Top 10 tech startups making progress in Minneapolis
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A financial center that anchors the upper Midwest, Minneapolis and St. Paul spawn serious startups

The map shows Minneapolis and St. Paul mashed together so closely they long ago earned the name the Twin Cities (and the MLB team is The Twins). Anchoring east-central Minnesota, where the Mississippi, Minnesota, and St. Croix rivers mix and mingle, the area has nearly 4 million in the surrounding area, and Minnesota is officially the largest city in the state (about 420,000).

Fort Snelling, built in 1820, was the first real settlement. River traffic created cities in the 1800s, and that worked for Minneapolis. Railroads became important since the city is close to just about the only point where early railroads could cross the Mississippi River.

More than three dozen colleges and universities dot the region, including Minnesota State and University of Minnesota. 16 Fortune 500 companies HQ in the area, helping to make the economy the 13th largest in the U.S. Money? Yes, being the fourth-largest U.S. banking center. Schools and money in close proximity often mean startups, and they certainly do in this case.

Bright Health


Photo courtesy: Bright Health

Insurance stinks until you need it, then you love it. Bright Health started with a clean slate and is building a company for the modern age that relies heavily on online tools and electronic communications. The plan for the phone obsessed, perhaps?

Founded in 2015 by a group of experience execs, Bright Health cot $80 million in April 2016 from Bessemer Venture Partners and a batch of other investors pitching in on Series A. Series B funding, from Greenspring Associates and seven more, was $160 million in June 2017. That brings the sum to a healthy $240 million.

Code 42

Photo courtesy: Code 42

There are two kinds of computer users: those who have lost data and those who will. Code 42 has grown into a global SaaS provider of end user backup tools for almost all desktops and laptops. Easy and secure backup, along with device migration and more, makes for fewer manager headaches.

Started in the fall of 2001, Code 42 was early to the game. Refining their cloud process flew them into the future and Accel Partners and Split Rock Partners approved with a $52.5 million Series A placement. Four other investors jumped into the Series B round with another $85 million in October 2015, followed by an undisclosed amount on the secondary market in May 2016. The cloud-high total floats upward from $137.5 million.

Torax Medical

Photo courtesy: Torax Medical

Heartburn can become acid reflux which can become Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), a chronic disease that can progress and cause many problems. Torax Medical built a linked titanium magnetic bead collar to help close (reflux) the entry to the stomach to keep gastric juices where they belong.

Founded way back in 2002, Torax began getting venture interest as early as January 2013 with Series A funding of 1.5 million, followed by $10 million in Series B money in June 2005. But things were fairly slow until Piper Jaffray led a group of six investors placing $30 million Series D money in September 2012, along with $ 3millio in debt financing. December 2013 brought a give of $13.7 million in venture bucks, and July 2016 say a Series E placement led by Johnson & Johnson Innovation for $25 million. Add all this up, and the total peaks just over $102 million.

Amphora Medical

Photo courtesy: Amphora Medical

Few industries are more gadget-happy than technology, but the medical business is one of them. And for good reason: specialized tools like those from Amphora Medical make difficult treatments much easier. In the case of Amphora, it’s for treatment of Overactive Bladder through a process called fulguration which dampens nerve signals.

Research began in 2011, and by June 2013 $600k in venture capital helped the process. Two years later, Baird Capital prescribed $12.78 million in venture funds. Five more groups gathered up $35.5 million in July 2017. As the product marches through the process of certification and release, the total is up to nearly $49 million.


Photo courtesy: Gravie

In the past year, healthcare and insurance has become the (pick your metaphor) hot potato, football, target, or object of hatred in politics in America. Gravie works hard to reinvent health benefits, along with their cost, management, and support. Treating policyholders like humans is just one of their improvements.

Starting in 2013, well after the Affordable Care Act went into practice, Gravie received $2.6 million in seed money within a month. $10.5 and $12.5 million came in Series A and B rounds the next two years, along with $1 million in venture funds in July 2016. July 2017 arrived with a Series C check from four investors for $14.1 million. Rounded up, the total is close to $41 million total.


Photo courtesy: Leadpages

Those webpages you land on that are so enticing and hard to resist? Somebody designed those, and in many cases it was Leadpages. They created proven, high-performance marketing templates so companies small and large can convince you to surrender your money with a smile on your face.

Started in late 2012, Leadpages rocked along as just another marketing company until the Foundry Group and a partner clicked on $5 million in Series A funding in September 2013. A year later, Series B scrolled down with $6 million, and Arthur Ventures led a group that double-clicked on a Series B check for $27 million in June 2015. Say hello to $38 million.


Photo courtesy: Jamf

Apple devices lead the high-end consumer market, with the iPad and iPhone, but Macintoshes lag in corporate uptake. One reason? Management, which is where Jamf comes to their rescue with smart tools for small businesses, schools, and growing enterprise customers.

Starting back in the early days of Macintosh management, 2002, Jamf would seem past the startup sell-by date, but Summit Partners and GSV Capital rode a big money truck and dropped $30 million in venture funding at their doorstep at the end of 2013. Sounds like a startup pivot.

When I Work

Photo courtesy: When I Work

Companies need workers but few do a good job communicating with those workers. One company trying to help companies improve is When I Work and their suite of scheduling and communications tools for web, mobile apps, texting, social media, and email. Every worker can be reached by at least two of those methods, so everyone gets all the important messages.

A new concept when founded in 2010, it took the Saint Paul-based company some time to show the world why this was the solution they needed. By January 2014, three investors agreed and pitched in $4 million in Series A money. July 2015 saw another Series A placement of $5 million. June 2016 arrived with Drive Capital leading a group of investors bearing a check for $15 million for Series B funding. Use your calculator app and that totals up to $24 million to date.

Branch Messenger

Photo courtesy: Branch Messenger

Every business wastes time and money managing its workforce, and in big companies those costs can multiply quickly. Branch Messenger provides self-service platforms for hourly workers so they can check schedules, trade shifts, track hours worked per pay period, and far more, with managers getting updates rather than interrupted.

Starting in 2014, Branch Messenger clocked in $250k in seed money in January 2015. Several rounds of undisclosed amounts from notes and venture groups led to a $10 million Series A placement in August 2017. That pay stub now totals somewhere north of $10.5 million.


Photo courtesy: Sentera

Drones are fun and make for some wild YouTube videos, but putting them to work can be tough. That’s why Sentera builds drones filled with sensors and provides interpretive software and data management solutions. They’re strong in agriculture and other inspections that save time and money.

Taking off in 2014, after the drone buzz started but before it got to work, Sentera landed Series A money in June 2016 of $8.5 million.

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James Gaskin

About James Gaskin

James writes books, articles, and jokes about technology, and consults for those who don’t read his books and articles.

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  • ToeKnee

    Great stuff, just need to point out the paragraph #1 typo: “…and Minnesota is officially the largest city in the state…” should have been, of course, MInneapolis. Cheers! #fixtypodeletecommentthanks