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Entrepreneurship : Innovation + Job News

389 Entrepreneurship Articles | Page: | Show All

Foodsby provides fresh online delivery platform for restaurants

Sometimes, great ideas spring from mundane situations--such as watching a delivery person show up multiple times to the same building within a half-hour timeframe.
"While I was working in a corporate setting, there was one day where I saw a delivery driver from a restaurant five blocks away come to our office building five times within about 20 minutes," says Ben Cattoor (see photo at left), "I just thought to myself: there has to be a better system than that."
The idea sparked Foodsby, a startup launched last May that allows restaurants to streamline their deliveries. The company focused on wooing eateries that were smaller, and didn't have delivery service already in place, since Foodsby tends to work best for that type of restaurant.
The app works by allowing restaurants to choose their delivery times and locations. Users can go to the Foodsby site and place orders, relieving the restaurant from taking time to jot down individual orders and deliver them separately.
Because of the efficiencies realized by the app, many customers are finding that they don't have to hire delivery drivers, and can depend on existing employees. For example, if a restaurant decides to deliver to just one certain nearby office building on Fridays, an employee can zip over in less than 15 minutes with all the orders.
Currently, about 20 restaurants use the system, and Cattoor says Foodsby is using Minneapolis as a test market with the hope of going nationwide at some point. "We really think this model is useful, and it gives restaurants much more control," he says. "We're excited to see where it can go from here."
Source: Ben Cattoor, Foodsby
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

March events: The Stir, TechFuse, Mobile March, Connect India

The Stir
March 14
Minneapolis City Center Marriott
5:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Hosted by the Women's Foundation of Minnesota as a fundraising event for the organization, The Stir is a networking event with dinner and drinks. A keynote from Jacquie Bergland, founder and CEO of Finnegans, will kick off the evening.
March 21
Minneapolis Convention Center
8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Geared toward IT professionals, TechFuse is now in its sixth year, and going strong with a couple sold-out shows in the past few years. The one-day event covers a range of topics, from app-specific sessions on Windows 2012 and PowerShell v3 to broader discussions on change in professional development and IT as a business.
Mobile March 2013
March 21
Earle Brown Heritage Center
6155 Earle Brown Dr., Brooklyn Center
8:00 am - 6:00 pm
The popular Mobile March conference should prove especially lively this year since the Twin Cities seems awash in mobile app development. Attendees will hear presentations on topics like game development, user experience, and mobile advertising, as well as case studies of local businesses that have found success in the mobile space.
Connect India
March 23
Crowne Plaza, Bloomington
5:00 am - 9:30 pm
$40 - $50, depending on membership
Over a sumptuous Indian dinner, attendees at this business event can hear speakers from the Indian-American community discuss their role in the wider economic community. Scheduled to speak are Vikas Narula, creator of Keyhubs, Marie Pillai at General Mills, and Sri Zaheer, Dean at the Carlson School of Management. 

Twin Cities Local Food fuels booming online membership

As cabin fever continues across the metro, many local food lovers are signing up for community supported agriculture programs and eagerly looking forward to this year's farmers markets.
That mentality created ideal timing for a recent Living Social sign-up offer from Twin Cities Local Food, an online marketplace and food delivery system that pairs local consumers and growers. Now entering its second year, the company used the deal-making site to offer a discount on its usual membership price, and was rewarded with a stunning surge in new memberships. Within only four days, the firm sold all of those discounted memberships.
"We were amazed, it was a really intense couple of days, and we had no idea it would take off like that," says co-founder Josh Kelly, who started the venture with his wife, Natalie. He left the corporate world to pursue his dream of providing fresh, healthy food to the local community, and after slow-but-steady growth last year, it already looks like they'll need to expand infrastructure to meet demand.
With the Twin Cities Local Food model, farmers and producers of other goods like honey and maple syrup benefit because they can directly market, sell, and package their own products, but skip distribution. Customers can order online weekly and then pick up their food at one of the company's drop-off sites in locations like South Minneapolis, St. Paul, Eagan, and Osseo.
The model has been tried in other states, but so far, Twin Cities Local Food is the only business of its kind here. From the recent reaction to the Living Social deal, it's obvious that demand is strong. As the farming season gears up, it's likely that more new memberships and referrals will be on the way.
Kelly says, "It felt really good to see so much interest and enthusiasm, not just for us, but for local food. Healthy, whole, real food is getting the attention it deserves, and that's bound to drive growth for us."
Source: Josh Kelly, Twin Cities Local Food
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

True Talent boosts growth with virtual office approach

Considering the economic storm that creative placement agency True Talent Group survived in its first few years, the sunny skies ahead are more than welcome.
Started in 2008 by entrepreneur Stacey Stratton, the company began during a dismal time for startups, she believes, but she took a chance anyway. She established a basement office, did sales recruiting, and took only a year to bring on three employees (see previous coverage in The Line about her start-up track).
Over the past year, Stratton has found even stronger footing, and she notes that the agency is on track for double-digit growth again in 2013. In addition to business revenue growth, True Talent Group has added to their team by hiring staff to help with recruiting and client retention, and the company is now a robust enterprise. What it lacks, however, are actual offices.
The accounting, marketing, legal, and advisory teams consist of individuals and organizations outside the corporate entity of True Talent Group, and Stratton believes that the model demonstrates the strength of a virtual office strategy.
"While we focus exclusively on marketing, interactive, and the creative industry, we think it would be disingenuous for us to build capacity in the categories of legal, accounting, and especially marketing," she says. "We rely on experts with perspective and savvy to deliver for us, just like our clients expect our talented team to deliver for them."
She adds that they company's impressive 90-percent referral rate is keeping the company on track, and it's more than likely that True Talent will keep going strong.
Source: Stacey Stratton, True Talent Group
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Mobile Realty Apps sees growth as housing market rebounds

The housing market's slow-but-growing recovery is good news for everyone from homeowners to lenders, and it's particularly welcome news for Minneapolis company Mobile Realty Apps.
Established in 2009, the technology-based startup entered the market at a tricky time, admits founder and CEO Aaron Kardell. But even with a sickly industry, the firm saw modest growth during its first two years. Over the past year, however, the traction really began to build. "We've seen pickup in a significant way, especially as our apps are getting more noticed," he says.
The company has developed a range of applications for tablet computers and smartphones, and is garnering the most attention lately for HomeSpotter, an app that uses a device with a live camera feed to deliver information on a specific property. A user can just point a smartphone or tablet down a street and instantly get info on all the houses for sale on that stretch.
Mobile Realty Apps has also been upgrading its other applications, drawing customers like Edina Realty, RE/MAX, and NorthstarMLS. "Our local success has positioned us well for rollout on a national level," Kardell says. "We're seeing a convergence of key factors in our growth, including increased credibility based on our local customer base, and pickup in the housing market."
The company's wins created the need to find bigger office space, leading Mobile Realty Apps to recently move into the Grain Exchange building.
Kardell expects the momentum to continue, with an expanded client base, more product lines, and strong growth. As the housing market comes back, Mobile Realty Apps will be ready.
Source: Aaron Kardell, Mobile Realty Apps
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Startup YELLaround envisions more hyperlocal communication

It seems that every college campus and coffee shop is awash in flyers, with announcements about bands, parties, and for-sale items. But what if all that information could be disseminated digitally, creating a robust and hyperlocal connection?
That's the premise behind YELLaround, a startup created in 2011 when friends Kyle Case and Trong Dong came to the Twin Cities after graduating from Iowa State University. The pair were struck by the number of activities locally, but still struggled with feeling connected to the city, and realized that much of their information about events came from flyers and newspaper ads.
"We thought that there must be a way to feel engaged with the people around you in a better way," says Case. "We envisioned an app that would connect you to a community quickly."
They started YELLaround to build the app, and just released the first iteration to the App Store on iTunes in January. Although it's early in the sales cycle to get an idea of popularity, Case is feeling confident that it'll catch on, based on the positive reaction of the first wave of users. The app works by broadcasting a message over a 20-mile radius, making it ideal for local events, and users can expand the range with a feature called "echo."
To extend the app's reach, Case and Dong are focusing on event organizers, but they see a broader future ahead. Case says, "We want it to be a local communication venture, where you can connect with people around you without having to use formal systems like Facebook. You can see why traffic is backed up, or find people to start a band. It's an open platform to connect."
Source: Kyle Case, YELLaround
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

BREAKING NEWS: Google and CoCo partner for an extensive event series

Silicon Valley and Silicon Prairie are ready to meet.
On Wednesday, February 20, coworking and collaborative space CoCo hosted a major kickoff with new partner Google for Entrepreneurs, announcing a two-year schedule of events, conferences, and social mixers at CoCo's Minneapolis office.
Focusing on technology and startups, the events are aimed at boosting entrepreneurship in the state, and draw on Google's extensive history of innovation and development. The company's Google for Entrepreneurs initiative was created to support entrepreneurs worldwide, and boasts an array of successful programs already, including Campus London, Women on the Web, and The New Orleans Community Leaders Program. The company even provides guidance and training for child entrepreneurs with Lemonade Day, a nonprofit that teaches children how to start and operate their own businesses.
John Lyman, Entrepreneurship Manager at Google, remarked in a release that the company believes entrepreneurship drives innovation and economic growth. "We see that happening in Minnesota and particularly at CoCo," he noted.
An announcement about the local partnership was made during an all-day conference at CoCo that began with U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak talking about innovation and entrepreneurship. The jam-packed event was free, but filled up quickly, as tech leaders and aspiring business owners jockeyed for a spot at one of the afternoon's sessions with visiting Google employees.
A full 2013 event schedule is still being finalized, and will be released soon, but CoCo did give a glimpse of what's to come. The event series will include affinity and user groups, including Google Developers Group Twin Cities, Android Users Group of Minnesota, and House of Cards, as well as one-day and multi-day conferences. Social and networking events will also play a large role in the partnership, with a particular focus on connecting startup founders with mentors.
Also slated are classes and educational sessions, including online-only instruction geared toward appealing to entrepreneurs across Minnesota who may be far flung from CoCo's office space.
The event series will rely on Google technology, including Google+ Hangouts, a video conferencing app that allows users to connect directly to multiple participants, or to broadcast an event through Google+, a YouTube channel, and a website. The app also lets users record the broadcast so that it can be shared later.
In a release, CoCo founding partner Kyle Coolbroth noted, "This partnership with Google will allow us to continue to expand our mission of creating a robust community of individuals pursuing the work of their dreams."

Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Curenci gains momentum with cause-related loyalty program

When Curenci co-founder Mike Brooks tries to describe the company, the first thing he mentions is Russian nesting dolls--those wooden tchotchkes that are split in the middle to accommodate smaller and smaller dolls tucked into one another.
"When people first see our company, they see a loyalty program, and get the impression that we're just a technology company," he says. "But if you keep going through the layers, you'll find there's more to us than that."
Started last year, the company calls itself "a loyalty program on steroids," and provides a link among merchants, consumers, and fundraising efforts. Retailers and other merchants sign up with Curenci, and when shoppers frequent those stores, they bring along their Curenci card. The merchant sends a rebate amount to a cause chosen by the consumer, as well as a certain amount to the consumer's card to be used like cash.
Merchants set the rebate amount. For example, Berry Blendz in Eden Prairie offers a 3.5 percent rebate amount, while Cloud 9 Carwash in the same city offers seven percent.
The company is finding some traction as it puts the program in place, and Brooks notes that they would like to have whole neighborhoods involved. Since Curenci can be used for any type of transaction, including EBT, car registration, and other tasks, Brooks believes that government agencies could benefit as well as vendors.
Currently, eight merchants have signed up, but now that the technology has been proven, Brooks says the momentum has begun. The tool represents the company's first application to market using its core payment and disbursement technology. Curenci's primary focus is on a patent-pending secure electronic settlement system for transactions and payments through ecommerce and mobile platforms.

"We're really getting things ramped up, and getting to market as quickly as we can," he notes.

 Source: Mike Brooks, Curenci
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

DoTopia blends technology and charitable giving

Although charitable giving can seem straightforward, there's a complexity to that type of generosity, especially if done through an employer. A new startup, DoTopia, aims to simplify the process, and create enormous benefits along the way.
Kicked off by philanthropist Billy Weisman and Target veterans Nate Garvis and Mike Dominowski, the firm offers a better model for giving, based on what the trio experienced in the corporate world.
"We've all seen a number of limitations with how things are handled," says Dominowski. "There are demographic trends that show changes in charitable giving for younger generations, so we wanted to develop a sustainable model of fundraising that would appeal to companies as well as individuals."
Launched in 2012, DoTopia provides a platform where companies can use "DoDollars" for charitable contributions. This digital currency can be utilized for customizing giving programs, funding a nonprofit project, or engaging individuals, Dominowski notes.
"Companies are trying to do more to meet the needs and interests of employees and stakeholders, and the current models don't go far enough to give these people the ability to be engaged in charitable giving at the level they'd like," he says. With DoTopia's platform, people can have more control over where their dollars go, creating a stronger connection between donors and nonprofits.
Recently, the firm signed on its first Fortune 50 client, and is already getting strong feedback. Dominowski anticipates growth as the platform catches on: "We see this as the next iteration of charitable giving. We want to establish ourselves as the norm when it comes to corporate giving programs."
Source: Mike Dominowski, DoTopia
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

New digital publishing venture Think Piece starts strong

For many in the legal and political realms of the Twin Cities, Adam Wahlberg is a well-known name. For over a dozen years, he was executive editor of the thought-provoking magazine 'Minnesota Law & Politics,' then went on to helm 'Super Lawyers,' a Thomson Reuters service.
But after 16 years in the business, he was ready for a change. Always interested in advocacy, Wahlberg enrolled at the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota, but found that he missed journalism. "I didn't see how I could connect those worlds, because I was anticipating a new career as a policy wonk," he says. "Then, I had a light bulb moment."
While talking with a friend who worked as a journalist in Afghanistan, the two began discussing PTSD in the military, and the conversation turned to publishing the journalist's thoughts on the subject. Wahlberg began to research self-publishing options, and then realized he could become a publisher himself, and start a venture that put out e-books exclusively.
Think Piece was born. The digital publishing firm is in the 'humble beginnings' stage, with Wahlberg working in CoCo's offices for now. But he's already landed several big projects, including a new book from popular author Janet Burroway, who plans a memoir about her son, a private military contractor in Iraq.
Wahlberg is excited to be hitting the ground running on multiple projects, and is beginning to envision other ways to offer content via mobile devices. "In some ways, I don't have any idea what I'm doing," he says with a laugh. "But it doesn't matter because I'm having a blast."
Source: Adam Wahlberg, Think Piece
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Tech startup Miinome focuses on genome data

Much has been written about cracking the genome's code, but little is said about how this information will be used, particularly on an individual level. Will your genome data be public property, or will you be able to have a level of ownership over its contents? One Minneapolis-based startup prefers the latter.
Founded in March 2012 by entrepreneur Paul Saarinen and University of Minnesota Associate Professor of Genetics Scott Fahrenkrug, Miinome aims to be the largest member-owned genetic database and genetic data broker in the world. The name Miinome derives from a combination of 'genome' and a play on 'Wii' game controllers, creating a blend that indicates members will have control of their own unique genetic code.
"We believe in the concept of property rights, and genomic data right now isn't necessarily legally yours yet," says Saarinen. "We want to change that, to a model where you would have access to your genetic information, and the ability to choose what you do with it."
The company is in its early stages right now, but sparking quite a bit of interest with partnerships and investors. The pair has filed an initial patent around the idea with plans to release a beta version of their platform in the next six months. Until then, Saarinen is jetting around the country collecting advisors and raising capital.
"This is getting a little crazy in terms of traction, and we're just trying to keep up," he says. In other words, keep an eye on Miinome this year as it goes from stealth to boom.
Source: Paul Saarinen, Miinome
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

February events: MHTA Session, Health 2.0, Business Valuation, Digital Marketing

MHTA Session Preview: Tech, Innovation, and Life Science Industries
February 5
Science Museum of Minnesota
20 Kellogg Blvd. W., St. Paul
4:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Presented by the Minnesota High Tech Association and Life Science Alley, this event features a panel discussion with several legislators, including Speaker of the House Paul Thissen, talking about the future of tech, innovation, and life sciences in the state.
Health 2.0: Aetna and Azul 7
February 6
Azul 7 offices
800 Hennepin Ave., Suite 700, Minneapolis
5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
For the past year, design firm Azul 7 has been working the Aetna to develop a cohesive user experience across multiple systems. In this talk, both sides will discuss the project, as well as give insight on the challenges and benefits of designing user-friendly technologies in the health care industry.
Business Valuation Conference
February 6
University of St. Thomas
1000 LaSalle Ave., Minneapolis
7:30 am - 4:30 pm
This annual conference, now in its 23rd year, covers an array of business valuation topics, including the basics of a real estate appraisal, use of regression analysis, and eminent domain. Toby Madden, from The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, will give an economic update to kick off the day.
Social Media and Data Analytics for Digital Marketing
February 7 & 8
Carlson School of Management
321 19th Ave. S., Minneapolis
8:00 am - 4:30 pm
As part of its Executive Education series, the Carlson School of Management presents this two-day conference on making smarter use of social media and their data. Participants will learn how to extract business intelligence from social tools, why they should tap into open innovation opportunities, and much more.

SmartThings fosters growth with hiring and partnerships

Home automation has been one of those technology fields where innovation has come before demand. Much like it took e-readers a few decades to really catch on, home automation has been available, but not quite ready for its close-up.
But that situation may be changing fast, thanks in part to local startup SmartThings.
The company has been gaining serious momentum, after a successful Kickstarter campaign and a seed funding round. Co-founder Ben Edwards notes that the industry is on the verge of major growth, and SmartThings is likely to boom along with it.
"We're seeing interest in partnerships with companies like insurance firms, who would benefit from more home automation," he says. "There are many unexpected partnership opportunities that we're pursuing right now."
The SmartThings platform is fairly simple, but ingenious. It allows numerous systems in a home to be connected to technology. For example, you could be at work and get an alert on your iPhone that someone has just opened a window in your house, or that the temperature has dropped by 20 degrees, indicating a potential mechanical issue. There's a level of control as well, allowing you to turn lights on and off while on vacation, for instance.
Just the promise of SmartThing's offering has created significant buzz. The company's seed funding round netted $3 million, augmenting the $1.2 million raised by its Kickstarter campaign.
Thanks to its potential, the company is on a hiring path, with a headcount in Minneapolis of 20, and 10 more employees in other parts of the country. Edwards says, "If feels like we're getting bigger every day."
Source: Ben Edwards, SmartThings
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

DoDrinks offers unique app for sharing happy hour anytime

"We should do happy hour sometime, I'll buy you a drink." That phrase may be uttered often, but for busy executives who barely have time to eat, putting together a leisurely get-together can feel like planning a trip around the world. It would be nice, but it's not exactly realistic with a jam-packed schedule.
That was the situation facing BreAnna Fisher when she was working at a marketing and advertising agency, and wanted to reward her intern for diligent work. "We had a project and he did an amazing job, so I said, 'I want to buy you a drink,' but later at home, I realized that I had a 3-year-old, I was full-time in school, and had a demanding job," she recalls. "I looked at my husband and said, 'When am I ever going to buy this kid a drink?'"
That realization sparked an idea for a business, DoDrinks, that would allow people to quickly "send a drink" (beer, wine, cocktail, or coffee) to someone else, which they could redeem whenever they like.
The idea is deceptively simple, since it involves some complex technology behind the scenes. Fisher relies on a technology team for development and testing, and the app is now in its third iteration.
The venture has started to gain momentum and garner attention from potential partners. Already, Fisher has linked up with Heineken, and is likely to ink deals with other drink purveyors.
Fisher credits her eight years in the military for giving her the discipline to take on an entrepreneurial venture. "I have a high risk tolerance, and I can complete a mission with limited resources," she says. "You can't be successful in the military without those skills, and as it turns out, they're perfect for leading a company as well."
Source: BreAnna Fisher
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Canopy builds buzz for its innovative iPhone case

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) might not be well known to actual consumers, but for companies that develop devices, software, gadgets, and games, it's the Olympics of trade shows. Held annually in Las Vegas, the event is awash in big names, dramatic unveilings, and more than a few industry parties.
So, when Minneapolis-based startup Canopy got a burst of attention for its new touch-sensitive iPhone case, Sensus, it was more than just nice recognition for its founder, Andrew Kamin-Lyndgaard--it proved that his idea was ready for the big time.
"People really took notice at CES," he says. "Since then, the attention has been constant."
Kamin-Lyndgaard started the company in 2008 as a solo entrepreneur, working in a 400-square-foot office in Northeast Minneapolis. The company's first product, the Canopy Kapok, was an iPhone case with dedicated buttons for shooting photos and video.
Although the product didn't garner wide adoption, it opened the door, he says, sparking conversations with others in the iOS application community who made products for Apple devices.
The result of those explorations is Sensus, a smartphone case that expands a device's functionality. As Sensus gets more buzz, Canopy is headed for a robust growth track. In the past couple years, Kamin-Lyndgaard has added seven full-time employees, and plans to hire another two or three in the coming months.
The larger goal, he says, is to be acquired by a bigger firm, and with the CES success, that seems a realistic goal. He says, "The nature of Sensus is disruptive, and that's why it's getting attention. That's going to be compelling for a company looking at acquisition opportunities."
Source: Andrew Kamin-Lyndgaard, Canopy
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
389 Entrepreneurship Articles | Page: | Show All
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