The world of technology startups has been centered around regions such as Silicon Valley and New York. Great North Labs, based in St. Cloud and Minneapolis with a partner in Silicon Valley, is working to bring funding for these startups to the upper Midwest. Specifically, Managing Partner Ryan Weber hopes to bring resources and conversation to the Grand Rapids area. 

Ryan’s wife, Melissa, was born and raised in Grand Rapids. The two met in St. Cloud while attending college and have lived there ever since. In 2007, the couple purchased a second home in Grand Rapids and frequently come to the area to visit family. Ryan is hoping that the work he does with Great North Labs can be of benefit to the community.

Great North Labs is an early-stage venture fund. The fund recently announced it’s debut fund with $23.7 million in committed capital, making it one of the Midwest’s largest debut seed funds. Managing partners are twin brothers Ryan and Rob Weber, along with Pradip Madan. Rob resides in Maple Grove and Pradip is located in Silicon Valley. They are also joined by a large team of advisors from the Midwest and Silicon Valley.

 “We are very appreciative and humbled by the tremendous support shown for our debut fund by our limited partners,” Rob commented. “Our investors’ support shows not only their conviction for us as fund managers, but also their conviction to backing the next generation of startup founders across our region.” 

According to a press release from Great North Labs, the brothers, “who have worked together since bootstrapping their first company in college, have a successful track record as founders, operators and early stage investors. Predip Madan is a Silicon Valley tech executive with a long history of success at both Fortune 100 companies and startups, and has been part of several seminal moments of tech and venture history.”

Ryan has already been working to connect with the community of Grand Rapids through the Blandin Foundation and wants to continue this outreach this summer. 

“We’re excited to just be a part of that conversation and see if we can help,” Ryan said. “We’ve got to find people that we can partner with to make this really develop.”

The three tasks Ryan hopes to do in Grand Rapids include investing in startups in the Grand Rapids area, connect people to other resources in the state and work with those who would like to see educational programs for startups and entrepreneurs develop. These programs would be similar to the Lean Startup Bootcamp in St. Cloud through Great North Lab’s Startup School and gBeta Greater-MN St. Cloud. 

“In the future, we’ll likely be partnering with some local business leaders to do events to help entrepreneurs in the greater Grand Rapids area,” Ryan said. “These are the types of programs I hope to help bring to the greater Grand Rapids area along with potential seed capital for founders that work through the process of researching their business ideas.”

Great North Labs is focused on bringing funds to the upper Midwest which includes North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. Other than Great North Labs, there have only been two other venture funds that have debuted with more than 20 million dollars in the Midwest, both are located in Chicago.

Startups that the company is interested in should be, “based or do business in the upper Midwest, who have the potential of reaching a $1B market, demonstrate product-market fit and defensible attributes, and leverage new technology,” according to the press release. 

Ten percent of the fund is specifically committed to startups in underserved markets or pre-seed startups with founders from underrepresented groups. 

Ryan is looking forward to spending as much time as he can in Grand Rapids and to connect people to these valuable resources. Two of the programs Great North Labs is connected to and would like to bring awareness to the community of Grand Rapids are the Twin Cities Startup Week and Launch Minnesota. 

Twin Cities Startup Week takes place Oct. 9-16 and any one is able to submit an application to be a part of some of the events from now until July 19. 

“The Twin Cities Startup Week now attracts tens of thousands of people to participate in the week long event, including thousands from outside of Minnesota that fly in for it,” Ryan explained. “There is one major event during Twin Cities Startup Week that is put on by Beta.mn, the organization that oversees all of Twin Cities Startup Week. It’s an event called the Beta.mn Showcase. The Beta.mn Showcase event is an exhibition where startups that are accepted each have a table and guests come that are interested in investing or supporting them.”

Ryan said the application to be a part of the Beta.mn Showcase will be available in the next upcoming weeks. The showcase is working with Great North Labs to feature startups from Northern Minnesota at the event. 

“There are expected to be over 1,000 people at the event! This will be a great opportunity to get in front of many early stage startup investors in the Midwest as well as connect with some of the most active people in the state’s startup ecosystem,” Ryan commented. “It’s only one night and it will be free for the founders that are accepted.”

For more information, visit http://beta.mn/program/showcase

Part of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Launch Minnesota focuses on, “strengthening Minnesota’s startup ecosystem,” Ryan said. 

Ryan explained how the state-sponsored organization looks to bring resources such as housing assistance, grants for attracting development funding and federal research, child care, business liquidity grants and training for, “areas such as understanding equity capital, building toward scalability, and pitching venture capitalists.”

“The organization is just getting started but it has budget support and will soon have a full time manager in charge of it. Many programs that it will fund will likely be resources that the Grand Rapids community will benefit from,” Ryan said. “I’m close to this initiative and am happy to work with community leaders to ensure the benefits are taken advantage of by the community.”

To find out more about Great North Labs, visit greatnorthlabs.com. For more information, or if you would like to connect with Ryan about the work Great North labs would like to do in Grand Rapids, email ryan@greatnorthlabs.com.

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