Wednesday, September 17, 2014

10th Year of Minnesota Cup Another Success

This past Wednesday, I had the privilege of attending the final awards event for the Minnesota Cup. The awards event concluded the 10th year of the Minnesota Cup, which is a statewide competition for early stage businesses in Minnesota. Gray Plant Mooty has been a sponsor of the Minnesota Cup for most of those 10 years, as we’ve found it to be an excellent supporter of Minnesota’s entrepreneurs and start-up community.

At the event, which I thought was the best yet, they provided some interesting statistics. During the 10 years of the event:

Over 9,000 businesses have participated.
Greater than $1,000,000 in prize money has been awarded.
Division winners have raised in excess of $160 million in private capital!

This year’s event, like the last few years, was hosted at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota campus. The room was filled with past participants and winners, entrepreneurs, students, business and political leaders, and others interested in Minnesota’s entrepreneurial community. Even our state’s two US senators sent video congratulations to the winners and participants.

Each of the seven division winners and runners-up gave one minute “elevator” pitches of their businesses.  The pitches were great, and displayed a variety of interesting business ideas. Among the elevator pitches by the division winners, the audience liked the presentation from Jonny Pops the best, and voted for them to win an extra $1,000.  Jonny Pops, which makes all natural smoothie-sicles on a stick, was also handing out samples of their product at the event. I thought they were quite good and will plan to buy a box soon for my kids to try.

At the end of the evening, the judges selected 75 Fahrenheit (75F) as the grand prize winner of this year’s Minnesota Cup. In addition to receiving $50,000 for being the grand prize winner, 75F also won $30,000 as the clean tech/water division winner, and received a $25,000 grant from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation – total prize money of $105,000! 75F has developed an interesting technology that allows users to regulate building temperatures in an environmentally friendly way by using wireless zone controllers to monitor airflow temperatures in building zones.  

The other division winners were equally as impressive as 75F. I imagine the judges had a very difficult decision in picking a winner.  

For any aspiring entrepreneurs who were not able to participate this year, I suggest that you give strong consideration to participating in next year’s competition. Just by submitting an application, you are forced to think through some issues in your business plan that you might not otherwise consider. If you are chosen to be a semi-finalist in the competition, you will have access to mentors, advisors, investors, and others in the entrepreneurial community who can help you further refine your business strategy.  Even if you don’t win any of the prize money, the Minnesota Cup provides a great opportunity to make valuable connections for your business that you might not otherwise have. 

Congratulations to all of this year’s participants, and especially to the winners.  We’ll be looking forward to next year’s competition.

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