Industry Watch

Techies on the Silver Screen

DocuMNtary pushes Minnesota's momentum as tech hub

By Kevyn Burger
Fri, 2017-02-24 12:02

 

Until recently, Nick Roseth’s experience shooting video was limited to attaching a GoPro camera to his helmet while he performed snowboarding tricks.

But that didn’t dissuade the 37-year-old software-testing executive from his big idea: to produce a comprehensive documentary that captured the excitement of Minnesota’s tech community.

“We’ve got to create more awareness of our potential,” he explains.

Titled DocuMNtary, Roseth’s 45-minute feature includes interviews with 50 people in Minnesota’s tight-knit tech community, from startup entrepreneurs to business leaders to ambitious young coders, app creators and software developers. He used a Kickstarter campaign and sponsor support to raise $100,000 to fund the film, which was shot by local videographer Eric Jenson.

Its goal is to raise the profile of the Twin Cities, putting it on the radar of tech talent looking for opportunities and a vibrant urban area.

Attracting thousands of skilled workers is critical for the sector to continue to grow and thrive here. There’s a current shortage of programmers, systems analysts and engineers; according to the Minnesota High Tech Association, some 10,000 tech jobs, with a median annual salary of $82,000, went unfilled in December of 2016 alone.

“We have a lot of momentum building and we need people by the thousands to join us. But we’re no good at bragging about what we’ve got here. When trying to grow an economy, that’s detrimental,” Roseth says.

Overcoming shyness

That instinctive Minnesota humility sounds familiar to Cathy Connett, the CEO of the Sophia Fund, which invests in high-growth, women-led tech businesses.

“We have to do a better job of selling the innovation we have going on here. I want to hear that the big venture capitalists and private equity firms are dedicating staff to keep track of Minnesota,” says Connett.

She practices what she preaches. Connett talks up her home state when attending events like the national Angel Capital Association conference, which represents thousands of active, accredited angel investors.

“When you get outside our community, people think of spinoffs of medical device companies as our tech startups. We have to talk about all of our tech segments. There’s IT and apps, clean technology and business products and services that have underlying tech components. What about drones used in agriculture? I would claim that as tech.”

Connett credits the Minnesota Cup and tech accelerators run by Target and Land O’Lakes for providing encouragement to risk-takers and go-getters.

“Business people with national reputations need to spread the word about the diversity of our startups,” Connett adds. “We need to let funding sources know what opportunities are here.”

DocuMNtary’s vision

Fast-paced and filled with beauty shots of the region, the DocuMNtary project concedes the Twin Cities may be best known to outsiders for its cold winters. It strives to reposition the region as a livable tech hot spot.

The film’s score, featuring local hip hop collective Doomtree, no doubt raised its cool quotient with millennials; it’s narrated by Dessa, Doomtree’s one-name wonder whose voice is better known for singing/rapping than extolling the local nerd culture.

“I literally shot Doomtree an email and the next day I heard back. They said, ‘It’s for our community, how can we help?’” Roseth says.

The film spotlights women and people of color working as founders or in key positions; that’s designed to further the strategic goal of attracting a more diverse tech workforce.

“When individuals of color are in leadership roles, it opens doors,” notes Sharon Kennedy Vickers, an IT Management Consultant, web developer and co-founder of the local chapter of Blacks in Technology.

Kennedy Vickers thinks a greater presence at the top will help to retain professionals of color, or “patch holes in the tech pipeline,” as she puts it.

“Many leave because there isn’t equity, they’re not part of high profile projects and they see no path to promotion. We need leaders who will ensure these employees get the experience necessary to advance in their careers,” she adds.

Roseth is relying on the varied Twin Cities tech community to push the film and spur interest in the region. DocuMNtary was first shown to an enthusiastic audience of hundreds of local techies last fall during Twin Cities Startup Week; it’s since been screened at Target, General Mills and before a group in Rochester.

Available to view via YouTube and the DocuMNtary website, Roseth hopes his film will be used as a recruiting tool by any business that’s promoting Minnesota to prospects.

“When a candidate asks, ‘What’s tech like there?’ we want companies to send a link to the film so they can see what’s happening,” he says. “We created this thing to give it away. Now we’re relying on our awesome tech partners to share it.”

 

Until recently, Nick Roseth’s experience shooting video was limited to attaching a GoPro camera to his helmet while he performed snowboarding tricks.

But that didn’t dissuade the 37-year-old software-testing executive from his big idea: to produce a comprehensive documentary that captured the excitement of Minnesota’s tech community.

“We’ve got to create more awareness of our potential,” he explains.

Titled DocuMNtary, Roseth’s 45-minute feature includes interviews with 50 people in Minnesota’s tight-knit tech community, from startup entrepreneurs to business leaders to ambitious young coders, app creators and software developers. He used a Kickstarter campaign and sponsor support to raise $100,000 to fund the film, which was shot by local videographer Eric Jenson.

Its goal is to raise the profile of the Twin Cities, putting it on the radar of tech talent looking for opportunities and a vibrant urban area.

Attracting thousands of skilled workers is critical for the sector to continue to grow and thrive here. There’s a current shortage of programmers, systems analysts and engineers; according to the Minnesota High Tech Association, some 10,000 tech jobs, with a median annual salary of $82,000, went unfilled in December of 2016 alone.

“We have a lot of momentum building and we need people by the thousands to join us. But we’re no good at bragging about what we’ve got here. When trying to grow an economy, that’s detrimental,” Roseth says.

Overcoming shyness

That instinctive Minnesota humility sounds familiar to Cathy Connett, the CEO of the Sophia Fund, which invests in high-growth, women-led tech businesses.

“We have to do a better job of selling the innovation we have going on here. I want to hear that the big venture capitalists and private equity firms are dedicating staff to keep track of Minnesota,” says Connett.

She practices what she preaches. Connett talks up her home state when attending events like the national Angel Capital Association conference, which represents thousands of active, accredited angel investors.

“When you get outside our community, people think of spinoffs of medical device companies as our tech startups. We have to talk about all of our tech segments. There’s IT and apps, clean technology and business products and services that have underlying tech components. What about drones used in agriculture? I would claim that as tech.”

Connett credits the Minnesota Cup and tech accelerators run by Target and Land O’Lakes for providing encouragement to risk-takers and go-getters.

“Business people with national reputations need to spread the word about the diversity of our startups,” Connett adds. “We need to let funding sources know what opportunities are here.”

DocuMNtary’s vision

Fast-paced and filled with beauty shots of the region, the DocuMNtary project concedes the Twin Cities may be best known to outsiders for its cold winters. It strives to reposition the region as a livable tech hot spot.

The film’s score, featuring local hip hop collective Doomtree, no doubt raised its cool quotient with millennials; it’s narrated by Dessa, Doomtree’s one-name wonder whose voice is better known for singing/rapping than extolling the local nerd culture.

“I literally shot Doomtree an email and the next day I heard back. They said, ‘It’s for our community, how can we help?’” Roseth says.

The film spotlights women and people of color working as founders or in key positions; that’s designed to further the strategic goal of attracting a more diverse tech workforce.

“When individuals of color are in leadership roles, it opens doors,” notes Sharon Kennedy Vickers, an IT Management Consultant, web developer and co-founder of the local chapter of Blacks in Technology.

Kennedy Vickers thinks a greater presence at the top will help to retain professionals of color, or “patch holes in the tech pipeline,” as she puts it.

“Many leave because there isn’t equity, they’re not part of high profile projects and they see no path to promotion. We need leaders who will ensure these employees get the experience necessary to advance in their careers,” she adds.

Roseth is relying on the varied Twin Cities tech community to push the film and spur interest in the region. DocuMNtary was first shown to an enthusiastic audience of hundreds of local techies last fall during Twin Cities Startup Week; it’s since been screened at Target, General Mills and before a group in Rochester.

Available to view via YouTube and the DocuMNtary website, Roseth hopes his film will be used as a recruiting tool by any business that’s promoting Minnesota to prospects.

“When a candidate asks, ‘What’s tech like there?’ we want companies to send a link to the film so they can see what’s happening,” he says. “We created this thing to give it away. Now we’re relying on our awesome tech partners to share it.”