Minneapolis is becoming a tech hub

That was my reaction when I first read the Twin Cities Startup Week website. I lived in Minneapolis for several years but I moved a few years ago. When I left there wasn’t much happening in the tech community that I knew of.

Let’s go back.

While visiting family this year, I decided to see if there were tech events or Meetups while I was in town. There were a few days where I didn’t have plans so I decided to reacquaint myself with the city. I found a Blacks in Tech Meetup at the Impact Hub and decided to attend. I was a quite nervous because I would be walking into a room full of strangers and I struggle with small talk. After sitting in the car for a few minutes, I summoned the courage to get out and go in. The group was friendly and welcoming.

I met a linguist, a programmer, a consultant, a founder and many more. During my “intro” I told them my background is in IT and I was visiting Minneapolis. This is when I found out about Twin Cities Startup Week.

It was in two weeks…

I wasn’t sure if could return, but I decided to look it up. As I scrolled through the site, I saw a lot of interesting events. Then I saw “Free Flights. Apply For A Flight”.

What? A free flight? What did you have to do to get this free flight?

After clicking on “Apply For A Flight” I was redirected to a Google Form that asked a few questions. I received a message asking me to schedule a ten-minute interview so I chose the next day which was Friday. I had a quick conversation with Nels. We talked about how I found out about TCSW, a little about my background and how the tech community in Minneapolis has grown since I lived there. He told me I would be notified in 24 hours if I was excepted.

I received an email Saturday welcoming me to the Fly-In Program.

Shut. The. Front. Door.

What? I rarely get anything for free. I know people who get free flight upgrades to first-class, free cruises, free food, gas cards and everything else. Not I. I was expecting to get an email that read “Thanks, we decided you aren’t a good fit.” or something similar.

I wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel room because I have family there!

I would have to take off work again. How expensive would a flight be for two weeks out? I found a cheap flight. I went home and was able to get time off again. I unpacked and packed my bags again and I was ready to go. It was exciting to return to Minneapolis again and be introduced to the tech community. This is something that had never happened before.

After creating an account on the TCSW site I looked at all the events. It was hard to decide. Should I strictly follow the tech track? Or should I follow the Healthcare track? I have an idea about a healthcare app. What about the Education track and Community Events?

The only limitations I had for the week would be the ones I set for myself.

So, I decided to attend as many as I could.

I attended a Women in Tech session with Hack the Gap. It was very informative and a few speakers spoke about attending a hack-a-thon for the first time. I met a woman who asked me about my idea and when I told her she said, “I have a really good friend that works for Doctors Without Borders and I’ll introduce you in you want.” Yes, please!

We exchanged email and she introduced us. Over the next few days I would have a lot of my questions answered about my idea from a woman I just met by email.

There was a “Mentor Morning” session at a law firm. This event is in the top three for the the week. We divided ourselves in small groups based on the background of the mentor and they asked us pointed questions that made me think. All I had was an idea, some had a product and others are currently founders seeking advice for the next step. Talking to the mentor was extremely beneficial as it helped me determine a direction.

Throughout the week I kept saying, “I can’t believe all of this is happening in Minneapolis.” When people found out I was apart of the “Fly-In” program they asked me what I thought so far, I often said, “I’m speechless. I had no idea the startup scene was like this.”

I attended “TechStars Demo Day” at Orchestra Hall and watched founders and co-founders present their product after completing a retail accelerator in partnership with Target. I was blown away.

I attended several free co-working sessions during the week and I returned to the Impact Hub a few times and saw familiar and friendly faces.

Another event I enjoyed was “Founder and Investors Meetup Hours”. I wasn’t a founder and I didn’t have a product but I had questions. At first, I felt out of place. I may have been the only one there with an idea not an actual product or even a prototype. Just an idea. I was very nervous to meet with the investors but I wanted to know what I needed to know if I decided to look for funding.

After seeing a few familiar faces from the week and getting some good advice from founders my nerves began to ease. I was surprised by the friendliness of the investors. I had never met one and don’t know anyone else that has. My only point of reference is what I read from people looking for funding or investing in Silicon Valley. Each investor was friendly answered my questions and gave me something to think about. One of them gave me some resources to help me along the way.

After attending over 15 events and consuming so much information, I had to sit back and process it all.

The Startup Weekend presentations was the final event I attended on Sunday.

As I sat there thinking about the possibilities and listening to the teams who were strangers on Friday but pitched ideas, formed teams and built something over the weekend. I thought, “What’s in my future? Should I apply to an accelerator? Find Slack groups for founders and co-founders? What shall I do?”

I’m not sure yet. Currently, I’m learning how to code here. But after TCSW, I have more information than I started with and that’s a good thing.