There’s going to be a rally in Minneapolis this Wednesday, and for once, non-political types are perfectly welcome.
Sponsored by the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a global nonprofit with more than 100 members in Minnesota and 14,000 around the world, Entrepreneurs’ Rally is an evening celebration of Minnesota’s startup and scaleup communities. There’s no industry focus and no business size requirements. As long as you can cover the $15 admission fee, which covers catering costs, you’re welcome to hang out. It all goes down at Aria; doors open at 5pm, happy hour commences at 8pm, and the 9pm wrap-up time is most definitely a mere suggestion.
Now in its sixth year, Entrepreneurs’ Rally is all about connections. “Our goal is simple: to strengthen the local entrepreneurial ecosystem by connecting seasoned entrepreneurs with those just starting out,” says Jeff Martin, this year’s event leader.
According to Martin, at least 150 founders and early-stage partners will be on hand, along with 50 seasoned mentors. MentorLab, the event’s value-added centerpiece, is like speed-dating for entrepreneurs – but way more interesting.
“[MentorLab] produces really cool results,” says Martin. “We’ve seen lifelong mentoring relationships sprout from these initial meetings.” And though the event isn’t advertised as a funding opportunity for early-stage companies, one thing can certainly lead to another.
As Martin sees it, Entrepreneurs’ Rally is a critical – and underutilized – piece of Minnesota’s startup ecosystem. Minnesota scores well ahead of most other states on quality of life and good governance metrics, he notes, but near the bottom of the pile on measures of entrepreneurship and early-stage business vitality.
The problem has many causes, of course, but one in particular that’s relevant to Martin’s work: by and large, Minnesota’s biggest employers are a clubby, risk-averse bunch. “Big companies like to work with big companies,” he says.
Understandable? Maybe. Acceptable? Not really. In true Minnesota Nice fashion, Entrepreneurs’ Rally tackles the problem without provoking confrontation – doing its part to create a critical mass of support by, for, and among Minnesota’s most dynamic demographic.