MN on the National Non-Flyover Radar During TCSW
When I attended a few tech events during Twin Cities Startup Week (#TCSW) in 2014, I sort of deduced on my own that the events were part of the larger #TCSW. I signed up for startup week events that year through those communities’ websites like 1Million Cups at James J, Hill, MN Cup through the University of Minnesota and Bootstrappers Breakfast through the Carlson School of Management. Read my 2014 Recap here.
Two years later, the week has evolved into more than a designated week to highlight events that occur regularly and bring together communities who already know each other. It absolutely makes sense that it started with these tight-knit communities — that’s not a knock. That fabric and make-up kept it agile and organically growing into the experience it has become today, which is much broader and inclusive of a larger community.
This year, the startup week was on my radar a lot earlier. I planned for it and registered weeks in advance for a few events I knew would fill up quickly. I also knew I could easily keep tabs on events as they developed and could align my workload with the schedule and event locations and make day-prior decisions on attending. The mobile-friendly TCSW scheduler was a logistical savior, calling out tracks of interest and linking directly to registration. It gets better — they’ve assigned a community champion as the person, or track lead, for each track. Just kudos all around.
I’ve come along for the Startup Capital of the North’s growth from a communications and media perspective. Our tech community needs to tell our story after all — locally and nationally. From my perspective, I can point out a few stories that have evolved over the past years.
Women in Tech
You knew I’d go there first. So predictable. But it’s worth noting that women have their own uprising in tech going on and events during TCSW support those conversations. And while we’re leaning increasingly toward a more representative balance of men and women in our tech community, culture can take what seems like eons to follow suit.
During today’s @HacktheGap at CoCoMSP, event hosts Kirsten Womack and Jenna Pederson guided us through a fishbowl conversation (where speakers and audience alike rotate being in one of the five hot seats in the front of room). One of the hot topics included culture. The take away? We need to have conversations with men. The conversations need to model behavior by being constructive and assertive, but not overly assertive. Conversations should be live (not lengthy emails that can sometimes be construed as coming from a place of “mom”) and direct with an insert of humor when it calls for it i.e. What happened today was not good. Do you agree? How can we make that never happen again?
Fly To not Over
We’ve been waving our MN flag to attract coastal second glances. We’ve marketed the Minnesota tech community by attaching it to IoT Alley and other branded ventures. We’re gaining attention. Advocates for policy related to tech like MHTA and the way our crafty community addressed geography, are propelling us forward. For example, by using a simple Google form and supportive funding, Free Flights for TCSW was jettisoned into a real thing. Just apply online if you’re serious about relocating here, tell TCSW why MN.
I’m eager to follow-up on the results of this effort, which not only brought many tech career and job seekers to Minnesota, it demonstrated that we welcome that diversity and that we’re ready to support it. In fact, up to four of the companies at Techstars Demo Day at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis mentioned company headquarter, relocation of employee moves of some sort to Minnesota. Attribute it to recent findings that Minnesota is fifth in desirable state shape and continues to be highly rep’d or the cleverness of the tech community and programs offering free flights to check out MN. Either way, the national-ness vibe of this event was completely energizing.
Tech for Social Good, People Building & Design Matters
In 2014, I attended the Midwest Mobile Summit in Fargo and wrote about empathy in tech and concerns about applying tech for social good and in responsible ways rather than just tech because its cool or because we can. At the September 20 Techstars event, I noticed distinct progress toward tech for social good and people building. The opportunity for social good was transparent in Revolar; and the people building (creating empathy, nurturing creativity for all ages) capabilities were limitless in ItsByU, Makerbloks, Makerskit and Obvious (which is not yet obvious in scope, but all about kids’ lunches).
The themes that emerged from Addstructure, Branch Messenger, Inspectorio and Spruce revolved around smarter search, better scheduling, finances and analytics and relationship-based marketing for retailers. The beautiful efficiency of products and services like these are so welcome in and of themselves and for the highly sought after byproduct they produce: TIME. Less time spent with frustrations and more time for people-focused interactions and crafts like making fancy lunches and filming bathbomb explosions (according to my 13YO and Makerskits, this is a real thing).
I’d place Blueprint Registry in a category on it’s own: design. I arrived late to the event so missed their stage presentation, but an architect friend of mine introduced me to Nevin, CEO of the company. It happened just as I was wondering if and how architects (and I don’t mean information architects) might be involved in any of these companies. I love that this design interaction begins when a couple registers for wedding gifts. It’s a design education tool with sustainability and functionality at its core.
That’s just a little flavor of #TCSW16. It continues through Sunday, September 25 with events. Check it out, find your track, venture out a bit and see who and what the #MNTech Community has to offer. It deserves to be on your radar.