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Coordination/Collaboration : Innovation + Job News

190 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All

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

HighJump Software picks Danish firm for acquisition

Minneapolis-based HighJump Software employees may want to take an accelerated course in Danish so they can visit the company's newest offices.
 
The supply chain management software provider recently announced that it acquired Evenex, a provider of business-to-business integration solutions. Located in Denmark, Evenex allows customers to exchange business documents through managed cloud services. HighJump Software, with its emphasis on efficient supply chain capabilities, will give the Danish firm greater market reach.
 
In other words, as they'd say in Denmark, it's a "gode tilbud" (good deal) for both companies.
 
HighJump Software CEO Russell Fleischer notes that the acquisition is important for expanding the company's reach in Europe, and hints that the Evenex deal could be the kickoff for more acquisitions in the future.
 
"It's an important first step towards broadening our geographic coverage in Europe," he says. "We look forward to driving organic growth as well as continued to look for logical merger and acquisition opportunities."
 
The deal will give the Danish firm access to capital that will help foster growth.
 
The acquisition comes during a strong year for HighJump, which has been busy enhancing its products for SMB customers, attracting large clients with refined software offerings, and cementing new partnerships.
 
Fleischer notes that all of these moves are enabling customers to have technologies that work for their specific business needs and processes. With the year only half over, it's likely that HighJump will keep its expansion and development going strong for 2013.
 
Source: Russell Fleischer, HighJump Software
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Coworking space CoCo to open Uptown location

Major coworking and collaborative space CoCo recently announced plans to open a third location in Uptown, joining the organization's popular Lowertown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis spaces.
 
Slated to open this fall at the intersection of West Lake St. and Lagoon Ave., the new location will be in the heart of Uptown and just yards from the Greenway bike route. Plans include a 15,000-square-foot space that will be rich with features and amenities, according to CoCo co-founder Don Ball.
 
Most notably, the space will offer a tap room with craft beers, a movie theater for presentations, a billiard room, and a walkout patio. For those who want to balance work with play, the space will feature two large conference rooms and several private "call booths."
 
Similar to the organization's location in the Grain Exchange, the new space will offer a large commons area where members can do presentations for up to 100 people, build product prototypes, or network with new ideas. Another open space, dubbed "The Garage," is a 3,500-square-foot area designed for groups that want to do deep work in strategic planning, Ball notes.
 
There will also be an abundance of coworking seats, as well as "campsites" where members can claim a dedicated desk for individuals or for small groups.

The move is likely to create more growth and buzz for CoCo, which scored a major win this year when it teamed up with Google (see The Line's coverage here) for an ongoing partnership and event series. 

"Membership has been exploding, especially since we launched our partnership earlier this year with Google," says Ball. "So we knew we'd have to expand, not only to create more space, but also to give members more options for where they can drop in and work. Uptown is a great location not only because of its demographics skew younger, but its proximity to so many great neighborhoods, the Greenway, and highways."
 
Source: Don Ball, CoCo
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Tekne Awards offer new categories for this year's round

Minnesota technology leaders, start your engines.
 
The high-profile Tekne Awards just opened for entries, and five new categories have been added: STEM education and digital learning, healthcare delivery, impact on industry, agricultural technology, and safety and security.
 
Innovative entrepreneurs, organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies will all compete in the award program, now in its 14th year, presented by the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA).
 
The state remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technological growth, the MHTA noted, and the robust and growing competition highlights the kind of innovation that's homegrown here, from cleantech to robotics.
 
Last year, winners included Nova-Tech Engineering, Ecolab, Global Traffic Technologies, Maverick Software Consulting, and Sophia Learning. The City of Minneapolis also received an award, for technology excellence in a non-profit organization, getting a nod for an emergency operations training facility that blends digital data and streaming video.
 
This year, the five fresh categories showcase new directions in the state's approach to innovation. STEM education, a hot topic these days, gets its own category for programs that engage K-12 students in applied learning opportunities. Healthcare delivery will award innovation in the area of medical devices, diagnostics, data management, and other areas that improve patient care.
 
"We are watching significant growth in the areas of mobility as well as safety and security and want to make sure the Tekne Awards reflect that," says Andrew Wittenborg, Director of Outreach for MHTA. "At the same time,  we want to recognize and support the collaborative efforts that lead to Minnesota breakthroughs."
 
In addition to its new categories, the awards will feature well-established, competition-rich categories like software, startup, advanced manufacturing, and mobile technologies.
 
Applications for this year's awards will be open until July 15th, and there's no application fee, nor do applicants have to be MHTA members. Finalists will be announced in September, with an award celebration held in November.
 
Source: Andrew Wittenborg, Director of Outreach, Minnesota High Tech Association
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Visit Saint Paul tweaks wedding site for same sex marriages

Right after Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same sex marriage, St. Paul updated its popular wedding website to reflect the change.
 
Online resource IDoSaintPaul.com, put together by the city's convention and visitors bureau, Visit Saint Paul, gives engaged couples information on getting married in the city, including an events calendar, restaurant and hotel listings, and suggestions for activities and recreation.
 
The site now includes photographs of same sex couples, as well as a profile of Reid Bordson and Paul Nolle, who plan to be the first gay couple to tie the knot at Como Park Conservatory. Also on the site is a new page about the Freedom to Marry Act, noting that "it is important for same sex couples to know they are welcomed in Saint Paul for their big day and that they, their family and friends will receive the same top level of service from our hospitality community that all wedding couples receive on their big day."
 
Visit Saint Paul spokesperson Adam Johnson notes that it was easy to make quick changes to the site, including tweaks to an online form for wedding planning. Since then, vendors have approached the bureau to offer specials for same sex weddings, and Johnson anticipates that the site will get even more interest in the near future.
 
"The Freedom to Marry Act opened up a whole new pool of people who want to get married, and we want them to know that Saint Paul would be a great place for that," Johnson says.
 
Source: Adam Johnson, Visit Saint Paul
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
 

Office of Higher Ed debuts a Minnesota college planner app

High school students and others looking at postsecondary education will have a powerful new app, thanks to the state's Office of Higher Education (OHE).
 
The agency recently unveiled the Minnesota College Planner, a mobile application that can be downloaded for free. The tool provides students with resources for exploring college options and managing tasks associated with applying to college. OHE will be rolling out a new website soon to promote the app, and is already sending a lively video introduction to students.
 
Students can start planning as early as 8th grade, with reminders set for events like ACT testing and FAFSA form completion. Colleges and universities are sorted according to size, location, price, and majors. App users can browse profiles, set up campus visits, and stay updated on changes like tuition increases or new majors.
 
The app also lets students address financial aid issues as they search for schools, simplifying a process that has traditionally been "more challenging than a few quick swipes on a phone," says OHE Director Larry Pogemiller.
 
"The mobile site has been designed for students, giving them the ability to have some control and help with their own college planning," he says. "For example, the planner [tools] guide them as to what classes they should be taking in high school to meet the entrance guidelines for their dream career, which can help keep their goals realistic and focused."
 
He adds that the app was developed as a way to help more Minnesota students prepare for college in an increasingly technological society.
 
Source: Larry Pogemiller, Office of Higher Education
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Ag software MetaFarms poised for global expansion

As farming and ranching increasingly rely on technology for recordkeeping and trend data, Burnsville-based MetaFarms looks ahead to expansion. Within the next year, CEO Chad Becker anticipates that the ag software will translated into other languages, expanding the software's worldwide reach.
 
Founded in 2000, MetaFarms provides a web-based data platform for those involved in animal production. For example, someone who raises pigs can bring together information on animal growth rates, feed, transportation and other issues. That kind of data allows farmers to create reports that can track farm productivity and trends, information that's crucial for business effectiveness but can be lacking in more paper-based types of recordkeeping.
 
Becker, who grew up on a small dairy farm and remembers his family keeping records in a farm journal, has seen firsthand how technology is making farms and ranches more efficient. "Technology can be applied in different ways to help farmers track and organize all types of data," he says. "That helps them to do better when running their farms."
 
In the last three years, MetaFarms has seen steady growth after some challenging years in the ag market. They're adding to their 14-person staff, and diversifying their software to include other types of animals, such as turkeys and goats. Eventually, Becker says, the company hopes to connect into the whole food supply chain, bringing even richer data to customers.
 
Because farmers in other countries face the same issues as those in the United States, MegaFarms has seen strong interest internationally in its platform. Becker says, "I'm excited about leading MetaFarms in the company's next phase of growth and success."
 
Source: Chad Becker, MetaFarms
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

PatentBuddy sees growth ahead for its unique platform

Thanks to online resources, searching for patents is a snap, and local site PatentBuddy makes it even easier. The site offers patent search, analytics, inventor information, and other services, and as its popularity increases, it's likely that growth can't be far behind.
 
In June, the site will implement changes that turn the not-for-profit model into a revenue-generating powerhouse. Some features will still be free, especially for smaller law firms and individuals, but for Fortune 100 companies and large firms that maintain extensive patent portfolios through PatentBuddy's tools, a "modest fee" will be involved, says company president Leon Steinberg.
 
Considering how many users the site has, those modest fees could add up fast. The site as become the largest provider of patent analytics in the world, with over 250,000 monthly visitors.
 
PatentBuddy got its start in 2007, when patent attorneys Steve Lundberg and Janal Kalis, both shareholders at the Schwegman Lundberg firm in Minneapolis, rolled out the site as a way to increase access to patent information. They found that solo inventors had difficulty getting necessary patent data without relying on law firms for searches and analytics.
 
They built the site without a plan for revenue, but now that PatentBuddy has grown so robust, the fee structure will be put in place to spur further growth. Steinberg was brought on recently to help shepherd the changes.
 
"We have a large, well-structured database with just about every piece of patent information available, including foreign patents," he says. "That means we have unique reports and analytics, and we intend to keep being a resource with those for companies large and small."
 
Source: Leon Steinberg, PatentBuddy
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

CaringBridge founder plans run for Congress

CaringBridge founder and CEO Sona Mehring will be stepping away from the Eagan-based organization to take on a new challenge: Congress.
 
Mehring started the nonprofit in 1997 as a way for seriously ill people or their family members to create one central, online resource that could keep others updated about health changes. Since then, the site has recorded over two billion visits, and has added distinctive features like a calendar mechanism that lets people arrange tasks like food delivery and doctor's appointment rides.
 
It's likely that the site will have even more innovation in the future, Mehring notes, alluding to a bold strategic vision put together by the leadership team and the nonprofit's Board of Directors.
 
As she transitions out of the organization, Mehring expects it'll take about a year for the full shift to occur, and in that time, she'll be exploring her options for a political campaign.
 
"Bottom line, I want to continue to impact people's lives in a positive way," says Mehring. "Our representation in Congress is out of step with what we need. We need leaders that want to work together to solve problems."
 
She adds that her background, particularly when it comes to building the highly visited CaringBridge site, has given her not only the insight she needs for this career move, but also the motivation.
 
"My life and career experiences have provided me with the skills and drive to work hard to move forward versus backwards," she says. "Making a difference within Congress is a next step for me."
 
Source: Sona Mehring, CaringBridge
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Sport Ngin receives major investment, anticipates growth

Minneapolis-based Sport Ngin just received a major funding infusion that will boost the company's already impressive growth even more. The sports software provider recently closed a $6 million financing round with El Dorado Ventures, a venture capital firm with offices in Minnetonka and Silicon Valley. That brings their overall funding total to $10 million since the company's founding in 2008.
 
Sport Ngin began as TST Media, a design and creative agency started by Justin Kaufenberg and Carson Kipfer while both attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "Originally, it was just to make a little extra beer money," Kipfer says, with a laugh. "But by the time we were finishing school, we could see the potential for much more."
 
Looking for a niche, and drawing on their experience playing sports through high school and college, the pair focused on developing software for sports organizations, first for hockey and then for many other sports.
 
The software they developed allows teams to manage players, post schedules, and track stats, as well as offer online registration. A tournament package offers tools that let users run everything from a Little League event to a professional playoff.
 
Currently hiring for a number of positions, Sport Ngin sees more growth ahead, both in employee numbers and in products. The company's revenue has increased 100 percent year after year for the past four fiscal years, and aggressive hiring has increased staff numbers to 120.
 
"This current investment underscores our progress, hard work, and many successes to date, and validates the widespread adoption of Sport Ngin by thousands of sports organizations," says Kaufenberg. "This capital infusion will enable us to further grow our market presence, and to expand and enhance the functionality of Sport Ngin."
 
Sources: Carson Kipfer and Justin Kaufenberg, Sport Ngin
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Minnesota Cup readies for 9th round of innovative ideas

Now entering its 9th year, the Minnesota Cup is distinctive for its array of innovative ideas and entrepreneurship, attracting startup founders and inventors to showcase their best insights for the chance to win $200,000. This year's kickoff came on March 25th, with ideas accepted until May 17th, and organizers are gearing up for another year of robust competition.
 
"Just like every year, we're excited about what's ahead," says Scott Litman, Minnesota Cup co-founder. "This has become such a great way to inspire and support the state's early-stage entrepreneurs, and it's become a cornerstone for the entrepreneur ecosystem here."
 
The competition features six divisions: Energy/Clean Tech, General, High Tech, Life Science/Health IT, Social Entrepreneur, and Student. Those who advance to higher rounds get the opportunity to present their business ideas, get paired with mentors, and network with potential investors.
 
Since the competition began n 2005, over 7,000 Minnesotans have participated. Finalists from just the past four years have gone on to raise more than $60 million in capital. Last year's Grand Prize winner, PreciouStatus, has raised over $1.5 million since its win.
 
Although every division is chock full of entrants, Litman notes that there are some trends from year to year. "It's fascinating to find a big surge of quality and ideas in certain areas," he says. High Tech tends to be a busy division, he says, but in teh past few years, Health IT has been growing steadily.
 
Participation is fairly consistent, though, with about 1,000 participants every year. Those who make it to the semifinal round in June will be paired with mentors, with finalists from every division chosen in August.
 
Source: Scott Litman, Minnesota Cup
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

The Foundation offers IT for the creative industry

In Internet years, The Foundation is practically an institution by now.
 
Founded in 1999, the Minneapolis-based company began as a managed IT firm for printers, graphic designers, and architects, and even after 14 years, the focus still remains on creative professionals. In the past decade, the company has blended in other services like project implementation and remote network monitoring, but its laser focus on one industry has made The Foundation a go-to IT resource for creatives.
 
"The difficulty in that particular industry is that they're increasingly reliant on technology, but many of them don't have time to learn about the technical side," says Matt Woestehoff, Director of Business Development and Operations at The Foundation. "We help them get back to work quickly when a problem comes up."
 
The company's 14 employees tend to come from creative fields--Woestehoff jokes that he's a "failed designer"--and are passionate about supporting the creative community. In addition to getting clients back on track, The Foundation has also seen an uptick in implementation requests. For example, a creative agency might want to deploy 1,000 iPads in retail stores and set up a dedicated help desk for the effort. Not only can The Foundation take on that task easily, but it can also set up relevant apps and handle technology updates.
 
Mobile technology efforts like that are driving big growth at the company, which looks forward to adding at least five people to its employee roster over the next year. But even if the firm didn't get a major boost from mobile, there would still be contentment with its founding mission, Woestehoff believes: "We have a purpose, and we can see how our work affects the bigger creative community."
 
Source: Matt Woestehoff, The Foundation
Writer: Elizabeth Millard 

Mayo Clinic opens a business accelerator

Rochester is ready to see a fresh burst of startup activity, thanks to a new business accelerator put together by the Mayo Clinic and the Rochester Area Economic Development Initiative.
 
The Mayo Clinic Business Accelerator at the Minnesota BioBusiness Center features space that can be leased by entrepreneurs, startup companies, venture capitalists and professional service provider. According to Dr. John Noseworthy, president and CEO of Mayo Clinic, the accelerator was put together to spark the growth of healthcare-related businesses in the area.
 
"The accelerator is an example of the strength of a strong partnership between Mayo Clinic and the community, to make it easier and more affordable for companies to start and locate in Rochester," Dr. Noseworthy says.
 
There are seven founding tenants, including Versant Ventures, a venture capital firm that specializes in investments in medical devices and biopharmaceuticals, and Evidentia Health, an IT company focusing on healthcare clients. Other tenants include Resoundant, Zumbro Discovery, and VitalHealth Software.
 
Mayo Clinic aims to provide a nurturing space so that companies can avoid the type of startup roadblocks that might hinder growth.
 
Dr. Noseworthy added that the accelerator fits in well with Destination Medical Center, a $5 billion economic development initiative that is projected to create up to 45,000 new jobs in Rochester and other parts of the state.
 
Startup companies are willing to locate in Rochester, Dr. Noseworthy notes, but they need to infrastructure to stay in the city. "Without that, they are vulnerable to leaving not only Rochester, but the state of Minnesota."
 
Source: John Noseworthy, Mayo Clinic
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
190 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All
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