February 25, 2020

Forge North Establishes 3-Year Goals for MSP Startup Ecosystem

Minneapolis-Saint Paul is the startup capital of the North. Our entrepreneurial community is growing by leaps and bounds. But what’s on the horizon?

Our ambition is to make this region the best place for people from every background to start & scale ventures that create wealth by solving global challenges. But where do we start?

Today, we’re establishing a bold set of 3-year goals. Many issues matter. In fact, we will soon publish the new MSP Innovation Dashboard that tracks 20 key indicators critical to the health and vibrancy of our startup ecosystem.

But to set some priorities, the Forge North Leadership Council has been engaging the region’s diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs, investors, enterprise innovators, and community builders. More than 500 people shared their insight in late 2019 via surveys, focus groups, and in-person events. The council worked to consolidate all these ideas and focus on the three areas with the greatest interest from across the ecosystem.

Here are the three areas where the Forge North coalition will focus its efforts:

Every business needs fuel – but not necessarily the same type or same amount. (And here in the North, we pride ourselves on fuel efficiency.) Great news: The total amounts of venture capital, grants, and other dollars deployed in our ecosystem has been on the rise. However, over the next three years, we are focused on the number of companies getting funded.

Our goal is to double the number of MSP-based ventures that report raising an early stage round of capital.

More companies raising will lead to more companies growing. That volume will create an even more vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. To effectively capture our baseline and raise the bar, we are currently auditing Pitchbook data, local grants, and reports across specific industry sectors. The MSP Innovation Dashboard will also continue to track other key indicators like total capital raised and number of venture rounds.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul is a hotbed for headquarters. The region boasts some of the nation’s highest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies as well as large private enterprises. In fact, there are nearly 50 companies headquartered in MSP with annual revenues of $1 billion or more. Many of these firms are customers, investors, mentors, and connectors for local startup companies, whether directly or via their contributions to funds, accelerators, and other programs.

Our goal is to ensure that 100% of these billion-dollar businesses are making significant investments in MSP-based ventures.

To effectively document our baseline and raise the bar, enterprise executives are working to complete a peer-to-peer audit. We’ll also continue to track other key indicators, like the number of local Fortune headquarters, the number of Inc. 5000 fast growth companies based in MSP, and the vibrancy of local accelerators and programs.

If you follow trends across the U.S., you know the numbers aren’t good when it comes to women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ communities, and other underrepresented groups seeking financial and social capital to start and scale their ventures.

Here in Minneapolis-Saint Paul, we face those same challenges – magnified by the acute and persistent challenge of experiencing some of the country’s largest economic disparities by race. Our ambition is to be the best place for people from every background to start and scale ventures. As we start, the Forge North coalition will be focused on racial equity.

Our goal is to see leaders with an equity stake in MSP-based ventures reflect the region’s populations of Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

While we know the region’s overall population of color will surpass 30% in the next 3-5 years, we do not currently understand the disaggregated rates of ownership across our startup community. To effectively understand our baseline and raise the bar, we will be working directly with entrepreneurial support programs throughout the region in the coming months to better document the current state as well as improve it.


The Forge North Council did not set these goals because members know how to achieve them. Rather, these were the areas where local problem solvers said we need to act.

None of these goals can be accomplished in isolation. No single individual, program, or organization has all the answers. Progress towards these goals requires many solutions – with a willingness to try things, take risks, and fail fast in order to eventually succeed.

Now, we’re turning our attention back to the community. In March, we will roll out a local roadshow, visiting and inviting networks throughout the region to share ideas and understand where there might be leverage to rally our community. Those ideas could come from anywhere.

Do you want to participate or discover how you can join or re-affirm your commitment to the Forge North coalition and these bold goals for the Minneapolis-Saint Paul region? Click here to sign up and you won’t miss a thing.