MN Cup 2017 Division Winners Selected

September 22, 2017

$30,000 awarded to each of the final eight teams of Minnesota entrepreneurs as they continue competition for grand prize, coming Oct. 9

The nation’s largest statewide entrepreneurial contest is heading into the final stretch as the thirteenth annual MN Cup competition today announces the eight 2017 division winners. Each division winner (except in the 18-and-under Youth division) will receive $30,000 to invest in its breakout business idea. Division runners-up will receive $5,000.

Twenty-four teams of innovators from the eight MN Cup divisions had been vying for the chance to make it into the fourth and final round of judging. It’s been a long road—one that began with 1300 participants organized into 520 teams. These final division winners will face off in a battle for additional investment money—a pot that includes the grand prize, second place award and various special dedicated prizes. The winners of what adds up to $450,000 in total prize money (a new MN Cup record!) will be announced at a live event on October 9 at the Carlson School of Management.

The eight division winners and runners-up are:

Winner: Sironix Renewables, Ramsey County
Runner-up: Future Force LLC, Hennepin County

Winner: Autonomous Tractor Corporation, Wright County
Runner-up: Squarrel Cooperage, LLC, Becker County

Winner: Z Flow Pro, Dakota County, woman-led
Runner-up: Chromatic 3D Materials, Hennepin County, woman-led

Winner: Starting 11, Hennepin County, woman-led
Runner-up: Extempore, Ramsey County, minority-led

Winner: Venn Foundation, Ramsey County
Runner-up: UR TURN, Hennepin County, woman-led

Winner: MicroOptx, Inc., Hennepin County
Runner-up: Impleo Medical, Inc., Ramsey County, woman-led

Winner: UnderRecruited Preps, Blue Earth County, minority-led
Runner-up: Outdoors Advisor, Nicollet County

YOUTH: (Division winners receive $10,000, with runners-up and semifinalists splitting $10,000)
Winner: Green Garden Bakery, Hennepin County, woman-led, minority-led
Runner-up: Peacebunny Island, Meeker County

The 2017 MN Cup competition kicked off this spring, when entrants submitted business ideas for consideration in one of eight divisions: Energy/Clean Tech/Water, Food/Agriculture/Beverage, General, High Tech, Life Science/Health IT, Impact Ventures, Student (for enrolled graduate school or undergraduate students ages 19-30) and Youth (age 18 and younger). The 80 teams that made it to the semifinalist stage spent the summer meeting with experienced mentors to perfect business plans and learn how to pitch their ideas to a larger audience. The last week before the finalists were announced, some divisions offered semifinalists the opportunity to pitch to actual investors and startup accelerators. The semifinalists recently participated in presentation coaching to gain a new set of skill crucial for turning great ideas into well-funded businesses.

“MN Cup is proud to help fit some missing pieces into our state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem,” says MN Cup executive director Melissa Kjolsing Lynch. “Sometimes that means identifying groups who are underrepresented in startup culture — like women, minorities, or veterans — and reaching out to encourage and guide them. Other times that means providing early-stage innovators with the mentorship and high-resolution map they need to proceed to the next step. We know we’re succeeding, because our contestant field this year is so diverse — we’re seeing pioneers in fields like med-tech, and 37 percent of our teams are led by women and 29 percent by minorities.”

At the MN Cup awards celebration on October 9 at the University of Minnesota, 2017’s best breakthrough business idea will win a $50,000 grand prize, with a $20,000 second place prize. There is also a broad field of special, dedicated prizes to be announced. The Carlson Family Foundation will award $25,000 for the top woman-led business. Meda will award $20,000 to the minority entrepreneur with the most innovative business concept. DEED will recognize minority entrepreneurs, veteran-led business, and outstate startups with three awards worth $10,000 each. Capella will recognize education technology with a $10,000 prize. Securian Financial Group will award $10,000 for a tech innovation in financial services or life insurance. The Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation will provide up to three $5,000 awards to startups from their region. The AARP will award a $5,000 prize for an innovation that improves the lives of low-income seniors.

More than 13,000 Minnesotans have participated in MN Cup since it began. Finalists have gone on to raise more than $230 million in capital to support the development of their ideas, create jobs, and broker numerous business partnerships, collaborations and distribution agreements.

Lead sponsors of the 2017 MN Cup competition include 3M, Bush Foundation, Carlson Family Foundation, General Mills, Junior Achievement of the Upper Midwest, Land O’Lakes, Positively Minnesota, Pentair, UnitedHealth Group, University of Minnesota and Wells Fargo. Supporting sponsors include 301 INC, AARP, Anchor Bank, ANDCOR, AURI, Bio-Techne, Cairn Ventures, Capella, City of Minneapolis, Clifton Larson Allen, Deluxe, Eide Bailly, Equals 3, Fredrikson & Byron, P. A., Gopher Angels, Grain Millers, Gray Plant Mooty, Haberman,, IBM, Incubology, InsideOut Studios, The Kenyon Consortium, LFE Capital, Lurie, Magnet 360, Maslon LLC, Meda, Medical Alley, Medavise, Media Minefield, MentorMate, Messerli & Kramer, MHTA, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Mosaic, Securian Financial Group, Six Speed, Sofia Fund, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation,  Spoken Impact, Star, Startec, Star Tribune, Stoel Rives LLP, Sunrise Banks, TECHdotMN, The Schwan Food Company, Treehouse Health, Twin Cities Business Magazine, Venture Bank and Youthprise.

The MN Cup is a free, annual competition that seeks to support and accelerate the development of the best breakthrough ideas from across the state. For more information, please visit


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