Minnesota Firms Launch Tech Search For Elderly Focused Products And Startups

Minnesota startups, aging startups, elderly

Baby Boomers are the largest generation in history, and now they are getting older. While the elderly will soon become the biggest demographic segment in the population, one of the unique things about this segment is they are the first group that started integrating with new ideas in technology. People entering their 60’s and 70’s now were likely to have used computers in their workplace and cell phones in their daily lives.

That’s why the time is ripe for startups and inventors catering to older segments of the population to bring their products to market.

To assist in that goal, St. Paul Minnesota based AgePower.org has created a program for entrepreneurs building products catering to this segment

MoJo Minnesota, an innovation cooperative, and Ecumen a Minnesota organization providing housing and care to over 10,0000 elderly residents in the state, have teamed up to launch the “Age Power Tech Search.”

The program is a hybrid: part incubator, part accelerator, and part customer discovery program. Startups will submit their idea, company, or product to a team of judges from MOJO Minnesota and Ecumen. They will then pick 4 companies that will be in the program and get to test market their product to Ecumen’s robust network of elderly clientele.

The selected startups will also get access to mentors through both organizations and access to local investors through MOJO Minnesota. In exchange the program will take a small equity stake in the company, Venture Beat reported.

Eric Schubert, Vice President of Ecumen told Venture Beat in an interview that the elderly segment is often overlooked in technology.

When asked about what kind of ideas they are looking for, Schubert told Venture Beat, “Is there a technology that can help an elderly person live independently? How about helping them maintain social connections? Or improving the rehabilitation experience after a surgery?”

Interested entrepreneurs and startups can submit their ideas through October 31st here at Agepower.org










Google Backs Minnesota Game Startup That Diagnosis ADHD

CogCubed, Minnesota Startup, startup news, Google

CogCubed is a Minnesota based startup that is using an interactive video game platform to help diagnose Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), a disorder which has affected 5.4 million children since 2007, according to the CDC.

CogCubed uses gaming platform Sifteo, which debuted two years ago. Sifteo is a set of interactive blocks with small screens on them. Developers have programmed them to do a variety of things.

In the case of CogCubed, Minneapolis child psychiatrist Monika Heller and her game developer husband Kurt Roots invented a game where children use one cube as a mallet to hit a gopher that appears on the other three cubes, according to a report in the Star Trubune.

As the game continues, obstacles such as birds and other animals start appearing on the other screens. The player must continue to focus on the gopher.

Roots and Heller have incorporated 70 different data points in the game to discern things like when the player’s attention drifts and if the player is fidgeting. The couple told the Star Tribune that the game can even help improve a child’s attention span.

While a clinical diagnosis would still require a psychiatrist, Heller is hopeful that they can get CogCubed into homes to help parents with an early diagnosis.

“Six to 12 months is the average waiting period to see a child/adolescent psychiatrist [for a comprehensive evaluation],” she said.. “How phenomenal would it be if Mom could have an assessment tool at home?”

CogCubed is awaiting FDA approval for a version of the game that can be used as a diagnostic tool.

They also have data from a study that validates Roots’ and Hellers’ claims. The study at the University of Minnesota matched a psychiatrist’s diagnosis 75% of the time. The current standard, a computer test called “The Continuous Performance Test,” is accurate about 62% of the time according to Heller.

CogCubed has raised $20,000 from Google. They’re also a finalist in the Minnesota Cup.

You can find out more about CogCubed here at CogCubed.com

Photo: StarTribune


Fargo Fund Raised $45 Million Dollars To Support Even More In The Silicon Prairie

Arthur Ventures, Fargo startups, Omaha startup, Silicon Prairie

Last week, Fargo North Dakota firm Arthur Ventures announced the closing of their second fund.  Silicon Prairie news reports that the firm founded in 2008 began with a $20 million dollar fund which went “primarily to North Dakota and Minnesota”.

“With the second fund, we are making a concerted effort to add Omaha, KC, Des Moines and their surrounding regions as focus areas for investments,” said Patrick Meenan, a director with Arthur Ventures. In addition to supporting Omaha, KC and Des Moines, the company launched a satellite office in Minneapolis where about 40% of their deal flow is sourced.

The firm is looking to invest in fund startup with between $1m and $3m per round.“Our goal is to discover the best enterprise software applications and software in healthcare, agriculture, and the energy space,” Arthur Ventuers Managing Partner James Burgum told tech.mn

“We believe in the power of entrepreneurship and innovation to transform existing markets and to create new markets,” the firm’s co-founder and chairman Doug Burgum  said in a release. “Software is the greatest invention yet that extends human capabilities, and we are grateful to help build enduring companies whose solutions can have such a positive impact on the human condition.”

Some of the companies already in the Arthur Ventures portfolio include: Altravax, Intelligent InSites, LiquidCool Solutions, Loyalty Builders, Preventice and Workface, according to SPN.


What Do You Do When Your Startup Fails? Create Stuffed Meme’s Of Course

Altsie, Lucas Rayala, Minnesota startup, startups, memesIn April 2012 we reported on a great new startup in Minneapolis that was trying to change the way that people watched indie films. That startup, Altsie, was a great idea with a solid founder, Lucas Rayala.  The idea worked like this: a movie go-er checks out the film online and purchases a ticket online. Then they attend the movie among new like-minded friends at a venue that also supports the indie movie circuit. Voila! An instant offline social mix.

While it was a great idea and picked up some traction, six months later they shut the startup down. When they shut it down though, Rayala went above and beyond, not for himself or his team but for other entrepreneurs. He first penned a piece about his failure that appeared on TechCrunch. Then he released what he called “The Altsie Report: Summary of a startup that didn’t quite work out”, giving out advice to fellow entrepreneurs that would listen to help them succeed. It’s a similar approach to what path.to just did this week when they shut down.

So now what’s Rayala up to?

He’s working on another startup that’s in strict stealth mode. In the meantime he’s doing something fun and exciting that may catch on more than he hopes. We know he wants to do another tech startup, but this new idea is sharp.

“Working with a talented group of artists, I created Mr. No and his Meme Friends, a gang of cartoon characters inspired by many of the internet’s most popular memes. Mr. No is my favorite character, so I’ve launched this Kickstarter to produce a Santa-themed Mr. No plush toy in time for the holidays. Mr. No is 8” tall and made of quality materials that meet or exceed all health and safety guidelines. If you skip down to the production details you’ll understand why I’m starting Christmas so early this year. ” Rayla said on his Kickstarter page.

Meme’s are a crazy popular phenomena this year and by Christmas time they’ll be even more popular. This may take off, but Rayala insists that his heart is in tech startups, and he and co-founder Joe Dolson are working hard on the next project. In the meantime go sign up for a stuffed meme.

Worried about startup failure? Go read the Altsie report.


Minnesota Startup Theory.io Launches NoteSuite, A Safer Syncable Notebook

NoteSuite, Minnesota Startup, Theory.io, Startup Launch, Privacy

Ever since Prism and Edward Snowden became household words, people that resort to keeping their lives managed on their mobile devices have been worried about the security of their personal, professional, and most intimate notes.  If their notes are living in the cloud, are they actually safe from prying eyes?

The other big problem with note taking apps and notebook apps today is that users are worried about being trapped in a proprietary ecosystem. What happens if the app they’re using shuts the service down, or they just don’t feel like paying anymore? Sure there are a ton of simple notebook apps that may work. There are also a ton of Microsoft Office solutions, but familiar names like Evernote mean you’re stuck in the Evernote ecosystem.

That’s why Peter Tamte, President of Theory,io is releasing NoteSuite for iPad. This new notebook app has all the syncing functionality of other cloud-based note taking apps, but the notes live device side. Also, equally as important, they can be quickly exported.

NoteSuite for iPad is also the only mobile app that allows users to take notes, manage to-dos, clip web pages, annotate almost anything, and read/search PDFs, MS Office files, and web clips together in one app. It makes it easier to stay organized while mobile. NoteSuite for Mac automatically syncs with NoteSuite for iPad and combines note-taking, to-do management, web clipping, and document organization.

Different from most note-taking apps, NoteSuite does not require a subscription. NoteSuite stores users’ data safely on their iPad or computer, employing popular cloud services for syncing and backup rather than primary storage. This ensures users’ never pay extra to access notes offline, data will not vanish if their web service gets cancelled, access to notes will not be jeopardized by security concerns or lost Internet connections, and users’ data can never get held hostage for higher fees in the future.

NoteSuite is a sequel to Theory.io’s Projectbook, which launched in August 2012 as the #1 best-selling paid iPad productivity app. NoteSuite is an original app, with more than 100 new features and changes and is available as a free upgrade for Projectbook users.

“Web services are ideal for syncing, backup, and collaboration. But, our notes hold our most important ideas and information,”  Tamte said in a statement. “Our research shows that 62% of notes app users are worried about trapping their data inside a proprietary, subscription-based system. NoteSuite lets users stay on top of everything that matters in one organized place and never lose control of their data.”


Here are just some of NoteSuite for iPad’s features:

– Capture Anything: Type, make lists, take photos, record audio, and capture to-dos collectively within notes pages. The iPad version also lets users draw and handwrite directly on notes pages.

– Clip Web Pages: Save clutter-free, fully searchable articles, shopping pages, recipes, and PDFs directly from the web into the app to enjoy anytime, anywhere – even offline.

– Manage To-dos: Track due dates and start dates, set reminders, and match to-dos and projects with relevant notes and documents using comprehensive to-do management features.

– Annotate PDFs: Markup, highlight, sign, fill out forms, type, draw freehand, write, and more on iPad using the PDF capabilities.

– Annotate Anything: Convert MS Office and Apple iWork documents to PDF on iPad, draw or type directly on photos, and convert PowerPoint slides into notes pages for note taking during meetings and lectures.

– Read and Search Documents: Read and search Word docs, PowerPoint files, PDFs, notes, web clips, and to-dos.

– Find Things That Aren’t Organized: Find notes, Word docs, PDFs, and PowerPoint files even if they haven’t been tagged or filed in folders, and without having to remember keywords.

– Sync Across Devices: Tapping one button allows users to sync their data automatically via iCloud from that point forward, without creating a new account or remembering more passwords.

Normally priced at $4.99, NoteSuite for iPad is available at a special introductory price of $1.99 through July 15, 2013 and is a free upgrade for Projectbook users. NoteSuite for iPad is available on the App Store here.

Normally priced at $9.99, NoteSuite for Mac is available at a special introductory price of $4.99 through July 15, 2013. NoteSuite for Mac is available on the Mac App Store here.


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Minnesota Startup Mardil Medical Raises $6M From Malaysia

Mardil Medical, funding, startup news, Minnesota startupIn a bit of interesting funding news, Mardil Medical, a medical startup from the Twin Cities has received a $6.125 million dollar round of funding led by Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM).

Some may find that this investment from AIM is a rather risky endeavor. Mardil is in the process of going through the most capital intensive route to regulatory approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Not only that but the company’s technology incorporates the assets acquired from a failed medical technology startup that raised and spent over $100 million dollars in venture capital before throwing in the towel.

That isn’t stopping Mardil and it’s CEO Jim Buck from developing a technology that treats a heart condition called functional mitral valve regurgitation. This condition occurs when blood leaks from the heart’s left ventricle, through the mitral valve and into the left atrium, when the left ventricle contracts. It’s the most common form of valvular heart disease, a leading cause of death in pregnancy.

The Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal reports that, like most medical technology companies, Mardil is going to begin with overseas clinical trials. Buck decided because of this, it was only natural to seek funding overseas as well. Mardil will begin testing in Kuala Lumpur. After initial testing they will have to bring their research back to America to hopefully land FDA approval.

In addition to the $6.125 million dollar round, they plan on closing another $5 million dollar round later this year.

See the great startups from ZeroTo510 a medical device accelerator in Memphis who fast tracks businesses to prepare for a 510K approval from the FDA. This approval is much faster than the traditional route. The inaugural class from ZeroTo510 will be in the Startup Village at everywhereelse.co

Accelerate MSP To Fund Up To 10 Twin Cities Startups

Accelerate MSP, Minneapolis startups,funding, startups

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman (photo: business journal)

The Minneapolis /St.Paul twin cities region is about to get another non profit aimed at funding startups. St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman announced the new “Accelerate MSP” initiative before an audience of a few hundred at the St. Paul Regional Economic Development Forum in Minneapolis.

Accelerate MSP will “…help fill a critical need for seed and early-stage funding at the valley of death stage in commercialization,” Coleman said.

The new group plans to fund early stage startups with a seed investment anywhere between $50,000 and $500,000 dollars. They plan on funding 10 startups per year.

To date the new organization has raised $200,000 with another $150,000 request pending. Accelerate MSP has received funds from The City Of St. Paul, The Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development, the McKnight Foundation, Saint Paul Foundation, Surdna Foundation and the US Department of Commerce.

Ernest Grumbles, Tom Kieffer, Brad Lehrman, Joy Lindsay, Steve Mercil and Jay Schrankler and make up the founding board for Accelerate MSP. They plan on hiring a CEO early next year that will help administer the fund.


Source: Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal

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Twin Cities Startup: Peerparazzi Tagging Photos At A Whole New Level

Peerparazi,St.Paul startup,Twin Cities startup,startup,startup interviewPhoto apps are now just about a dime a dozen. Many startups think they’re innovating in the photo space, but come to find that another six startups have had the same idea. Tagging photos for social reasons isn’t a new idea. In fact we just reported on Brooklyn startup Kapture that allows you to take pictures, on assignment, tag them and become a “brand ambassador” for rewards.

A new startup in St.Paul Minnesota is looking to maximize tagging in a social photo app. The startup is called Peerparazzi.

Peerparazzi says they provide an exciting new picture taking and social experience. Everything in the photo can be tagged, the people, places and things. Tagging photos within Peerparazzi allows you to automatically send the photos to the people that are in them.

On the business side, businesses can claim themselves in photos so that tags become interactive. A tag for a Wendy’s or McDonald’s could send a user to an interactive promotion. A tag for a shopping mall could send out a daily deal. A tag for a museum could send a user to a website.

Peerparazzi founder Damen Johnson believes that people are more likely to interact with product photos shot by their friends and family rather than just regular advertising.

We got a chance to talk with Johnson about Peerparazzi. Check out the interview below:

Read More…

Minnesota Startup Jingit Raises $7 Million, Pays Consumers To Watch Ads

Jingit,Minnesota startup,startup,startups,funding,startup newsJingit, a startup based in Edina Minnesota, has raised $7 million dollars in investment capital according to a regulatory filing.  The startup was founded last year by Joe Rogness, the former CEO of tech consultancy Two Fish and Todd Rooke a former executive with Hewlitt Packard.

Jingit allows ordinary consumers to earn up to $15 per week for watching ads and giving feedback on them. Household brands like Walmart, Hershey and Kraft are in Jingit’s stable of clients.

The company partnered with US Bank last year which issues a debit card on their behalf. Jingit customers’ earnings from ad watching is directly deposited onto the debit cards. Each ad yields the user between $.05 and $.50 cents.  Payments vary based on advertiser, market study, and demographics. For instance advertisers may pay more to have an 18 year old watch an advertisement for a video game rather than someone older. Kraft may pay more for people in an older demographic to watch their ad.

Jingit has fail safes in place to make sure that their users are actually watching ads. The ad will stop if another browser window or tab is opened while the ad is playing.

The startup gives advertisers unparalleled ability to drill down to their ideal customer. They’ve found that advertisers are willing to pay more money for this kind of targeted feedback.

Prior to this $7 million dollar round, Jingit had raised $3.5 million dollars.


Source: Minneapolis, St. Paul, Business Journal

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The Altsie Report: Summary Of A Startup That Didn’t Quite Work Out Part I

Altsie,Minnesota,startup,startups,failed startupsEditor’s note: We covered Altsie, a Minneapolis startup that helped promote and drive independent films and local commerce around the films. During that time we got to know Lucas Rayala, the startups founder. A few weeks back Rayala announced that he was shutting down Altsie and shared his thoughts on it with TechCrunch.  Rayala wanted to give other startup founders an inside look at a startup that “didn’t quite work out”.

His insightful report is very valuable to any startup founder and we will be publishing the report in four parts over the next two weeks. Anyone that feels this information is mission critical and would like the entire report in a downloadable format can simply email startups@nibletz.com and we will gladly send it to you.


What’s Altsie?

Altsie was a new way to go to the movies. Altsie partnered with hip neighborhood businesses across the country to create alternative screening venues and bring customers a new, exciting theater experience. Using some web 2.0 magic, businesses could, in minutes, set up a profile and schedule show times through our site. Altsie’s vision was to disrupt the old Hollywood theater model; with the help of overnight shipping, we had the ability to create a hundred micro theaters overnight.

It just didn’t work out that way.

Incorporated as a Minnesota LLC, Altsie showed films from April to November of 2012. During that time, Altsie partnered with seven businesses across three states and has had thirty screenings of seven award-winning films. Altsie made money through online ticket sales.

We closed in November of 2012 for various reasons, including a need to reinvent the original idea, a lack of funds to do so, and other personal reasons.

This paper describes some market observations we made during our short existence, some of the problems we ran into, and potential areas we think other startups might be interested in exploring. This paper is written from our limited perspective, but we believe that a perspective from someone with their boots on the ground is pretty valuable.

Market Summary:

The Universe of Theater Ticket Sales and the Cost of a Theater 

The MPAA Annual Report states that in the US/Canadian market, theater admissions were 1.3 billion in 2011, totaling $10.2B in sales ($32.6B worldwide sales). Attendance has fallen steadily over the last decade, down from 1.6 billion admissions in 2002, while sales have remained relatively stagnant due to increased ticket costs. 1

We wanted to position Altsie as a nationwide alternative to traditional big-box theaters, and we believed we had a significant cost advantage. To put things in perspective, an owner today will spend $2M to build and equip a standard movie theater2. For $2M, a business like Altsie could install HD projectors, screens, and speaker equipment in one thousand businesses across the country. That would instantly make that business, by location, the largest theater system in the United States, surpassing Regal and AMC combined.3

There’s a lot of power in small.


Altsie was the first company to partner with small businesses to create ticketed screenings on any scale. We were excited to be the first to explore this space. Other companies license films for non-theatrical venues, but securing the rights to show a movie through these companies is a byzantine and expensive process. Swank and The Criterion Collection are the two main competitors in this arena. Neither site caters to small businesses. Both are built for larger organizations like cruise lines, colleges, and prisons. These larger clients are allowed to screen movies concurrent with a film’s normal theatrical release; however, neither Swank nor Criterion will license a film to a small business until after it has been released to DVD.

Small businesses we spoke to did not like to work with either Swank or Criterion. They’re too expensive, starting at $175 to license a movie for a single showing. This makes it difficult for businesses to break even on an event. Small businesses have limited time and resources to procure films—Altsie knew this and made procurement easy, licensing straightforward, and event-creation a snap.

Altsie Audience Demographics 

The majority of Altsie’s customers were between 20 and 40 years of age. Anecdotally, they almost all attended our events as a “date night,” and the majority of tickets were purchased by women. Customers generally bought meals and drinks at our showings—this is in line with industry studies, which show that 43% of moviegoers go to a sit-down or fast food restaurant immediately before or after their movie.4


1 MPAA Annual Report, Theatrical Market Statistics, 2011, http://bit.ly/HH1VzH 

2 Reed Construction Data, Movie Theater: Construction Cost Estimating, http://bit.ly/P7E68B 

3 As of this writing, Regal and AMC are the two largest theater systems in the US, with 548 and 378 locations, respectively. http://bit.ly/dFuOQP 

4 The Arbitron Cinema Advertising Study: Appointment Viewing by Young, Affluent, Captive Audiences, 2003, http://bit.ly/NGo3gO 


Market Summary Continued:

This was a big sell to businesses who wished to partner with Altsie, and locations that paired specials with their showings were effective at pushing food sales. Our first show had 35 guests and created the highest Sunday-night sales “in memory” for The Nicollet’s owner, Jeremy Konecny, whose café did record pizza sales because of the special he offered with his tickets. While Altsie used group buying to get the word out about our service, for our business customers, Altsie wanted to position itself as an alternative to services like Groupon or LivingSocial.

What market trends made us believe Altsie would succeed?

Decreasing Number of Theaters 

The high cost of showing a movie in a traditional venue has led to fewer, larger theaters as owners consolidate costs. The number of indoor movie theaters has gone from 7,151 in 1995 to 5,561 in 2009, a 22% decrease5. The decrease in locations means, necessarily, that theaters are moving farther away from customers. You can quote any number of theories as to why attendance has decreased, but increased travel-time will limit physical attendance. However, because of the unchallenged position this model has in the live-screening market, theaters have been allowed to continue this unhealthy pattern. And this trend isn’t stabilizing, it’s accelerating. At a minimum of $65K per projector, the conversion to digital will be the final straw for many small theaters. “Convert or die,” is a maxim repeated by John Fithian, CEO and president of the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), the largest exhibition trade organization in the world. He’s right, for the traditional market. Large distributors will soon discontinue using film as a medium—Fox Pictures intends to do so in the next two years. NATO estimates that 1,000 venues will go under as other distributors follow suit, eliminating another 20% of our nation’s theaters. 6

This trend is sad, but the gaps left by the retreating theaters leave room for a new business model. Altsie wanted to be a model that brought movies back into neighborhoods, at a reasonable price and cost structure. There’s another growing trend we tried to take advantage of to do this.

Increasing Number of Films 

There are over 10,000 films created in North America every year. The Sundance Film Festival reports 12,000 submissions (both national and international) to their contest annually. Of that, they screen 200.7 In 2009, only 3 films that participated in our nation’s flagship festival were offered theatrical release, as reported in a roundtable discussion by industry experts in McSweeney’s San Francisco Panorama. 8 The discussion participants went on to talk about the need for a new method of distribution for this growing market. As the costs to create a film decrease, they note, directors do not need to rely as heavily on production companies. The sheer number of films now available made it relatively easy for Altsie to find quality work for our audiences.


5 National Association of Theater Owners website, http://bit.ly/5lxs5 

6 Hurley, Michael, We’re About to Lose 1,000 Small Theaters That Can’t Convert to Digital. Does It Matter?, IndieWire, Feb. 23, 2012, http://bit.ly/AzLtuB 

7 Sundance Film Festival Website, Film and Events page, http://bit.ly/gckpzb 

8 McSweeney’s San Francisco Panorama, Jan. 1, 2010, http://bit.ly/ntA8sT 

 Market Summary Continued

Decreasing Projection Costs and Changing Markets 

While professional equipment has gone up in price, home theater equipment has decreased in price and increased in quality. Six years ago, a high definition 1080P projector cost over $10K. Today, higher quality units are around $900. The rapidly decreasing cost presents an inevitable problem for the film industry. It’s a problem the record industry was caught famously unprepared for with the rise of MP3s—technology has created a new method for distribution, and unless a business model exists to harness this new technology, illegal screenings will become more common. Altsie, of course, hoped to head off that trend and meet the market need.

Increased Online Buying and “Going Local” 

Concepts which would not have been possible ten years ago have become realities because of a recent critical mass of internet users and the expansion of mobile. “Local” is the new buzzword for internet businesses. Customers are excited to use the internet to discover new adventures in their cities, as exemplified by the rapid adoption of services such as Groupon, FourSquare, Yelp, and more. Groupon’s 2011 Letter to Shareholders states that they have 33 million active users worldwide who purchased 170 million deals last year.9 “Going local” works, and there is a large market for online and social purchasing that Altsie tried to tap into. To do this, Altsie used its website as a tool to automatically organize businesses and show times, creating a flexible framework for event creation that made it easy for consumers to get local, find relevant information, and minimizes the number of clicks necessary to purchase a ticket.


Rural and Underserved Markets 

Finally, not every city has an independent theater, and rural markets are underserved with respect to movie theaters in general and independent films in particular. This opens up several opportunities. Certain geographies cannot support traditional movie theaters. Altsie wanted to bring a theater experience to smaller geographies by partnering with pre-existing businesses. There is less competition with other entertainment options in these regions. Altsie saw rural communities as a major expansion point for our business and believed this had the potential to be our largest market.

There’s a second market consideration with regard to rural communities. Altsie spoke with distribution companies interested in expanding their footprint beyond the indie theaters they’re currently restricted too. They do not, of course, want to cannibalize or otherwise compete with established markets, but they see value in a separate market offering outside the urban areas. We believe this is a still an area of growth.



9 Groupon 2011 shareholder letter, http://bit.ly/KoqnIL 


We will continue to bring the rest of this report to you over the next few days!  If you would like the report in it’s entirety simply email us at startups@nibletz.com

Failing Gracefully: Minnesota Startup Altsie Closes It’s Doors

Back in April we brought you an interview with Lucas Rayala, the founder of Minnesota startup Altsie. Altsie provided a new socially charged way for independent movie go-ers to enjoy independent films.

Altsie built partnerships with independent film producers and local businesses to show movies in their establishments. The platform brought more customers to local businesses, let independent film fans comingle with each other and served as a platform for independent film producers to have their movies screened.

Back in April it seemed that things were chugging along for Rayala and Altsie.  Altsie was showing films in the Twin Cities, getting press from the likes of Paul Carr at Pando Daily, and Rayala had even had the chance to meet with Tony Hsieh at the Downtown project in Las Vegas.

But two years creating Altsie and 8 months running it was taking a toll on Rayala’s psyche all the way around. He writes in this piece at techcrunch.com that he was overweight for the first time in his life, he was losing touch with his new wife Kathryn, and he was smoking more and drinking more.

While many of us startup go-hards constantly try to one up each other with stories about sleeping on floors, eating ramen or not sleeping at all, startup life can take it’s toll.

To compound these issues for Rayala, he also continued to work a full time job which meant in between contacting movie distributors, venues, designers, customers and friends he actually had a job to do.

Unlike many startup founders Rayala found it inside himself to gracefully exit, and shut down Altsie. He could have kept going, but he made the conscious decision to say enough is enough. Often times this is one of the hardest things for a startup founder or entrepreneur to do.

In an email to his cofounders Rayala wrote:

“I’m folding up Altsie. It’s been a great experience but we didn’t get the outside interest I was hoping for, and I want to end things neatly instead of bludgeoning a great project to death over time. Want to have a postmortem beer?”

Do you know when to say when?

Read Rayala’s personal account of “Killing Your Startup On A Thursday Night” here at TechCrunch.com


Our interview with Rayala

Source: TechCrunch

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University Of Minnesota Has Record Year For Incubated Startups

The University of Minnesota has reported that they’ve had a record year for startups incubated within the University System. U of M has spawned 38 startups since they’ve started keeping track six years ago. Of those 38, 30 of them are still operating today.

Last fiscal year alone the University spawned 12 startups which is 3 more than the previous year.  Startups coming out of the University of Minnesota span a number of industries. Last year they ranged from a vaccine to treat brain tumors to a smartphone based software that is said to improve driving.

“This record number of startups shows that the overhaul of our technology commercialization function that was initiated five years ago is clearly paying off,” said president Eric Kaler. “The diverse range of disciplines represented in these 12 startup companies demonstrates what a valuable resource the University of Minnesota is to businesses in this state, and beyond.”

Here are the twelve startups:


  • Argilex Technologies: Membrane technology for separation processes such as those in the petroleum refining, chemicals and biofuels industries (Michael Tsapatsis/College of Science and Engineering)
  • Ariel Pharmaceuticals: Treatment for prevention of death due to blood loss from trauma (Matthew Andrews/Biology, UMN-Duluth; Lester Drewes and Gregory Beilman/Medical School)
  • CIPAC: Treatment using live bacterial preparation that could stop infection caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile (Michael Sadowsky/College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences and Alexander Khoruts/Medical School)
  • cycleWood Solutions: Low-cost biodegradable and compostable bags (Simo Sarkanen/ CSE)
  • Drive Power: Web- and smartphone-based products that leverage emerging measurement technologies and predictive analytics to enable people to make more informed driving decisions (Max Donath, Craig Shankwitz and Alec Gorjestani/CSE)
  • Early Learning Labs: Assessments and services to help parents and early child-care providers develop “kindergarten-ready” children (Scott McConnell/College of Education and Human Development)
  • Epitopoietic Research Corporation: Vaccine that engages the immune system to treat brain tumors (John Ohlfest and Walter Low/Medical School)
  • Heat Mining Company: Process uses sequestered carbon dioxide to extract geothermal energy from the earth in order to generate electricity (Martin Saar/CSE)
  • Omicron Health Systems: Technology that helps clinicians monitor patient progress and improve the process of performing clinical research (Kevin Peterson/Medical School)
  • SMART Signal Technologies: Hardware and software solution that can be used to reduce traffic congestion on major signalized arterial highways (Henry Liu/CSE)
  • VitalSims: Simulated practice setting that enables the observation, analysis, and improvement of physician decision-making (Paul Johnson/Carlson School and George Biltz/CEHD)
  • Vytacera Pharma: Antidote for the prevention and treatment of cyanide poisoning (Bob Vince, Steve Patterson and Herb Nagasawa/Center for Drug Design)

The University’s Tim Mulcahy, Vice President of Research, says that the startups produced within the University system include startups from faculty, staff and students. The University is hoping to create as many new businesses as possible.

“This is extraordinarily good news that further illustrates the momentum we’ve established in our tech transfer operations,” said Tim Mulcahy, vice president for research. “Jay Schrankler and his team did an exceptional job in an economy where launching new companies was challenging, to say the least.”


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Minnesota Venture Firm Tells Startups: Stop Reading TechCrunch

TechCrunch,PandoDaily,VentureBeat,Arrington,Stop Reading TechCrunchFour business partners with roots in Minnesota, came together earlier this summer and announced the formation of a new venture firm called AMP Partners. Minnesota has seen a recent boost in startups and entrepreneurism spearheaded by JumpStart Inc and then quickly taken over by Minnesotans.

Darren Marhula, Brad England, Mark Donahoe and Chris Palm pooled their own money together from investment banking, Wall Street, and property management, Marhula told tech.mn in June.  “We’re interested in the right entrepreneur with the right plan more than the exact market.  We’re not exclusively focused on any one type of business, but definitely interested in local technology startups.”

Now as the summer season comes to a close and AMP’s been on the ground running for the last few months or so tech.mn checked back in with Marhula who echoed a main theme that we continually hear on our sneaker-strapped nationwide startup roadtrip. That theme, simply put is, valuations are too high.

In the follow-up interview Marhula said “we continue to be surprised by the unrealistically high valuation expectations by many entrepreneurs out there, which has prevented us from making more investments.”. So again in line with markets their size like St.Louis, Cincinnati and even Washington DC, entrepreneurs are pricing themselves out of an investment. This can be a lethally hard lesson to learn.

To date, AMP has invested into two companies, presumably with more modest self-worth. HomeVisor is an online Realtor referral service and the first to receive funding from AMP. Their second investment , BuyWafers.com sells silicon wafers and other materials for semi-conductors.  That company will be launching shortly. AMP didn’t reveal how much money was in either deal.

It’s evident that AMP, like most investors, are looking for viable startups and businesses and they’re not holding a business plan competition. AMP is also seeing a lot of buzzword happy entrepreneurs who are the same entrepreneurs being poked fun at by Vooza in New York.

Marhula said: “Stop reading TechCrunch and focus on building your business; get your valuation expectations in check and when you come in to pitch your idea, we don’t want to hear about exits, pivots, and MVPs…we want to see results.”

AMP Partners would love to hear your realistic pitch, drop them a line here


Source: tech.mn

Check out AMP here

Nibletz is the voice of startups “everywhere else”


Minneapolis Startup: Wahooly Giving Away Equity At Chicago Tech Week 2012 VIDEO INTERVIEW

Wahooly has had a lot of buzz lately. Their model which has been described by many as Kickstarter meets Klout, encourages social rockstars to mobilize and support startups for an equity stake.  As serial entrepreneurs, Wahooly co-founders Dana Severson, and Connor Hood know that the hardest thing for startups to do is gain traction, especially startups “everywhere else (that’s one reason we’re even here).

So what is this novel model and how does it work?

Well Wahooly takes social media influencers who sign up and presents 200 startups to the influencer per year. If in 12 months you decide to “invest” your social media influence in each of the 200 startups, then you’ll actually own an equity stake in all 200 of those startups. The best part is you’re leveraging your influence, not your dollars.

Startups who use Wahooly set up testing groups between 5k and 8k people. Up to 8% equity is set aside for this group. The group of influencers are asked to “Promote, Improve and Engage” and also give guidance and feedback in exchange for the equity. You may think that 5k to 8k people with Wahooly being a startup themselves, is a lot. Well Wahooly already has 30,000 influencers signed up in their capped beta. They also have a pretty hefty wait list brewing.

As for startups, there are 450 or so signed up to date.

We got to talk with an enthusiastic Severson at Chicago TechWeek. Naturally because of our mutual love of startups “everywhere” we hit it off and Wahooly was one of the first companies on our list to see at TechWeek. Their booth was buzzing though so it took hours to get some face time with Severson. Below is that video interview.










Find out more about Wahooly here

See more of our Chicago Tech Week coverage here

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