We’ll find out Thursday, because I’ll be there to live-blog it all: the proceedings of the annual Minnesota Venture & Finance Conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center, co-hosted as always by the Minnesota Venture Capital Association and The Collaborative. The blue-suit crowd will turn out once more to hash over where, oh, where is venture investing going in our state, and whether Minnesota is holding its own or falling behind in relation to other states.
This is great sport, people! We can’t beat Wisconsin in college football for seven years straight, but, oh yeah, we got those cheeseheads when it comes to the game of innovation! Or do we? (And, Gopher fans, I won’t even bring up South Dakota. Shees.)
“Innovation? Jobs? Has Minnesota lost it? Not for one day in October we haven’t,” says The Collaborative in one of its promos. “2010 marks our second full year of the worldwide recessionary malaise. Our state’s economy is also not what anyone is calling ‘robust’. Our unemployment rate is higher than it’s been in decades. On the plus side, we’re still one of the brightest economies in the nation,” the pitch goes on to say.
“The positive gap between our jobless rate as compared to the nation is at its highest in 30 years… Yet we also hear many reports of our state losing its way in innovation.”
Can you sense the drama, people? I’m nervously doing finger and hand exercises right now, in great anticipation of the nuances I may be able to capture on my Macbook or iPad (decisions, decisions) as I contemplate the live-blogging nirvana that awaits me Thursday. It has me breathing heavy.
“Last year, in the throes of the recession, 54 companies gave presentations, 400+ investors and entrepreneurs came, shared, and discussed growth in tough times,” said Dan Carr, CEO of The Collaborative, in his announcement of this year’s event. “It actually felt optimistic! These companies also go on to create jobs. Lots of them. Minnesota is 8th in the nation in venture backed employment: 365,000 jobs.” (No word on how many of those people may have been laid off in recent times because those ventures couldn’t raise enough money.)
Carr continues: “This year’s ‘homecoming’ promises another day-long celebration of ‘doing’ more than ‘hand wringing’. It’s true that some of our greatest companies rise from difficult times. Our annual conference has a knack for bringing together Minnesota’s best ‘Up & Comers’.”
The 2010 version of the conference will begin with a look at the current state of venture investing, by way of an opening address from John Taylor of the National Venture Capital Association. That will be followed by 18 Presenting Companies giving seven-minute presentations, plus somewhere between 20 and 30 more startups in the “Entrepreneurial Showcase” giving one-minute introductions. (I’ll be particularly interested to see if any of those entrepreneurs can make a impact in that minuscule amount of time. I’ve heard several of the new 90-second “Alpha Pitches” at the last few DEMO conferences in California, most of which fail to impress, and they have 50% more time.)
Notable in the 2010 presenter group, says The Collaborative, is the mix of industries and stages… “reflecting Minnesota’s variety and also our strengths: Medtech (Inspire Medical Systems, Galil Medical, and InterValve) … Cleantech (EarthClean, tenKsolar and Packet Power) … Technology (Alvenda and Swift Knowledge) … and mouth guard maker Bite Tech … and more.” (I don’t know about you, but I beam with pride when I tell people about Minnesota’s rich tradition in mouth protection.)
But wait, there’s more! Panels and workshops during the day (speakers and panelists) will address these topics:
• Financing Innovation circa 2010: Angel, Venture Capital, and Private Equity
• Medtech in 2010: Innovating with New Science, Products, and Markets amid FDA and Reimbursement Challenges
• Next Generation Technology: Minnesota’s Unique Advantages and Opportunities
• Financing in a Challenging Economy
• Exit Strategies
• Intellectual Property and Financing
• Going Public
• Planning Your Long-Term Financing Strategy
You can still register for the event. And (pssst) I hear the “MHTA” might even have a $100-off discount code.
Some 350 or more are expected at the confab, Carr tells me. Sure, I know most of them already — but the thought that some in the group may be potential new social media friends for me makes me almost giddy. And, doggone it, I don’t even have to drive to Wisconsin or South Dakota to meet them. (This conference has been attracting more and more out-of-state attendees in recent years, which is commendable.)
The Twitter hashtag for the event is #mnconf. I wonder how many of the blue suits might be tweeting. Not holding my breath on that, but maybe I’ll set my live-blog software to display all the tweets attendees are blurting out during the event. It’s time we loosened up this venerable conference a bit — thank God Twitter happened, huh?
Watch for our post with the link to my live blog here on Minnov8, which we’ll have up by late Wednesday.