Techstars, a global investment business that provides access to capital, one-on-one mentorship, and customized programming for early-stage entrepreneurs continues to invest in Minnesota, which ranks No. 1 in the Midwest and No. 9 nationally in venture capital investment per capita. Since 2017, Techstars has been a major player in the early-stage startup and tech community in Minnesota and with its two current accelerator programs Techstars Farm to Fork and The Minnesota Twins Accelerator by Techstars, many founders from these programs are tackling sustainability issues head-on in non-conventional ways.
The Farm to Fork accelerator program launched in 2018 with partners Cargill and Ecolab. To-date more than 50 startups have completed the program and continue to uncover innovation to benefit the future of food and agriculture. More than half of the companies in the Farm to Fork portfolio have a strong impact on the sustainability of the food system. The four main categories startups represent in the food value chain include: supply, production, distribution, and demand - with demand being the largest category of founding companies. Approximately 37% of founders in Farm to Fork self-identify as underrepresented,* with companies from 7 countries participating. One example of the type of innovative companies in the Farm to Fork portfolio is:
Carbon Origins gives robots immediate human-level competence for everyday work. They are starting with decarbonizing on-demand food delivery in Minneapolis using electric robots teleoperated and trained by remote VR operators. This makes manual labor jobs safer, more accessible, and more sustainable. Following the program, Carbon Origins relocated from Los Angeles to the Twin Cities to grow their business and hired a Techstars mentor to join them as their COO this year.
In February 2022, the Minnesota Twins accelerator program completed its first Demo Day with 10 startups having gone through Techstars' 13-week program. And who would have thought that sustainability and baseball had such a strong connection? Known as the greenest ballpark in America, Target Field was designed with sustainability in mind as was one unique Techstars startup in the program:
AWSM Sauce is the first zero-waste sauce and condiment company ready to disrupt a $130B industry including sports/entertainment venues everywhere. They have removed 100% of the water weight from a shipping and carbon footprint perspective and when compared to a standard single-use plastic squeeze bottle, AWSM Sauce has reduced the amount of plastic used by 90% with our innovative format. Additionally, the price point is below current available and the product is durable for shipment and shelf stable for 2+years.
"Both Techstars portfolio companies, Carbon Origins and AWSM Sauce are stellar examples of how unstoppable founders are creatively solving everyday challenges in sustainable and innovative ways that truly have an impact," said Brett Brohl, managing director Techstars Minnesota. "Techstars opens doors to opportunity through a combination of specialized programming to meet evolving entrepreneurs needs, coaching from world class mentors, or funding to grow a business - our winning formula has created more than 19 unicorns across the Techstars network."
Techstars runs one of the most selective startup accelerators globally. The three-month programs have put many founding teams, including many from its Minnesota programs, on a fast track to saving months or even years of time and increasing the odds of success. Both Techstars Minnesota accelerator programs have hundreds of incredibly engaged and talented mentors; one mentor in particular has been involved with more than 15 programs and written numerous thought-leadership pieces featured on the Techstars blog.
"I've been honored to receive the Techstars Mentor "Give First" award and share it with the many startups I have supported over all the programs here in Minnesota. Helping entrepreneurs, with no expectation of getting anything back, creates a local pay-it-forward, innovation-led ecosystem that I am proud so many of us have worked hard to build here in the Twin Cities," said Stephanie Rich, Techstars super mentor and head of platform at Bread and Butter Ventures.
Techstars has been investing in creating a thriving entrepreneurial community in Minnesota with a number of corporate partnerships dating back to 2016. In July, the company announced the new startups participating in the current Farm to Fork accelerator program and, coming this November, we will be announcing our new second accelerator class with the Minnesota Twins.
Startups interested in either Minnesota program are encouraged to learn more by visiting Techstars Farm to Fork and The Minnesota Twins Accelerator by Techstars. Corporations interested in learning more about Techstars Accelerators and Techstars' dedication to corporate innovation can learn more at www.techstars.com/corporations
The Techstars worldwide network helps entrepreneurs succeed. Founded in 2006, Techstars began with three simple ideas?entrepreneurs create a better future for everyone, collaboration drives innovation, and great ideas can come from anywhere. Now we are on a mission to enable every person on the planet to contribute to, and benefit from, the success of entrepreneurs. In addition to operating accelerator programs and venture capital funds, we do this by connecting startups, investors, corporations, and cities to help build thriving startup communities. Techstars has invested in more than 3,000 companies with a combined market cap of more than $140B. www.techstars.com
*Underrepresented is classified as a founder who self identifies as African American/Black, Hispanic American/Latinx, Native American/Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, Middle Eastern/North African, Southeast Asian.
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