Author Archives: Whitney Larson

Vemos Pay Now Available on Upserve POS

Upserve by Lightspeed is the latest POS system to become fully integrated with Vemos to accept our Vēmos Pay contactless payment solution. Any restaurant, bar, or hospitality venue using Upserve POS can quickly begin to accept Vēmos Pay by selecting it from the integrations section in your Upserve POS. And it’s free. Seriously. There’s no added fees or subscriptions.

What is Vemos Pay?

Vēmos Pay allows your guests to view and pay their check from the convenience of their own device. Guests view their check as soon as they sit down, and pay whenever they’re ready by using a stored payment method – without needing a printed check first. It’s truly contactless, gives your guests the transparency and control they didn’t have before, and allows your staff to focus on providing a great experience.

Watch a quick 2 minute demo of how it works:

How does it help my venue and staff?

  • Unlike other contactless payment solutions, Vēmos Pay doesn’t change your current operations. Your staff starts and adds to checks as they normally would, and guests access the check using their table number. This makes it seamless for your staff.

    • Payments are sent directly through your Upserve Payment Processing and are tokenized to make sure you stay EMV compliant. This also ensures that there’s no operational or accounting changes to your business.

      • We have the customer create an account on Vēmos Pay and securely store a payment method before accessing their check, which drastically reduces walkouts. If a guest does forget to pay, their check automatically closes with 20% gratuity – just like when you walk out of your rideshare.

        • Vēmos Pay reduces the 12-17 minute wait time that occurs between finishing a meal and closing a check. This not only means faster table turns, but also an increase in average check spend and tips with staff focusing more on the experience and less on closing checks. In fact, our smart tip buttons have been shown to automatically increase servers’ tips by at least 4% compared to the national average.
          • If you have a busy bar area, your guests can start a tab using Vemos Pay. They order with your bartender as they normally would and mention they have a tab open under their name. When it’s time to leave, they simply pay in the app and leave. They don’t need to go back up to the bar and take time away from your bartender settling the tab. Instead, your bartender is freed up to spend that time getting more drinks out to guests to increase your bottom line.
            • Vēmos Pay is integrated directly with your Upserve POS system so all payments are sent through your Upserve payment processing.
              • Vēmos Pay is free for both you and your guest. There are no added fees or subscriptions.
                • How do I get started?

                  Follow these quick 6 steps to get set up to accept Vemos Pay. You can also contact us directly at for any additional questions or to receive a demo.

                  Mobile Payments Driving Traffic at Restaurants

                  While mobile payments have been available for the restaurant industry for the past few years, restaurants were slow to adopt them, especially compared to other industries. And then COVID hit.

                  The immediate need for reduced interaction between waitstaff and guests, increased efficiency and lower overhead is what brought mobile payment solutions to the forefront.

                  But it’s more than just payments. There’s several added benefits that came along with mobile payments that most restauranteurs did not anticipate: a surge of guest adoption that drove increased traffic, increased tipping, and increased spending.

                  What’s driving the surge? Customer Experience.

                  The very thing that was holding the restaurant industry back on adopting technology became the thing that ended up catapulting engagement. And that’s meeting customer experiences in a way that they expect.

                  What do I mean by that?

                  For the past several decades, the hospitality industry has believed that customer experience is in-person, face-to-face, physical interactions. But what other industries have proven over the past 10 years is that customer experience goes far beyond the in-person exchange.

                  Customers have become increasingly digital, and as a result the experience they expect is a mix of in-person and digital offerings. In fact, 74% of consumers in a survey stated they prefer to use their phone to pay for food. So while the physical interaction may feel important to the restaurant, it’s not an important driver for experience with consumers.

                  Let’s look at the airline industry with Delta – it’s similar in how they provide hospitality, but radically different in how they provide customer experiences.

                  Historically, the only way to check into a flight was to stand in a long line to wait for a person to help you. That was also the only way you could pay for a checked bag and get your seat assignment. And while we were greeted by a person, the wasted time spent waiting around for that person to be able to help us caused more friction and distaste than the face-to-face interaction made up for.

                  Then Delta digitized this entire process with an app and gave all their customers the gift of time. Now I’m able to check into my flight, pay for my bags, see my seat assignment, and get real-time updates on my gate and departure time right in the app. I don’t have to wait in line when I arrive at the airport — I drop my pre-paid bag off at the kiosk, walk through security, and head to my gate. It’s seamless, it meets me where I expect the experience to be, and it allows me to enjoy the personal engagements that much more.

                  The restaurant industry is finally seeing this for themselves. Having a digital solution that allows your guest to pull up their check the moment they sit down, transparently see the information that’s been added, and pay whenever they’re ready gives them that same gift of time and meets them where they expect the experience to be.

                  How significant is that time?

                  According to Lumina data, speed of service is a key driver for consumers when eating out. The average time it takes to finish a meal, ask for the bill, and pay that bill takes between 12 and 17 minutes. That’s 12-17 minutes of friction that’s bringing down your level of customer experience. Even if you had the opportunity to physically present them a check and say thank you, that’s not going to make up for the annoying delays (in fact, I vividly remember all the times I was late due to waiting for my physical check, but I’ve never once had a thank you leave a lasting impression). That’s why QR codes at the end of the receipt aren’t working for restaurants — they’re more of the same experience. Consumer apps like Vēmos Pay put the power in the consumers hands and allows this waiting time to disappear, increasing the perception of experience of their overall visit.

                  So how does this translate to increased traffic & sales?

                  Customers continue to go where they have great experiences. That’s always been the case with restaurants & hospitality, and that part hasn’t changed. When you deliver customer experiences in a way that they expect — both physically and digitally — you win in multiple ways.

                  When it comes to mobile payments, joining a consumer-facing app has shown to unlock many residual benefits beyond paying a check:

                • Get discovered. Consumer apps like Vēmos Pay have thousands of users on them already. Getting listed on these apps allows you to show up to these consumers who are already enjoying contactless payments elsewhere and shows them that your experience is in line with what they’re looking for.
                • Increase cost per head. Time is money. Literally. Mobile payments reduce the wait time after finishing a meal, which not only means faster table turns, but also an increase in spend and tips. That’s because mobile payment apps provide transparency for what’s on the check throughout the meal. This has proven in many studies to increase the guest’s overall spend. Mobile payment apps also auto calculate tip percentages, which has proven to increase tips for your staff.
                • Integrate loyalty. You can now turn mobile payments into loyalty without having to manage a separate system. You already have a line of communication with your customers with a history of Sku level purchases, which allows you to promote your deals and offer rewards directly to your guests while they’re in the venue making purchasing decisions. This allows you to unlock the power that the Starbucks app has created without needing to build it yourself.
                • Repeatable business. Not only do all of the above increase customer experience that drives them to come back, but 84% of Americans are more likely to go back to brands to redeem an offer, with 57% spending more with those brands. It’s this cycle of reduced friction from eliminating wait times, increased experience from allowing guests to pay on their own terms, and driving loyalty through that same system that’s driving traffic and increasing sales.

                • Why QR Codes Payment Solutions at Restaurants Don't Work

                  Why QR Code Pay at the Table Systems Don’t Work for Restaurants

                  The restaurant industry has been forced to adapt in the face of COVID, and one emerging trend that has come out of it is contactless payments. This is a great solution to not only aid in keeping your guests and staff safe, but if done well, also solves two core problems your guest has been facing for years when it comes to paying: transparency and control.

                  The issue, however, is not all contactless payment solutions are made equally. In fact, most aren’t even contactless nor do they begin to solve the two core guest problems.

                  I’m talking about QR Code / Pay-at-the-Table solutions.

                  QR Code contactless payment solutions are a dime a dozen. Everyone’s doing them – where a QR code is printed at the bottom of the receipt for the guest to scan and pay through a web browser. The issue is it’s just a band aid fix to the real problem, not to mention the fees they charge restaurants cut into already thin margins.

                  On the other hand, there are contactless payment solutions like Vēmos Pay that do solve all issues for both the guest and the restaurant — for free.

                  But first, let’s look at why QR Code / Pay-at-the-Table systems aren’t a great solution for restaurants or its customers.

                  1. It’s not actually a contactless payment experience

                  Let’s start with the most obvious — QR codes printed on the check aren’t contactless. Your server delivers the printed check to the guest, the guest then grabs that check to look it over and, should they choose to, scan the QR code to pay. If they’re splitting the check, they then need to pass that same piece of paper to others in the party who then follows the same process. Everyone’s touching the same item and passing it around, which defeats the whole contactless concept.

                  2. Your guest still spends an average of 12 minutes paying their check

                  Did you know it takes an average 12-15 minutes for a guest to pay their check once they’re done with their meal? That’s a lot of wasted time for both you and your customer. QR codes printed on checks don’t fix this. Your guest still needs to wait for your server to bring the check in order to review the bill and pay it. It also takes more time and effort for your guest since they’re now the ones in charge of manually choosing or entering their payment information on a browser.

                  3. QR codes don’t solve guest transparency

                  The guest experience of not knowing what you owe until after you’ve consumed the product is a broken one. No other experience in any other industry is this way, and the digital age has caused consumers to expect transparency in all of their interactions. So putting a QR code at the bottom the check is more of the same. The only thing it solves is the guest not handing a credit card over to the server. Instead, consumers are looking to solutions like Vēmos Pay that allow them to view their check the moment they sit down and have complete transparency throughout their entire dining experience.

                  4. There’s no consistency

                  Most QR Code / Pay-at-the-Table solutions are proud to promote that there’s no app required. This sounds great on the surface, but this actually causes more headaches for the guest. Apps allow for a secure centralized place for guests to store payment information, so that when it’s time to pay they simply click a pay button rather than needing to whip out their credit card and enter it into a web browser every single time.

                  Imagine a world where Uber wasn’t an app and was a QR Code cab system. In this world, the cab driver would print a receipt when you got to your destination, you’d scan the QR code to bring up a browser, you’d enter your payment information, and only then would you be able to leave the cab. Sounds silly compared to what you know, right? Uber automated all of that by having an app where riders could transparently see their cab fare and could pay automatically using a stored payment method in the app. The app is what allowed rides to be consistent, fares to be transparent, and payments to be simple.

                  So what’s a better solution?

                  Just how Uber automated paying for a taxi service, Vēmos Pay automates paying a restaurant bill.

                  Contactless Payment Solutions for Restaurants- Vemos Pay vs QR Codes

                  Vēmos Pay is a consumer app that allows your guests to view, split and pay their check from their own device. Your guest has transparency throughout their entire dining experience by being able to see their check the moment they sit down by entering in their table number. Others in their party can do the same, so when it comes time to split the check they can do so by choosing which items they ordered right in the app. And when it comes time to pay, they have the control to pay whenever they’re ready by using a stored payment method — without needing a printed check first.

                  It’s truly contactless, gives consumers the transparency and control that they didn’t have before, and it’s free for both the restaurant and consumer.

                  Vemos Pay Q&A with The App Association

                  As published on The App Association blog on July 28, 2020.

                  Pivoting with Platforms

                  Q: We last checked-in just before the benefit concert in April – can you tell us how that went?

                  A: We’re really proud of the work that went into the Bridge the Gap benefit concert in April, especially with how many different businesses across industries came together to make it happen. It was during a very dark and uncertain time in the hospitality industry, so we wanted to create something that provided support, hope, and of course financial resources to this industry that was so severely impacted by the shutdowns. We put the concert together within a matter of weeks and raised a little more than $12k to give back to our community.

                  Q: That’s so great to hear – props for an amazing event! Last time we spoke, we discussed how Vemos has had to pivot during COVID-19. You know, your business is focused around the hospitality industry with your primary clients being bars, clubs, and concert venues, and the COVID-19 crisis has changed the landscape quite a bit. You guys did some great work connecting people with teachable skills to an audience ready to learn, but I know you have recently rolled out an exciting new product. Can you fill us in?

                  A: We’ve pivoted a couple times since the COVID-19 shutdowns to continue to be a supportive partner for our customers. As you mentioned, our customers are bars, clubs, and concert venues, and they historically used our products to be able to understand and grow their business, as well as provide exceptional guest experience. That experience of course changed as soon as they were no longer able to have people gather in their spaces, so we worked alongside our customers to provide them a solution to host virtual interactive events and classes.

                  Once that was all set up, we quickly shifted gears to build out our new product, Vēmos Pay.

                  Vēmos Pay is a consumer app that allows you to view, split, and pay your check at restaurants and bars. There aren’t any added fees. It takes the headaches out of splitting the check with your friends, provides transparency so you can see what’s been added while you dine, and eliminates the need to wait for your check when you’re ready to pay & leave.

                  On the venue side, Vēmos Pay mimics the process of taking a credit card by sending payment directly through their point of sale system. It makes the whole checkout process easier for their staff so they can continue to focus on providing great hospitality to their guests, not to mention they’re no longer touching their guests’ credit cards – an important detail amidst a pandemic.

                  Q: So, talk me through the process of rolling out this feature and the pivot from being strictly B2B (business to business) and expanding into B2C (business to consumer). What did that look like? Was COVID-19 the inspiration for this?

                  A: A consumer app has always been on our mind from the company’s inception, and COVID-19 brought the timing of this opportunity front and center for us. It also raised the opportunity of being able to expand our B2B offerings into restaurants as well, which was another evolution of our company we had always anticipated. We knew we had to jump on this opportunity quickly and provide a safe solution for not only our existing customers, but also for the restaurant industry and the consumers supporting these establishments.

                  Because we were prepared with our early visions of having a consumer app that supported all of hospitality, we were able to design, develop, and launch this app pretty quickly. Our development team was able to quickly identify the best framework to build the app based on our drawings of our initial visions from years ago. Our design team was then able to finesse the designs and UI flow based on the platform the dev team was using to build. And because we have so many years of B2B hospitality tech under our belt, we already knew exactly how it would fit into the existing B2B environment so that these restaurant and bar owners didn’t have to think about one more change they needed to make to accept Vēmos Pay payments. That’s why it was so important for us to build this in a way that leveraged the establishment’s point of sale and payment processing systems. Our goal all around was to keep it clean yet powerful for both B2B and B2C, and our team was able to leverage the power platforms to make that happen.

                  Q: That’s amazing! So, what’s next for Vēmos Pay, can people download now?

                  A: Vēmos Pay is available for download on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store with a select few locations in the Minneapolis area as a Beta release. Right now, we’re working on activating B2B locations in a few markets around the country and are planning on fully announcing the release of the Vēmos Pay in August. Right now, users can sign up to be on the waitlist so that they’re notified as soon as it’s fully available, and they’ll get $5 to go toward their first check paid with Vēmos Pay.

                  Vemos Announced as Minne Inno 2020 Winner

                  As published on American Inno.

                  Meet Minne Inno’s 2020 Inno on Fire Winners

                  Every story and newsletter published by Minne Inno seeks to highlight local individuals and businesses driving change in Minnesota. With our third annual Inno on Fire celebration, we want to shine a little extra light on the ones that are truly setting the scene on fire.

                  In the coming month leading up to Inno on Fire, we’ll be publishing stories about a handful of these fast-moving companies. We’ve already highlighted a few in the past, and will be sharing and updating those stories.

                  We invite you, your team, family, friends, or anyone interested in the Twin Cities tech, startup and innovation ecosystem to join us for a big party in August at Fueled Collective’s space in downtown Minneapolis.

                  At the event, we’ll announce a handful of people and/or companies that a panel of honorable judges has deemed to be the most “on fire.” These will be our Inno Blazers, and will receive a sweet prize along with eternal glory in the startup community.

                  So what are the exact qualifications for being on fire? Glad you asked. We sourced nominations from Beat readers and others in the community to find founders and companies that had a banner year. This could include new fundings, exciting partnerships or tireless support for the startup community. Then, we grouped them together in six categories.

                  It’s impossible to quantify a healthy, thriving ecosystem with one single metric, like job growth or revenue. An emerging hub is the result of, yes, fast-growing companies, but also of new funds, hard-working mentors, locally-focused investors, entrepreneurship professors, and many, many more.

                  A healthy ecosystem also reflects the breadth of innovation that’s happening in a particular market, not just in the tech sector but also in government, food, wellness and more. That’s why our Inno on Fire list is an eclectic list of people and companies from different industries and stages, representing all of the moving parts that make for an ecosystem that’s on fire.

                  Let’s get to know this year’s Inno on Fire!

                  Startup of the Year
                  The Coven: The Coven is a coworking company that provides workspace for women, non-binary and transgender professionals. Earlier this year, it opened the doors of a new office in St. Paul. The new office, twice the size of its original location in the North Loop, offers free parking, a prayer room, a beauty bar and on-site childcare. Last fall, CEO Alex West Steinman was recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of 100 women building America’s most innovative and ambitious businesses.

                  REM5 VR Lab: REM5 opened in late 2018 offering craft beer, pizza and virtual reality video games. The company has expanded its offerings, working with companies like Cargill to provide employees with training sessions about racial equity and implicit bias. It also works with students, teachers, artists and community groups to make virtual reality more widely available.

                  75F: Last year, Burnsville-based smart-energy startup 75F closed on an $18 million round of venture capital that included investment from a group of high-profile tech CEOs and a billionaire-backed investment fund. This was one of the 10 largest funding rounds for a Minnesota startup in 2019.

                  Total Expert: In October 2019, St. Louis Park-based fintech company Total Expert secured $52 million in Series C funding – one of the largest raises for a non-healthcare tech startup in recent years. The company was also recognized by Forbes as one of the 500 best startup employers in the U.S.

                  Leah Labs: Leah Labs ran one of the 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Minnesota last year. The Rochester biotech startup aims to cure dog cancer with genetically modified immune system cells. Leah Labs set out to raise $100,000. Ultimately, it raised $479,538 from 847 backers.

                  Women-Led Startup of the Year
                  Soona Studios: Soona offers photography and video services for professionals. The company, which now has 17 employees, has seen dramatic growth in recent months. It took over 200,000 photos in 2019 and more than half of those were in the fourth quarter of the year. In February, Soona closed on a $3.5 million round of seed funding.

                  Clinician Nexus: Minneapolis-based Clinician Nexus allows hospitals to post their clinical rotation schedules so that medical students can more easily apply for and schedule training. In 2019, it received $100,000 after getting accepted into the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator. The platform has more than 10,000 users and is used by over 50 hospitals across 11 states. In late 2019, Clinician Nexus raised a $1.5 million round of seed funding.

                  Abilitech Medical: Abilitech is creating a device that helps restore mobility to people with upper-limb and neuromuscular conditions. In October, the company won the Minnesota Cup, securing $50,000. It also landed $25,000 as the competition’s top women-led startup. And in December, Abilitech closed on $7.4 million in funding to support the commercialization of Assist.

                  Yonder: Yonder is an app that aims to decrease dental anxiety in young children using mixed reality and a cartoon hippo named Mimi. The company creates special apps for each dentistry practice it works with, offering patients and their parents actual footage of the office they’ll visit and the dentist they’ll see. Yonder was recently accepted into Lunar Startups’ third cohort.

                  Creatively Focused: Creatively Focused aims to increase the retention of special education teachers by providing them with vital coaching and professional development tools. It has launched its program in 30 Minnesota school districts, including Anoka-Hennepin, the state’s largest school system.

                  Molly Fuller Design: Molly Fuller Design aims to make clothing and products for specific medical conditions that look and feel less medical. Fuller combined her backgrounds in fashion design and healthcare to create the company’s first product line called the Charlie Shirt – a clothing item intended for those with autism spectrum disorder and sensory disorder. Molly Fuller Design received second place in the Impact Division of the 2019 Minnesota Cup.

                  Early-Stage Startup
                  Companies with less than 10 employees or are pre-Series A

                  Joshin: Joshin offers an app that provides on-demand disability care. founders Melissa Danielson and Melanie Fountaine sold their first company Josh’s place, which helps special needs families. Within the last year, Joshin has launched in four markets and is preparing to expand into 10 additional cities.

                  BetterYou: BetterYou is a digital coaching app designed to help users track and take back their free time. In the last year, BetterYou added 24 paying customers and helped thousands of students make better health decisions. The company also raised $1 million in seed financing at the end of 2019, bringing its total funding to $1.4 million.

                  Visana Health: Visana launched its digital care program for endometriosis and menstrual paid six months after being formed, and is already used by physicians at Mayo Clinic, Medical College of Wisconsin, University of North Carolina and other health systems. They’re also part of the new gBETA Medtech cohort.

                  TackleBar: St. Paul-based TackleBar announced in early 2020 that it had cemented a partnership with USA Football, the national governing body for amateur football in the U.S., to teach players proper tackling fundamentals that would reduce injuries. TackleBar is now the preferred limited-contact training tool for USA Football’s new Football Development Model, meaning the organization will incorporate the TackleBar harness into its national training program.

                  AirSelfie: AirSelfie is the creator of Air Pix, a small camera that allows users to take aerial photographs. The company raised $2.1 million through crowdfunding in the last 12 months. It also launched auto-fly technology, which enables users to take an aerial selfie without a controller.

                  Vemos: Vemos is a payments and analytics solution for the hospitality industry. The company was the runner up in the first MEDA Million Dollar challenge and has received investment from Rise of the Rest. In 2019, Vemos grew from 345 customers to 1,582 customers nationally.

                  Growth Stage
                  Companies with strong product-market fit, have grown to over 10 employees or are post-Series A

                  Field Nation: Field Nation employs over 200 individuals and has experienced significant growth within the last year. The company’s platform helps find and assess skilled labor. Today, there are more than 100,000 technicians and 7,000 clients registered on Field Nation. These technicians and clients completed more than 1 million work orders last year, across 24,000 U.S. zip codes and 5,900 Canadian postal codes.

                  ClickSWITCH: ClickSWITCH makes it easy to switch direct deposits and automatic payments when changing from one financial institution to another. Last year, it raised a $13 million Series B round of funding. The company more than doubled its headcount in 2019, and now has over 50 employees in its new North Loop office.

                  Plyo: Plyo rewards students for exercising on campus. Since the beginning of 2019, the company has expanded from one campus to 11 markets and 15 campuses. It has also increased its user base from 4,000 to 45,000 students. The app also surpassed one million hours of exercise in November 2019, then hit two million hours in February 2020.

                  Dispatch: Dispatch is a B2B delivery startup. Within the last year, Dispatch has expanded its national reach and is now in a total of 30 U.S. markets. It plans to expand into 20 additional markets this year. The company also was recognized on the CNBC Upstart 100 list.

                  StemoniX: StemoniX, a biotech startup using stem cells to create micro-organs for drug testing and development, raised $14.4 million in early 2019. This was one of the largest venture capital rounds for a Minnesota company in 2019.

                  Kaleidoscope: Kaleidoscope offers a platform for managing private scholarships and grants. In March 2020, Kaleidoscope announced that it had secured a $3 million round of funding from Rally Ventures.

                  Civic Eagle: Founded in 2015, Civic Eagle aims to use technology to improve transparency in public policy and legislative affairs. In January 2020, the company announced that it had closed on a $1.3 million round of seed funding. In the fall, Civic Eagle was awarded $200,000 as one of three winners of MEDA’s Million Dollar Challenge.

                  Community Builder
                  Local leaders working to grow the ecosystem

                  University of Minnesota Venture Center: The University of Minnesota is the state’s only comprehensive research university, with a billion dollars in research performed annually. The Venture Center is a key part of how its ideas and technology become part of Minnesota’s tech ecosystem. The Venture Center, part of University of Minnesota Technology Commercialization, has helped spin out 167 companies since 2006—three-fourths of them in Minnesota. Last year alone, the University spun out a record 19 startup companies. UMN startups in Minnesota are responsible for some 820 current jobs (577 of them in Minnesota). From 2006-2019, all UMN startups have raised more than $1.16 billion from venture capital, acquisitions and public offerings. On average, U of M startups have a survival rate of around 75%.

                  Silicon Prairie Portal & Exchange: Fintech startup Silicon Prairie has helped a dozen Minnesota companies raise more than $6 million in capital, including $350,000 for itself using its own investment crowdfunding platform.

                  EdNorth: EdNorth helps build Minnesota’s education and training community by supporting the region’s educators and entrepreneurs. The nonprofit provides regular networking opportunities and free educational workshops around innovation, entrepreneurship and lean startup programming.

                  MEDA: Last fall, the Metropolitan Economic Development Association awarded $1.2 million to three startups as part of its Million Dollar Challenge, a competition for minority-led businesses. MEDA also provides entrepreneurs with one-on-one business consulting, access to capital and connections to market opportunites.

                  Launch Minnesota: Launch MN, an initiatives from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, was established in 2019 to foster innovation across the state with a special focus on businesses located outside the Twin Cities. In less than a year, it has awarded thousands of dollars in grants to Minnesota startups and created a network of Innovation Hubs throughout the state to provide resources to entrepreneurs in Greater Minnesota.

                  Social Impact
                  Mission-driven companies that make an impact in their communities

                  Finnovation Lab: Launched in 2018, Finnovation Lab offers resources, training, workspace and support to social impact entrepreneurs. Over the course of a nine-month program, it provides its fellows with a $50,000 grant to help grow their businesses.

                  BanQu: BanQu aims to lift people out of extreme poverty by connecting them to global supply chains. By allowing the unbanked or underbanked interact with the global economy, BanQu helps these individuals develop a credit history and economic identity. Founded in 2015, BanQu has already cemented partnerships with several large international businesses, including Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest brewing company. In June 2018, BanQu began a pilot program with ABInBev, working to connect 2,000 Zambian farmers to BanQu’s mobile platform.

                  We Sparkle: We Sparkle is a social enterprise platform that uses AI-powered software to help small businesses care for both their customers and their communities. Founder and CEO Michelle Maryns was part of the first Finnovation Fellowship and recently joined BETA’s latest cohort. It is also part of Lunar Startups recently-launched third cohort. We Sparkle won the Impact Ventures division of the 2019 Minnesota Cup, securing $30,000 in funding.

                  Footprint Project: Created by a group of philanthropy, humanitarian and human rights veterans, this local organization deploys to disaster zones and low-resource communities around the world to provide relief and recovery services. Footprint helps these places rebuild with clean energy technologies like renewable microgrids, water filtration and safe shelters.

                  Ecotone Analytics: Ecotone works with businesses, government, education, nonprofits and social enterprises to account for the impact their work creates, and to communicate the value of that impact to investors and stakeholders.

                  PCs for People: PCs for People recycles electronics from businesses and provides refurbished tech to low-income individuals and nonprofits. The organization has distributed more than 80,000 computers across the country and provided over 30,000 families with internet access. To date, it has recycled more than 3.5 million pounds of technology that would have otherwise been discarded.

                  Opportunity Challenge
                  Those providing resources and support to underrepresented founders

                  Lunar Startups: One of the Twin Cities’ newest startup accelerators, Lunar Startups supports entrepreneurs from underserved or underrepresented backgrounds. Founders from Lunar’s first two cohorts have created 34 new jobs to do date. The program recently launched its third cohort. More than 67% of cohort three startups are led by a woman, 60% are led by a person of color, 33% are led by a woman of color and 7% are led by a person who identifies as LGBTQ+.

                  ConnectUP!: Through its annual conference, ConnectUP connects local investors, innovators and other members of the business community to co-design an ecosystem that prioritizes equitable access to resources, capital and networks.

                  Technovation[MN]: Technovation[MN] provides technology and entrepreneurial opportunities for girls with the hopes of increasing the number of women in STEM fields. The organization offers a 12-week program that teaches girls how to build a mobile app that solves a problem in their community. Technovation[MN] recently received a two-year grant from Cargill to expand and continue its programming.

                  Genesys Works Twin Cities: Genesys Works has partnered with around 50 Minnesota high schools to professional skills and technology training to young entrepreneurs. Genesys was one of five Minnesota nonprofits to receive $175,000 in funding through the Google Impact Challenge. The organization went on to win an additional $125,000 as the people’s choice winner of the competition.