January 23, 2022

Tomer Aiderapp

Consummate Business Technicians

The List: Startup Founders with Corporate Training

Name a startup medtech company in Minnesota, and there’s a good chance its founder gained experience at Medtronic, Mayo Clinic, or Boston Scientific. A new packaged food item or consumer product? Look for Target or General Mills on the founder’s LinkedIn profile.

Minnesota’s Fortune 500s and other large companies are magnets for talent and, often, are launch pads for future entrepreneurs. The Minnesota startups listed here were founded by entrepreneurs who began their careers at large companies in the Twin Cities; the businesses range from new ventures on the fast track to well-established brands with big potential. And as impressive as this list is, it’s only a sampling of the local entrepreneurs with roots in large companies.

 

 


Follow the links below to navigate companies by category:

(♦ = former employment)


Bizzy Coffee co-founders Andrew Healy (left) and Alex French

Bizzy Coffee

Bizzy CoffeeCo-Founder and ceo: Alex French (♦General Mills marketing analyst; Best Buy forecast analyst)

Co-Founder and coo: Andrew Healy (♦St. Jude Medical research and development engineer; Spectrum Plastics project manager)

ProducT: Cold brew coffee sold direct to consumer and through grocers. It’s the top-selling cold brew brand on Amazon. 

Funds raised to date: $4.85 million in debt and equity

2021 projection: 75 percent growth over last year

Corporate insights: “Most corporate employees want to be an entrepreneur but don’t have the risk profile,” French says. “What that means for entrepreneurs is that there are extremely smart people who want to help because it gives them the satisfaction of being involved without the risk.” bizzycoffee.com

D’Avocado

Greg D’alessandro founder (♦General Mills marketing manager)

A chocolate dip with avocado and six other natural ingredients, manufactured in Loretto. fromtheavocado.com

Read more from this issue

Cover of the fall 2021 issue of StartMN

Flackers

Donn Kelly co-founder and CEO (♦Best Buy marketing director; Pillsbury marketing manager)

The Minneapolis-based natural foods company offers flaxseed crackers and seed crisps. flackers.com

Fulton Beer

Ryan Petz Co-founder and CEO (♦General Mills associate channel manager)

Brewing craft beer in Minneapolis since 2009. fultonbeer.com

Katana AgriScience Corp

James Kirk co-founder and president (♦Cargill securities manager; Ameriprise Financial director, alternative investments)

Diwa Ratnam (♦3M lab manager)

The St. Paul-based global biotech company develops next-generation solutions for agricultural safety and sustainability. katana-ag.com

Minneapolis Cider Co.

Jason Dayton co-founder (♦Target food and beverage merchant) 

David O’Neill co-founder (♦EY risk advisory consultant)

Maker of craft hard cider, with a Minneapolis taproom. minneapoliscider.co 

Mostly Made

Jillian McGary founder (♦Target marketing analyst)

The Wayzata company makes refrigerated, fresh meal starters. mostly-made.com

Ommie Snacks

Ommie Snacks

Claudia Fierro-Poppen founder (♦General Mills marketing communications manager)

The Chanhassen company makes “allergy-friendly” vegan energy bars from fruit, seeds, and spices. ommiesnacks.com

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen & Rum Bar

Tomme Beevas founder (♦Cargill director of community involvement) 

The restaurant features authentic Jamaican street and comfort food at its Minneapolis and St. Paul locations. pimentokitchen.com 

Pimento has been featured on Food Network and Travel Channel. 

So Good So You

Rita Katona co-founder (♦Target senior buyer)

The Minneapolis-based wellness brand sells probiotic health-juice shots. sogoodsoyou.com 

Closed on $14.5 million in growth funding in late 2020. 

The Twisted Beverage Co.

Scott Dillon founder (σGeneral Mills sales director)

The Minneapolis-based company creates shrubs (The Twisted Shrub) and health shots (The Twisted Shot) using apple cider vinegar as the primary ingredient. thetwistedshrub.com

“What the pandemic has done is accelerate this movement of people understanding that investing proactively and managing their own health pays dividends when it comes to their immunity.”

—Rita Katona,So Good So You,By All Means podcast

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Consumer Products

Alice Riot

Kelly Groehler co-founder and CEO (♦Berkshire Hathaway communications; Best Buy communications executive)

The Minneapolis accessories brand offers silk scarves with original designs by contemporary women artists, plus original artworks on canvas.  aliceriot.com

Friska

John Peine founder (♦Target divisional merchandise manager)

The Minneapolis-based company makes digestive supplements designed to promote wellness. getfriska.com

Rae Wellness

Rae Wellness

Co-founder: Eric Carl (♦Target wellness and emerging brands strategy leader)

Co-founder and CEO: Angie Tebbe (♦Target merchandising director)

Product: The Minneapolis-based health and wellness brand offers a range of vitamins and supplements.

Recent fundraising: In June, Rae announced $9.5 million in Series A funding.

2021 projection: Rae had 1 million customers in 2020 and is on pace for triple-digit year-over-year growth in 2021.

Corporate insights: “Being a leader at Target prepared me with the toolkit I needed to start and lead a growth company—including seeing the white space opportunity, developing products around a mission, partnering with investors and retailers, and recruiting and developing a strong team,” Tebbe says. “When we started Rae, we put our consumers at the forefront of every decision. It was our mission to understand what they are thinking about, what they need and want, and where and how they live. Ultimately, that guided our brand strategy, our product development, and the essence of who we are.” raewellness.co

HiBAR

Dion Hughes co-founder (♦Fallon creative director)

The St. Paul company makes plastic-free solid shampoo and conditioner bars.hellohibar.com

Odele Beauty

Britta Chatterjee co-founder (♦General Mills channel manager; Target partnerships and negotiations manager)

Lindsay Holden co-founder (♦Target merchandising manager)

Shannon Kearney co-founder (♦Renpure product manager)

The Minneapolis brand makes clean beauty products including shampoos, conditioners, and body washes sold online and at Target stores. odelebeauty.com

Omnia Fishing

Chris Morgal co-founder and COO (♦Navico account manager)

Dan Wick co-founder and CTO (σTaylor Corp. product manager)

The high-tech sporting goods company helps anglers buy fishing gear based on specifics such as which lake they’re fishing and what they want to catch. Available via e-commerce and its Golden Valley store.omniafishing.com

Womaness

womanessSally Mueller co-founder and CEO (♦Target senior marketing executive)

The Minneapolis-based founder and CEO runs this beauty and wellness company based in New York City. The company offers modern menopause solutions such as supplements, serums, wipes, and pads, available at Target. womaness.com

 

 

Ahmed El Shourbagy with wife and co-founder Ashley Paguyo and their dog Lucy
Ahmed El Shourbagy with wife and co-founder Ashley Paguyo and their dog Lucy

Lucy & Co. 

Ahmed El Shourbagy co-founder and CEO (♦Target analyst) The Minneapolis-based company makes dog apparel, gear, and bandanas. lucyand.co

◊ El Shourbagy also founded Dogs of Instagram, an account with more than 5 million followers.

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Health and medtech

Abilitech Medical

Angie Zavoral Conley founder and CEO (♦Medtronic marketing manager) 

An Eden Prairie-based medical device company known for its Abilitech Assist, a wearable orthotic device that supports patients with upper-limb weakness or injury. abilitechmedical.com

Abilitech Medical was a 2019 MN Cup Grand Prize and Tekne Medtech Award winner.

“The mission is what carries you through. … This is my imprint on the world … an exciting opportunity to fill an unmet need and change the lives not just of patients but their caregivers.” 

—Angie Zavoral Conley, Abilitech Medical, By All Means podcast

Bright Health Group

Bob Sheehy co-founder and chairman (UnitedHealthcare CEO)

The Minneapolis-based integrated health care company uses technology and a curated network of doctors, clinics, and hospitals to provide quality health care at a low price. brighthealthgroup.com

Bright Health went public in June, raising $924 million.

Clinician Nexus

Katrina Anderson co-founder and CEO (♦HealthPartners communications associate)

The Minneapolis computer software company offers products with multidirectional data sharing that enables health systems, schools, students, and clinicians to coordinate, monitor, and measure student success in clinical settings. cliniciannexus.com 

“A world without Clinician Nexus was scarier than quitting my job.” 

—Katrina Anderson, Clinician Nexus, By All Means podcast

Collagen Solutions

Jamal Rushdy president (♦Tornier USA [now Wright Medical] vice president of sales operations and business development)

Eden Prairie-based Collagen Solutions is a global supplier, developer, and manufacturer of medical-grade collagen, tissues, and other biomaterials for use in regenerative medicine, medical devices, and research. collagensolutions.com 

DiaspoCare 

Serge Alain Wandji co-founder and CEO (♦Children’s Minnesota vice president of business development and innovation; Cargill asset manager) 

The St. Paul-based digital health care platform connects patients, doctors, and pharmacists  in African countries to pharmacists and clinicians in the U.S., allowing people in the U.S. to access and pay for quality medications for their family members in Africa. diaspocare.com 

Wandji has founded four startups, including NextPakk and Sandogame. 

Geneticure

Scott Snyder co-founder and CEO (♦Target buyer and business analyst) 

The Rochester-based biotech company uses genomics and integrative physiology to develop personalized diagnostics tests and tools for clinician use. geneticure.com 

HabitAware

Habit Aware productAneela Idnani Kumar co-founder (♦Fallon senior integrated producer) 

Sameer Kumar CEO (♦Ameriprise Financial director of strategy and business development)

The Minneapolis-based wearable technology company is known for its development of a habit-tracking awareness bracelet called Keen, which helps users break the cycle of behaviors including hair pulling, skin picking, and nail biting. habitaware.com

“When things get hard, you have to focus on the reason why you’re in it, which for us was to solve this problem.”

—Sameer Kumar, HabitAware, By All Means podcast

Imanis Life Sciences

Kah-Whye Peng co-founder and COO (Current Mayo Clinic professor of oncology)

Dr. Stephen Russell co-founder and CEO (Current Mayo Clinic professor of molecular medicine)

The Rochester-based biotech company provides novel virological solutions for the advancement of science and public health. imanislife.com 

Developed the Immuno-Cov test to measure the body’s defense capabilities against Covid-19.

Inspire Medical Systems

Tim Herbert president and CEO (♦Medtronic product developer and clinical researcher)

The Minneapolis-based medical device company is developing products to treat sleep apnea. inspiresleep.com 

Kavira Health

Andrew Headrick founder and CEO (♦Piper Jaffray health care investment banking analyst)

A direct-to-employer health care provider based in Minneapolis, offering subscription-based primary health care via telehealth and in-person house visits. kavirahealth.com 

Launched in March and currently serving Twin Cities companies.

Marani Health co-founders Ann Holder (left) and Kathy Tune
Marani Health co-founders Ann Holder (left) and Kathy Tune

Marani Health

Co-founder and CEO: Ann Holder (♦Mayo Clinic entrepreneur in residence; Medtronic executive director of integrated health solutions; General Mills operations manager)

Co-founder, CFO, and COO: Kathy Tune (Current partner at Capita3; ♦Piper Sandler analyst; partner at Thomas, McNerney & Partners)

Product: A tech-enabled digital health platform for prenatal and postpartum care. In addition to standard biometrics, the company is developing a wireless, reusable textile-based product for maternal and fetal monitoring at home. 

Funds raised to date: $10 million

2021 projection: Completion and official launch of the platform

Corporate insights: “I was fortunate to have a fulfilling corporate career that gave me the experiences I needed across engineering, operations, finance, and business development to start and build a company,” Holder says. “I was in positions as an individual contributor as well as leading teams. I learned a lot about bringing products and services to market in both large and small companies.” maranihealth.com 

Morari Medical

Jeff Bennett founder and CEO (Medtronic product manager; Boston Scientific marketing manager)

The Maple Grove company makes a wearable device that uses neurostimulation to treat premature ejaculation. morarimedical.com

Rebiotix

Lee Jones founder, president, and CEO  (♦Medtronic general manager)

The Roseville clinical-stage biotech company is using the microbiome to treat gastrointestinal diseases. rebiotix.com 

Jones is also the director of New Prague-based home health service company Electromed. 

Rion

Dr. Atta Behfar co-founder (Current director of the cardiac regeneration program and deputy director of translation, regenerative medicine at Mayo Clinic)

Dr. Andre Terzic co-founder (Current Mayo Clinic professor of cardiovascular research)

Rochester-based Rion is a clinical-stage regenerative medicine company developing exosome therapeutics to treat conditions where tissue regeneration is needed.  riontx.com

Sonex Health

Dr. Darryl Barnes founder and CEO (Mayo Clinic Health System medical director and physician) 

The Eagan medical device company’s SX-One MicroKnife allows for a less invasive procedure to treat carpal tunnel.  sonexhealth.com  

Vyriad

Kah-Whye Peng co-founder and CTO (Current Mayo Clinic professor of oncology)

Dr. Stephen Russell co-founder and CEO (Current Mayo Clinic professor of molecular medicine)

Rochester-based Vyriad develops viral and gene-based therapies to attack cancer cells and prevent recurrence. vyriad.com 

 A Shark Tank pitch competition at NEW RULES
A Shark Tank pitch competition at NEW RULES

NEW RULES

Christopher Webley founder (Target textile engineer)

NEW RULES is a modern real estate collective that turns empty buildings in Black and brown communities into innovative spaces designed by the communities they serve. newrulesmn.com

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 Services

Float

Jake McHenry co-founder and CEO (Target business analyst)

The Minneapolis-based company is like an Airbnb for boats, connecting boat owners and renters across the Land of 10,000 Lakes. letsfloat.com

Kaleidoscope

Gregory Dehn founder and CEO (Target and Medtronic technology director; UnitedHealth Group mergers and acquisitions technology integration leader; Boston Scientific information systems leader)

The Minneapolis-based company’s goal is to make education more accessible using its hosting platform and by matching organizations offering awards, scholarships, and grants with students who need them. mykaleidoscope.com

LegalQ

Zeb Anderson co-founder and CEO (Medtronic analytics manager)

Wagma Gharwal co-founder and advisor (Current Deluxe Corp. senior contract strategist)

Tim Schuster co-founder and CMO (Thrivent development consultant)

The Minneapolis-based app offers users on-demand 15- or 30-minute consultations with a licensed attorney. legalq.io

“People don’t want to stay in an uncomfortable place, but there’s no quick fix to becoming inclusive.” 

—Rosemary Ugboajah, Neka Creative, By All Means podcast

 

GenEQTY founder Dionne Gumbs
GenEQTY founder Dionne Gumbs

GenEQTY

Founder and CEO: Dionne Gumbs (U.S. Trust senior vice president, private client advisor) 

Service: GenEQTY is a Minneapolis-based financial technology company developing digital banking solutions to help small businesses and solopreneurs improve financial performance, manage business health, and get faster access to funding through a single central, data-driven business hub. 

Funds raised to date: Previously self-funded, the company has recently raised an undisclosed amount to accelerate product development and growth.

2021 projection: Set to launch this fall, GenEQTY was recently accepted into the Mastercard Start Path startup engagement program. “Being chosen for this highly selective program accelerates our brand presence and allows us to leverage the power of a massive, powerful global player,” Gumbs says. “Start Path companies have gone on to raise more than $4 billion in post-program capital.”

Corporate insights: “Two decades working in financial services highlighted many areas of opportunity for the industry. Notably, the barriers to success—let alone entry— for women and minority business owners were all too prevalent. My most successful clients would often share how unnecessarily difficult their journey in accessing capital and resources had been. The potential of women and minority business owners is overlooked far too often,” Gumbs says. “But not anymore. GenEQTY is a platform born out of the intense desire to give financial freedom and relief to more business owners.” geneqty.com

Neka Creative

Rosemary Ugboajah CEO (Target marketing senior specialist; Colle McVoy account supervisor; Yamamoto account supervisor)

The Minneapolis-based brand development agency focuses on what it calls Inclusivity Marketing—a holistic approach of integrating different perspectives and experiences into one cohesive brand process. nekacreative.com  

Pivot Strategies 

Stacia Nelson founder and CEO (Target global affairs manager) 

Minneapolis-based Pivot Strategies is an internal communications agency with clients including Abbott Laboratories, 3M, General Mills, Medtronic, and Cargill. pivotstrategies.com 

Sidewalk Dog Media

Ali Jarvis founder and CEO (Target accountant)

The Edina-based media company creates content geared to “pup parents” in the Twin Cities, Chicago, Denver, and Seattle. sidewalkdog.com

VF Health Fitness Solutions

Valerie Fleurantin founder and CEO (Target data governance analyst; Medtronic software engineer)

The fitness company offers a variety of in-person and virtual classes, including Zumba, HITT, and abs boot camps. vfhealthfitnesssolutions.com

 

Valerie Fleurantin leading a VF Health Fitness Solutions class at Target Field in Minneapolis
Valerie Fleurantin leading a VF Health Fitness Solutions class at Target Field in Minneapolis

“There’s so much technology that comes out that is just a flashy light and spinning wheels. We want to deliver competitive advantage.”

—Dan Mallin, Lucy AI, TCB interview

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Software

Apple & Banana

Rishi Murugesan co-founder and head of design  (Best Buy UX designer) 

Sibi Murugesan co-founder and head of product and growth (Best Buy senior strategy analyst) 

Varun Murugesan co-founder and head of research (Best Buy research manager and United HealthGroup data analyst)

The Minneapolis-based computer software company makes UX resources and software. appleandbanana.org 

Lucy AI

Dan Mallin founder and CEO (3M manager)

The Minneapolis-based artificial intelligence-powered management assistant helps securely integrate internal files and systems. lucy.ai

SayKid

DeLonn Crosby founder and CEO (Target senior general manager, corporate social responsibility)

The Minneapolis-based voice technology company’s ToyBot, a plush voice-interactive robot, is designed to make early education more accessible. saykid.com

◊ 2020 Grand Prize winner at the Alexa EdTech Challenge at South by Southwest’s education conference and festival.

Peach Mindfulness founder Quyen Balter
Peach Mindfulness founder Quyen Balter

Peach Mindfulness

Founder: Quyen Balter (Target data scientist)

Software: An AI-personalized meditation app created by the St. Paul-based company in collaboration with a Buddhist monk. 

Funds raised to date: $35,000

2021 projection: 50 percent revenue growth by the end of the year 

Corporate insights: “My experience working in top technology companies has inspired me to develop products that humanize tech,” Balter says. “In the past, we used to think machines were cold and aloof. At Peach, we are building a system that understands your mood, wants, and needs, and we deliver the exact meditation that you need at the moment.” peachmindfulness.com 

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