Over the last 12 years, hundreds of early-stage companies have competed in Minnesota’s largest startup competition, the Minnesota Cup.
A lot can change for an early-stage company in one year. Less than a year after winning the 2016 Minnesota Cup, StemoniX, a company using stem cells to create micro-organs for drug testing and development, has raised more than $2 million in funding and cemented a partnership with genetic research company, Pairnomix.
So what do these businesses look like after a decade? Of the six finalists for the 2007 Minnesota Cup, the competition’s third year, one is still in business.
It’s Fresh took home second place in the Cup 10 years ago. Today, the business is located in Victoria, and is part of a larger global company that creates tech products to extend freshness and food quality. Its founder, Greg Pavett, continues to serve as director of the company’s U.S. operations.
“We had tech that continues to deliver, which isn’t always the case,” Pavett said. “We remain very thankful for the opportunities and the people we met. It’s been great to watch the competition evolve.”
The Cup has grown since then too. In 2007, 850 entrepreneurs competed in two divisions for cash prizes totaling $37,500. The prize money doubled each of the next two years, and the competition expanded to six divisions.
The startup graveyard can be a tricky place to navigate. Founders move on, websites get deleted and information on the now-defunct business becomes scarce. With the assistance of John Stavig, program director of the University of Minnesota’s Entrepreneurship, Minne Inno tracked what happened to each business and where its founders wound up.
Muve (Grand Prize Winner)
Status: No longer in operation. Muve sold a wearable weight-loss wearable developed using Mayo Clinic research. The device would buzz quietly, reminding wearers to stand up and move around. It’s somewhat similar to Fitbit, which was founded in San Francisco the same year Muve won the Minnesota Cup.
Muve was part of a Mayo Clinic push to create more startups. It was originally met with excitement from users and investors, but over time, the company faced tough economic conditions, a manufacturing issue and lawsuits. By 2011, Muve didn’t have enough capital to cover a bankruptcy filing. A group of investors foreclosed on the company’s assets.
One of those investors was Dr. Robert Gauthier, who joined the company two months prior to shut down. Gauthier was then appointed CEO of Gruve Technologies, a new entity marketing Muve’s weight-loss device. At that time, Gruve was halfway through a $5 million round of funding, and planned to push into the retail sector.
Nine years after winning the Minnesota Cup, Gruve shut down in 2016. Gauthier cited a crowded and “not well-defined” marketplace as well as lack of venture capital as the reason for closing its doors. The company’s original CEO, John Montague, went on to found a sports drink company called Aspire, which shut down earlier this year.
Persata (Third Place)
Status: No longer in operation. Founder Michael Noble is now CEO of Apruve, a startup coordinating B2B credit management. Read Minne Inno’s story about Noble’s decision to build his business in the Twin Cities here.
uTead (Student Winner)
Status: The business, a social network built to ease the college admissions process, continued for a short period of time. Co-founders Naiomi Bisram and Erik Eliason graduated from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management and continued on to graduate school.
Bisram graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and currently works at Google. Eliason graduated from Harvard Business School and co-founded another business, storefront. According to Crunchbase, the company raised nearly $9 million before it was acquired by Oui Open, a French online marketplace, last year.
Snap Pea (Finalist)
Status: No longer in operation. Snap Pea was a “take-and-bake” supper company targeting commuters and office workers. The company took online orders and delivered pre-cooked meals to kiosks where customers could pick them up.
Reshare Commerce (Finalist)
Status: No longer in operation beyond intellectual property assets. Reshare lost a $200K lawsuit in 2014, according to court records. Founder Adam Southam has served as CEO Of MyFormulary Corporation, an intellectual property firm, since late 2015.