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By Neela Mollgaard
Launch Minnesota Executive Director 

Launch MN Showcases the Momentum of Our Partners and Startup Grantees in West Central Region


January 19, 2021

This week, more than a dozen community organizations, educators and small business innovators came together to discuss their work together to fuel growth of entrepreneurs in West Central Minnesota.

Over the past year, the regional ecosystem in West Central Minnesota has seen increased engagement due to greater outreach across the region. In fact, applications for gBeta have grown by 71% and nearly 100 people have participated in webinars focused on how to start a business.

Formed last March, the Launch Minnesota Network uses a first-of-its-kind hub-and-spoke model to unite six regions, seven hubs and over 60 partner organizations.

In the West Central region, Greater St. Cloud Development Corp. is bringing together an ecosystem of nonprofits, higher education institutions, coworking spaces, economic development agencies and the private sector. During the roundtable, it was impressive to hear about the continued growth and strength of their regional startup ecosystem.

Nick Tietz, co-founder of ILT Academy and ILT Studios which are working to increase entrepreneurial talent in the region, said, “We just launched a training program in West Central Minnesota where entrepreneurs, small businesses and nonprofits are working collaboratively on their startup ideas.”

The following partners and entrepreneurs joined the West Central roundtable discussion:

• Larry Hosch, business development director, Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation, West Central MN’s regional Launch MN hub

• Nicole Fernholz, executive director, Alexandria Area Economic Development Commission

• Precious Drew, director, gBeta Greater MN St. Cloud

• Ryan Weber, managing partner and co-founder, Great North Labs

• John Machacek, chief innovation officer, Greater Fargo/Moorhead Economic Development Corporation

• NeTia Bauman, business development director, Greater Fergus Falls

• Nick Tietz, co-founder, ILT Academy and ILT Studios

• Barry Kirchoff, director, Central Minnesota Small Business Development Center at St. Cloud University

• Ryan Graham, founder, Aromic

• Susan Otten, founder, Indie Do Good

• Tom G. Anderson, board chair, iraLogix

• Clever Mukori, founder, Learn or Teach

Entrepreneur Clever Mukori, with Learn or Teach, shared that he saw an opportunity in the market for corporate learning: “I started Learn or Teach to address the gap for learning and growing between large companies and small businesses.”

DEED Commissioner Grove and I want to thank all the partners for the important work they’re doing every day – benefiting not just startups and entrepreneurs, but the economy of the region and the state as a whole.

Find out more:

• Watch the West Center MN virtual roundtable here

• Check out this 1-minute video on some of our Launch MN Network partners.

• See our first-year progress report for more about Launch Minnesota and our partners

• More details at


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