Cultivating entrepreneurship

While our student body is known for its academic leadership, many enrolled in business, entrepreneurship and research classes at the University of Minnesota are now taking specific steps to become the next generation of innovators, business leaders and job creators. In other words, our students are on their way to becoming the economic engines upon which the future of Minnesota and the U.S. depend.

To take that leap from student to innovator to entrepreneur requires the right springboard of opportunity, ingenuity and guidance. The Minnesota Cup provides that jumpstart for many student-driven breakthrough ideas. Since 2005, the competition has attracted more than 7,000 entries and is now the largest new venture competition in the nation. This year a majority of the semifinalists were University students, faculty or alumni.

Nathan Conner, a second-year MBA student at the University, was the $10,000 student division winner. He also won an additional $1,000 for being the audience’s choice with the ShedBed, a bed that uses electricity to collect pet hair.

The company Santé, a runner-up in this year’s student division, produced a unique fat-free yogurt spread. It’s currently being tested in local co-ops, and so far consumer feedback has been very positive. Other promising student entries this year included Playtabase, a wearable electronics company, and Modiron, a new ironing technology allowing users to iron clothes while they are wearing them.

I want to congratulate these students for their ideas, their energy and their willingness to step outside of their comfort zones to work toward a goal beyond a grade. We all should be very proud of them and of the rich tradition of innovation they represent.

The students who made it to the Minnesota Cup are involved in the Carlson School of Management’s Entrepreneurship in Action and STARTUP courses, offered through the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship. These courses give students hands-on experience in launching a real business as part of their education. Students currently enrolled in the class will test and launch approximately 30 businesses during the upcoming year.

We need to continue to cultivate this spirit at the University and in Minnesota, whether it is through business and entrepreneurship classes, research endeavors, strategic partnerships, technology commercialization or startup creation — or a combination of all of the above. This past fiscal year, the University launched a record 14 startups, and research at the University creates $8.6 billion in total economic impact annually.

Our research enterprise is committed to a vision of bringing people together in new ways, fostering discoveries and making our world a better place. We can make a difference to our social and economic future, one idea at a time.