At a kickoff event for the Minnesota Cup‘s fourteenth season Monday evening, the organization announced that it would add a new “education and training” division to the competition this year.

John Stavig, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Entrepreneurship (far left) and MN Cup director Jessica Berg (far right) pictured with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (middle) and other community leaders at MN Cup’s 2018 kickoff event.

The education and training division is intended for businesses developing technology or services related to education, training, workforce or professional development. The addition of education and training brings the total number of divisions in the Minnesota Cup, the state’s largest startup competition, to nine.

Education startups are no stranger to the Cup. Teachers, researchers and entrepreneurs have long participated in the competition, but have never had their own division. Startups select the division in which they would like to compete. As a result, education startups have frequently wound up in the general and impact ventures divisions.

Minnesota Cup director Jessica Berg said that there were a number of factors leading to the addition of an education and training division. This will be the Cup’s first season under Berg’s leadership. Berg took over as director in November after the Cup’s former director, Melissa Kjolsing-Lynch, stepped down last fall.

Over the past three years, Berg said, an increasing amount of companies have applied to the Cup’s social ventures, high tech and general divisions. MN Cup found that a number of these startups would have been better suited for an education division. The idea to group these businesses together was met with support from existing judges and mentors, Berg said.

“We hope that the emphasis of a whole division leads to more awareness of the innovation within education and training in Minnesota”

It’s not uncommon for a startup to apply to the competition two or three times before it has a successful run, Berg said. With the addition of a new education-focused division, MN Cup hopes to see some former competitors return.

“We hope that companies that have applied in past years that would have previously fit within this new division (had it existed) would be interested in reapplying,” Berg said in email. “We’re also curious whether the focus and attention of a new division would attract companies who’ve considered applying in the past but haven’t made the leap.”

Education and training is MN Cup’s first new division in four years. The competition added its food/agriculture/beverage division in 2014, and impact ventures division in 2012. Healthcare and high tech have dominated the Cup over the last five years. Neither of these new divisions have won the grand prize since they were added to the competition.

Berg said the Minnesota Cup hopes to receive at least 30 applications to education and training in its first year. However, Berg is confident the Cup will exceed that number. In May, 10 companies will be selected as semifinalists in each of the competition’s nine divisions.

“We hope that the emphasis of a whole division leads to more awareness of the innovation within education and training in Minnesota,” she said. “It would be tremendous to help these companies gain more notoriety and funding opportunities as a result of going through the competition.”

The Minnesota Cup is currently accepting applications for the 2018 season through April 27. Education startups interested in learning more about the new division or the Minnesota ed-tech scene are encouraged to attend the Cup’s upcoming event on April 10.