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University of Minnesota launches incubator to help startup companies

The university has helped startups before, but the new "Discovery Launchpad" hopes to add an extra boost.
University of Minnesota. Credit: KARE 11

MINNEAPOLIS — Companies that are based on University of Minnesota research will get an extra helping hand from the university when trying to make a name in the business world. 

The University of Minnesota has launched a startup incubator, called the Discovery Launchpad, which is designed to help small companies succeed. 

The Discovery Launchpad program was made by the Venture Center of UMN Technology Commercialization. 

The center hopes to provide coaching and support for local researchers. 

“The Discovery Launchpad helps researchers explore what is needed in commercializing a University invention via a startup—namely, understanding the business model, market demand, competition and the resources necessary to be successful,” said Russ Straate, associate director of the Venture Center.

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The first step in working with the UMN program is to meet with Discovery Launchpad advisors for an assessment. 

Then, startups that qualify will receive a formal invitation from the program. After that, the company founders are invited to work in a shared space alongside advisors. The goal is for the young company to create multiple business plans and pitches that will be successful in the "real world."

The Discovery Launchpad is currently working with eight startups and five advisors and plans to graduate eight from the program this fiscal year.

The program's advisors have experience from businesses like Cargill, 3M and Medtronic.

“It’s been extremely helpful brainstorming and pressure testing our ideas with the Discovery Launchpad team,” said Brian Larson, co-founder and CEO of University startup Darcy Solutions.

A company that works with Discovery Launchpad can expect to participate for a maximum of two years. After launching, the program helps with post-launch support. 

Since the Venture Center was founded in 2006, they have helped 140 startups. But before now, the center did not feature an incubator. 

The Discovery Launchpad program also builds on other resources available that focus on early-stage support for technology development, such as MIN-Corps, MN-REACH, and the Business Advisory Group.

To learn more about the Discovery Launchpad program, visit the umn.edu or click here.

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