GoKart Labs was proud to co-host the awards program for the annual Twin Cities Startup Week. Our goal was to celebrate our amazing cohort of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs and bring them together to network, learn about each other’s successes, and appreciate the depth and diversity of their local community. Here’s a rundown of the winners and top nominees in each of eight categories recognized at the Oct. 12 event at Uppercut Boxing Gym:
“Been Around the Block” award for veteran entrepreneurs or organizations
WINNER: Lisa Lavin of Anser Innovation (PetChatz, LLC / Omcare, LLC)
Somewhat of a serial entrepreneur, Lisa Lavin has been leading and creating innovation for years. Lavin is active in local and national organizations that support entrepreneurialism and women in business. She is a Minnesota Cup Division winner, Eureka Award winner for Innovation, was recognized by Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal as one of 25 Woman to Watch, Minnesota Business‚ Real Power 50 and was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine and the New York Times. Through her vision, the parent organization Anser Innovation pioneer interactive IoT technologies that enable ‘being two places at once.’ Anser is an innovation engine and holding company of two subsidiaries – PetChatz LLC and Ōmcare LLC.
“Big Baller” award for hard-hustling entrepreneurs who had no problem raising capital
WINNER: Charlie Youakim and Paul Paradis of Sezzle
Sezzle is an alternative-payment platform that increases sales and basket sizes by enabling interest-free installment plans at online stores. Consumers pay over time, but merchant partners are paid upfront, eliminating the risk of fraud or non-payment. They have had incredible month-over-month growth and successfully raised $9 million so far in 2018. They are also on track to raise a series B in the first half of 2019. About six months ago they had six employees: now they have 40. The pair has committed a ton of time and energy to help support the growth of the finance community. Definitely a fintech startup in MN to watch.
“Lemonade” award for an entrepreneur or organization who bounced back in a big way.
WINNER: Clarence Bethea of Upsie
Clarence Bethea is the founder and CEO of Upsie, a company that offers a simple warranty service that is more transparent and less costly than big-box versions. He is fresh off a 13-week boot camp sponsored by Techstars and Target Corp. The person that nominated Clarence wrote, “he is one of the most determined people to win. He always bounces back. And the truth is, many in the community doubted him over a year ago. But he stayed focused and now he’s one of MN’s best entrepreneurs and is just getting started. Great guy all around.”
“Uffda!” award for staunch advocates of the Twin Cities startup community
WINNER: Danielle Steer of Lunar Startups
Danielle Steer is passionate about social entrepreneurship and believes businesses can create sustainable social-change and a better world that works for everyone. She is focused on answering these two challenges facing the MN entrepreneurial ecosystem: “How might we create an environment where the companies who receive venture capital more accurately reflect their target markets and our community at large?” and “how do we close opportunity gaps for entrepreneurs who face system barriers?” She has spent the last three years spearheading Impact Hub’s Minneapolis/St. Paul chapter. She currently serves as the Director of Lunar Startups, a local incubator dedicated to investing in underestimated founders.
“Pack a Punch” award for entrepreneurs making the biggest impact
WINNER: Jamie Glover and Fatimah Hussein of Asiya Modest Activewear
Asiya’s mission is to help enable more Muslim girls and women to be physically active and participate in sports, while upholding their religious and cultural beliefs. They want all girls to have the opportunity to establish healthy lifestyles and to build a foundation for future success. One way they can accomplish this is through sports that help build confidence and lifelong leadership skills. In fact, one survey reports that 94% of women executives who display these traits participated in sports at one point in their life. Asiya also believes Muslim women shouldn’t be underrepresented in leadership roles. To address this, they developed Sports hijabs that are breathable, represent different levels of modesty, and are custom branded for schools/sports teams. Nike recently entered the market (talk about validation), but the reviews consistently place Asiya above Nike. They are currently distributing in 25+ countries, across youth, high school and college teams, and have 400+ sponsored athletes.
“Corporate Champion” for people driving innovation within the world of big enterprise
WINNER: Bryan Clark of Boston Scientific
Bryan Clark is the face behind the seven week medtech/healthtech focused accelerator, gBETA Medtech, the first to ever be launched in the state of Minnesota. They will work with 18 high potential, healthcare-focused startups as a result of their sponsorship. The program has started to support four local and four out-of-state companies with six more to work with before the end of the year. Their goal is to have 50% of these companies placed in an accelerator or unlocking capital 6-9 months out of the program.
“Make It Work” award for bootstrapping entrepreneurs who pushed their ideas without funding
WINNER: Austin O’Brion of Token of Trust
Austin O’Brion has ‘made it work’ since day one. His startup, Token of Trust, provides decision tools that make it easy to verify, screen, and build trusting relationships. Their decision tools are used by peer-to-peer services, financial institutions, employers, and landlords to instantly make safer, smarter decisions about their business. They even ‘make it work’ for their clients. They work with a ton of large banks so developers can quickly add their tools to websites and apps to reduce fraud, account abuse, identity theft, online scams, and cybercrime.
“Newbie” award for hungry newcomers to the local startup scene
WINNER: Alex West Steinman, Bethany Iverson, Erinn Farrell, and Liz Giel of The Coven
Launched in March of 2018, These ladies noticed there was no space where women and non-binary folks could work, connect and host events. This co-working space proved it’s necessity with a campaign on iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform designed specifically to support women and non-binary-owned businesses. They were met with excitement and support, receiving $315,000 without major investors or independently wealthy founders. Their slogan is “Do The Most Good” and they are doing more than that.
Congratulations to all our nominees too! We love seeing such a diverse group of people being nominated.
- 26 Letters
- Allina Health Care
- Anser Innovation
- Asiya Modest Sportswear
- Bedore Business Group
- Boston Scientific
- Bremer Bank
- Center for Economic Inclusion
- City Girl Coffee
- Clinician Nexus
- Clutch SOS
- Desserts by Alighieri
- Dumpling & Strand – Noodlers at Large
- Forge North
- K-Mama Sauce
- Kaleidoscope Group
- Lake One Digital
- Local Crate
- Make it MSP
- Omni Talk
- Prime Academy
- Seasoned Specialty Food Market
- Silicon Prairie Online
- Squigl, LLC.
- STEMbunnies / Peacebunny Islands
- Take 12 Registry
- Techstars Retail Program
- The Coven
- The Twisted Shrub
- Token of Trust
- US Bank
- Velvet Bees Honey Butter
- Worker B
Thank you @coreydonovan for the photo.