Feb 11 Speaker: Neela Mollgaard, Launch Minnesota

Nate Bostrom introduced Neela Mollgaard who was chosen to lead Launch Minnesota, a program created by lawmakers and DEED officials in August 2019.  She is the executive director of the state’s latest initiative aimed at fostering entrepreneurialism. Neela holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Master of Science in community health from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The Launch MN program was developed during the 2019 legislative session through collaboration between the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and a bipartisan group of lawmakers.  Launch Minnesota brings private businesses and nonprofits together to provide financial incentives, training, and grants to individuals—especially women, veterans, and people of color—who want to start companies in technology sectors including aerospace, agriculture, nanotechnology, and medical devices.  With an annual budget of $2.5 million, the program is aimed at minimizing the risks associated with launching new companies.

Mollgaard has long worked in the nonprofit and philanthropic space. She founded Red Wing Ignite, an economic development organization aimed at facilitating growth in the city of Red Wing. The organization won a $750,000 contribution from the U.S. Department of Commerce, through the 2019 i6 Challenge.

DEED credits Mollgaard with creating a model in Greater Minnesota that has received national attention. The agency says she’s brought together government, academic, corporate, and organizational partners to develop a varied ecosystem of economic initiatives, including makerspaces, an investment fund, and more.  She’s also served as a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband. In addition, Mollgaard founded and chaired Women Cents, which helps inform Red Wing women on how national issues affect them and their community.

Launch Minnesota will start inside of DEED, and will work with its advisory board and private sector stakeholders to become a public-private organization in the future. Here are statements from the Launch MN website (www.mn.gov/launchmn) that reflect the enthusiasm and positive attitude presented by Neela at our Rotary meeting:

  • We know that Minnesota already has a lot to offer startup founders.
  • Stable venture capital investment – We have the second-highest investment rates in the Midwest.
  • Skilled tech talent – We have a great university system and R&D centers, along with a growing number of technology bootcamps and training programs.
  • Reliable digital infrastructure – We are fifth in the nation in internet usage per capita, and are at 90% broadband penetration.
  • Successful Fortune 500 businesses – We have the highest per capita number of Fortune 500 companies in the nation, creating a strong business-to-business startup ecosystem.
  • Great patent success – For example, we are #1 in the nation in medical device patents per capita.
  • Yet we know that much more can be done to make Minnesota a national leader in innovation.

We believe:

  • Businesses of the future are the startups of today. Our established businesses in Minnesota need a robust innovation ecosystem to provide the ideas and talent to continue to be global leaders.
  • We can make it possible for companies to grow right here in Minnesota and not feel they have to go elsewhere – and we want to promote innovative jobs and our innovation ecosystem in a coordinated way.
  • States and cities that develop their innovation ecosystems are quickly distancing their economies from those who do not. It’s important for us to be competitive in the new economy.
  • We need to make it easier for emerging innovative companies to find answers and plug into resources across Minnesota.
  • Launch Minnesota has several offerings to grow our innovation ecosystem:
  • A series of Innovation Grants for research and development, business liquidity, even childcare/housing assistance – to make it easier to get your startup off the ground.
  • An Angel Tax credit to incentivize investments from venture capitalists in Minnesota startups.
  • Education Grants that empower community builders to train startups on critical skills in building a technology startups.
  • You can find more detail on each of these offerings throughout the Launch Minnesota website. All financial incentives are available by application, and our Advisory Board guides decisions on award-winners.

Beyond these incentive programs, Launch Minnesota seeks to bring our statewide startup industry together to create a stronger network of innovators in Minnesota, and to tell the story of our startup growth to the rest of the country. Together, we can make Minnesota an extraordinary place to grow your technology startup. Launch Minnesota is here to help you take off.

Contact Information: 1st National Bank Building

332 Minnesota St Suite E200

St Paul, MN 55101

LaunchMinnesota@state.mn.us