been exhilarating," says Minnesota Cup co-founder Scott Litman. "We've had the best collection of presentations in our history, including the one from this year's winner, Preceptis Medical."
 
He added that 2014 will be the competition's 10th anniversary, and the competition's leadership is already brainstorming ways to grow the contest and involve more Minnesotans. Litman says, "We will discover and help more entrepreneurs to build better business plans and achieve long-lasting success. And of course, our ultimate goal is to cement the Minnesota Cup as a permanent part of the business landscape."
 
Source: Scott Litman, Minnesota Cup
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

MHTA unveils new innovation series

Minnesota will have yet another technology and business resource on Sept. 18th, when the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and Minneapolis-based awareness firm Innovosource partner to provide a new monthly innovation series.
 
Dubbed "A Break for Breakthroughs," the series takes the form of free webinars for MHTA members, with the first event covering the latest breakthroughs in flexible electronics, from films and displays to touch sensor integration.

To kick off the series, the first webinar will be shown both online and at CoCo Minneapolis in the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Speakers have just been announced, and Innovosource's founder will moderate.
 
According to Andrew Wittenborg, MHTA's director of outreach, upcoming sessions will cover emerging areas that affect Minnesota's technology landscape most directly. For example, wearable devices and robotics are booming here, so they'll get coverage, as will nanotech, biotech, and stem cells.  Advancements in image processing and analysis are also slated to be discussed.
 
"We are particularly excited by this new partnership because it represents a key aspect of MHTA's mission to fuel Minnesota's prosperity through innovation and technology," Wittenborg notes.
 
He adds that the mission of the series is to help business leaders, R&D teams, investors, entrepreneurs, and others to learn more about emerging technologies and to build stronger relationships among the top players locally. "We will provide a greater level of awareness beyond the widely accessible information already available," says Wittenborg.
 
MHTA will also provide programming for Innovosource's Pardon the Disruption program, which connects high technology companies and investors to research universities and laboratories.
 
Source: Andrew Wittenborg, MHTA
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

University of Minnesota launches record number of startups for 2013

The University of Minnesota is proving to be particularly adept at turning research into commercial efforts, and this year, it will set a record for the number of startup companies it's launched.
 
In the university's 2013 fiscal year, 14 startup companies were given a boost into the marketplace through efforts by the Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC). That's up from 12 last year, and it's likely that the momentum will continue into the next fiscal year. Already, five startups are on track to launch in the first few months of 2014 and another 19 technologies are in various stages of startup activity.
 
"Our continued success as a research institution depends upon our ability to transfer knowledge created at the university into the real world, where it can have a  direct impact on our society," notes Brian Herman, the University of Minnesota's Vice President for Research. He adds that the team at the OTC is doing an especially impressive job given the challenging economic climate of the past few years.
 
The OTC has been aided by the formation of a Venture Center, first opened in 2006. Since then, 52 startup companies have been created, and nearly 80 percent of those are still active. That success rate is notable, Herman points out, since a study done by Harvard Business School showed that 75 percent of all startups fail.
 
Also worth noting is the breadth of startups coming out of the university. In 2013, the range of products included a plastic bead that cuts off the blood supply to tumors, a smartphone-based breathalyzer, a handheld probe that can measure tension in soft tissues during orthopedic surgery, and a genetic test that assesses certain risks in dogs.
 
So, investors take note: when looking for the next big startup, it might be time to go back to school.
 
Source: Brian Herman, University of Minnesota
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Online work platform Field Nation expands into Europe

With continued expansion, Field Nation may have to consider changing its name someday to Field World. The Minneapolis-based firm, which provides an online work platform that connects businesses and independent contractors, is growing fast, leading to a recent expansion into Europe.
 
"There has been such demand from customers to use our platform in other areas than the U.S. and Canada," says CEO Mynul Khan. "We've been asked to expand into Latin America, parts of Asia, and Western Europe, so really, we just chose a starting point for more international services, but we expect to keep expanding geographically."
 
Launched in 2008, Field Nation employs 45 but has a contractor database of about 40,000. Although the company did aggressive recruitment in its early years, the momentum is now so strong that hundreds of new companies and contractors sign up every day through word of mouth, Khan says.
 
The company offers a marketplace where professionals can meet, but also provides a management system with distinctive features and tools that allow customers to create work orders, arrange payment, and keep track of documentation.
 
In addition to broadening its planetary footprint, Field Nation is also growing vertically, Khan says, by adding more skillsets into the mix. Currently, the company tends to lean toward IT services, but Khan believes that Field Nation's platform and work management automation can extend to any industry that hires independent contractors, including construction, creative work, and telecom.
 
"Every day is exciting here," he says. "We're always thinking about the next big thing and making new milestones."
 
Source: Mynul Khan, Field Nation
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
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