Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Congratulations to the Participants in the Minnesota Cup!

I was at the Minnesota Cup Final awards ceremony Monday evening. Having been at this event for just about all of its 15-year existence (we’ve been a sponsor of the Cup almost since inception), it’s always great to see all the energy and enthusiasm generated around all of the finalists.

In case you weren’t paying attention, or have been too busy with all the other Twin Cities Startup Week activities in the last week, the overall winner was Abilitech Medical, a company developing wearable devices to assist people dealing with neuromuscular conditions that restrict upper limbs. Abilitech had a super successful night, not only winning the $50,000 grand prize (in addition to the $30,000 it had won as winner of the LifeScience/Health IT division), but another $25,000 from the Carlson Family Foundation as the top woman-led team in the competition this year!

Resonant Cavity, makers of the Voloco app that lets you do voice processing to add automatic tuning, harmony, vocoding, and other tricks to your track, won second place and added $25,000 to its winnings as High Tech division winner. For the record, my younger daughter thought the Voloco app was pretty cool when she downloaded it after I had mentioned to her that I met one of the founders at a Minnesota Cup semi-finalist event we hosted.

As a judge in the Student Division for the first time, I was especially impressed with the energy, drive, progress, and interesting businesses of the participants in this division. When I was in college, I was mostly focused on figuring out how to manage my social calendar and still do well in classes — I certainly hadn’t thought about building a business plan or launching an enterprise! 

It wasn’t just the interesting “sharing economy” applications of winners like Parkpoolr (who help you find event parking in driveways and lots at Minnesota United, Vikings games, or the State Fair) and Float (think airbnb for recreational boating). Both of my daughters are now customers and enthusiastic supporters of 2True Headbands, a business started by Student division semi-finalist Maggie Knier, who launched her female-empowered business selling more comfortable headbands when she was only 13 years old! For the record, one daughter is an admitted headband wearer, and the other one is a new convert, part of a potentially huge market — of the 44% of woman who don’t wear headbands, 75% say it’s because headbands aren’t comfortable. Also for the record, I bet Maggie may be the only participant in the Cup who sold product to the judges immediately after making her pitch!

Congrats to all the participants and thanks again to all the sponsors, mentors, judges, and others who have worked so hard to make the Minnesota Cup such a successful display of local entrepreneurship!

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