One cup at a time: Local entrepreneurs connect

With entrepreneurship brewing in Rochester these days, there is a growing need for more opportunities for these like-minded individuals to connect and network, share successes and struggles, and simply bond. Perhaps over a cup of joe.

1 Million Cups is a national program that incubated out of the Kauffman Foundation where entrepreneurs can come together over coffee to hear pitches from other startups and learn from one another. The free program exists in more than 100 cities nationwide and, today, Rochester became one of those cities.

Jamie Sundsbak, entrepreneur and community manager of Collider, a local coworking space, first learned of 1 Million Cups (1MC) on a sort of entrepreneurial field trip to Kansas City, Missouri more than two years ago. “Several of us were visiting the Kauffman Foundation when we first heard of the program,” he explains, saying the group loved the 1MC concept and stored it in the backs of their minds until the time was right to launch it.

Today, Rochester’s burgeoning entrepreneurial environment is illustrative of the support and excitement that envelops the city’s many startups, and Sundsbak and company knew the time was right to introduce 1 Million Cups to the community. The response was overwhelming.

“There were more than 70 people in attendance for the kick-off event this morning,” he says. The agenda for each monthly event includes two six-minute presentations during which presenters tell the audience who they are, what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it. Each presentation is followed by 20 minutes of interaction, during which attendees can ask questions, provide insight, and make suggestions.

Jamie Sundsbak

“Presenting your ideas in a supportive environment surrounded by people who want to help and see you succeed takes a significant amount of pressure off the presenters,” says Sundsbak. “And in some cases,” he continues, “it helps them better articulate their vision for future conversations with potential investors.”

1MC Rochester is committed to highlighting the diversity in the city’s entrepreneurial landscape. “We don’t want the perception that all the startups in Rochester are medically-based,” says Sundsbak. The presenters at today’s inaugural event were far from it. One was Twisted Barrel, a food truck that serves wood-fired pizza. The other, Tinua, a digital platform and mobile app that allows you to donate unused and unwanted gift card to charity. Future presenters are expected to be equally diverse.

Jamie Rothe, planning services manager with DMC, was impressed with both the turnout and the quality of today’s event. “Organizations and events like 1MC are extremely important to our community,” Rothe says. It is especially important to the DMC Discovery Square sub-district, which will serve as a point where health care will come together with businesses and entrepreneurs to accelerate advances in patient care. “Connecting entrepreneurs and like-minded people will continue to elevate the amazing ideas and discoveries happening right here in Rochester, Minnesota on a global level.”

Sundsbak encourages community members – entrepreneurs or not – to attend the next event. “There is a driving force related to entrepreneurship in Rochester right now,” he says. “Join us to learn from and with this growing community over a cup of coffee.”