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Inc.com: Minneapolis' startup climate not bad, but far from the best

Come piggyback on Minnesota's existing corporate giants and revel in our delightfully unsexy five-year business survival rate.

Come piggyback on Minnesota's existing corporate giants and revel in our delightfully unsexy five-year business survival rate. Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

If you’re looking for a new base of operations for your next big idea, you could do worse than right here in Minneapolis.

You could also do better, according to Inc. magazine, which teamed up with an “innovation policy company” called Startup Genome to crunch the numbers on which cities entrepreneurs should consider tapping into. Factors measured included deals for early-stage funding, population, and business growth, among others.

Out of 50 cities under consideration, Minneapolis came in pretty far down the list at No. 40, with minor credit given to the number of new businesses launched in one year, plus the ratio of funding deals and fast-growing companies relative to population. Even in those categories, its strongest according to Inc.'s data, Minneapolis didn't place higher than 15th.

At the top of Inc.’s list was Austin, Texas, followed by Salt Lake City, Durham, Denver, and Boise. Madison, Wisconsin actually beat us handily at No. 18, praised for “bucking” Wisconsin’s reputation for brain drain and attracting educated movers and shakers—despite low marks for job creation and opportunity share for the state at large.

The City of Lakes had a few points in its favor—already established corporate giants like Target and Cargill looming overhead, certainly, but also the startup programs branching off, hydra-like, from those entities. For example, since 2017, dairy mega-co-op Land O’ Lakes has been running an accelerator for industry businesses hoping to expand.

In other food news, agricultural giant Cargill and tech powerhouse Ecolab partnered to create something similar for food industry tech, and reducing food waste. If your cheese-sharing startup needs a boost, it might be worth a move to the Twin Cities just for the chance at a leg up from a mega-profitable corporation.

The report also gave Minneapolis props for its women-centric entrepreneurial programs, with shout-outs to The Coven (a community workspace for women, femmes, and nonbinary folks) and Sofia Fund (an early-stage investment firm for women-driven startups). It should also be noted, as the Star Tribune has, that Minneapolis is one of the top-ranked spots for closing the gender wage gap. (The same can’t be said of the rest of the state.)

But moreover, one of the key things Minneapolis has going for it is its unsexy, unrisky business environment. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gave us a 54.4 percent five-year business survival rate, which happens to be third-highest in the nation.

Coven CEO and co-founder Alex West Steinman told Inc. there was simply less “tolerance” for risk here than on the coasts, and maybe less of that “move fast and break things” attitude so common in disruptive new companies.

“I think some of that comes from wanting to build something that’s going to be around a long time rather than what takes off like rocket fuel,” West Steinman said.

You and your business can still get get lucky in Minneapolis. Just avoid Uptown, which, sources say, is where businesses go to die.