Announcing Appointments to the Launch Minnesota Advisory Board
October 4, 2021
As Launch Minnesota, our statewide collaboration to support technology startups enters its third year, I’m excited to announce our new appointments to its advisory board including Alfonso Cornish II with Gener8tor, Yu Sunny Han Founder of Fulcrum and Benjamin Wright Vice President of 3M Ventures. Each of the 10 members of our advisory board come from unique backgrounds in technology and entrepreneurship. We believe their wisdom and guidance will help Launch Minnesota empower a stronger startup ecosystem for everyone.
Since Launch Minnesota’s creation two years ago, we have already awarded $3.2 million in grants to 104 innovative startups. Our grantees have taken this funding and turned it into momentum to hire people and raise funds to propel their businesses forward.
We’ve also infused almost $1M to develop a statewide network that includes eight hubs and over 80 program partners to support the scale of entrepreneurs and startups through a hub-and-spoke model. We connect founders to subject matter experts and education to make sure our startups get off to a great start.
The work of Launch Minnesota and its partners has been recognized, by receiving a national “super connector” award from the U.S. Small Business Administration in partnership with the National Science and Technology Council.
Thank you to these 10 Advisory Board members for stepping forward to serve, and thank you to our inaugural board members who started Launch Minnesota with us. Our state government is just one player in a broader industry of innovators, and we're thrilled to get the counsel of this group of leaders. The board provides deep expertise and represents the various aspects of Minnesota’s innovation ecosystem which includes: corporate innovators, investors, founders, higher education and entrepreneurial support organizations.
LAUNCH MINNESOTA BOARD MEMBERS
New appointments to the Launch Minnesota Board include:
Alfonso N. Cornish II
General Partner, Gener8tor
Al Cornish recently joined gener8tor as a General Partner after over twenty years of corporate leadership experience at the intersection of finance, corporate strategy, law and external relations. He spent the first five years of his career in the United States and Europe working in finance and strategy for a Minnesota-based medical technology company. Since then, a common thread throughout his career has been technology, including working with start-up companies as an attorney and lobbying on policies to stimulate technological innovation. Most recently, Al served in a senior management role for Amazon Logistics, where he provided strategic leadership on key community and operational decisions across a multi-million dollar network of facilities. Al is passionate about supporting entrepreneurs and investing in Minnesota's best and brightest founders. He is an active member of the Minneapolis community serving on a number of boards, including Turning Point - An African American Organization. He is also the former Chair of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission. Al attended Florida A&M University where he received a bachelor's degree in accounting and Master of Business Administration. He is also a graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School where he received a Juris Doctor degree.
Founder and CEO, Fulcrum
Sunny Han is the Founder and CEO of Fulcrum, a cloud-based software system that supports the business of manufacturing for a new generation of production that includes everything from planning to quality control of inventory. Sunny has guided Fulcrum from self-funding to Series A, collecting accolades along the way including being named one of the Minneapolis - St. Paul Business Journal's “40 under 40.” Sunny is passionate about shaping the future of manufacturing and believes it is a critically important pillar of our economy and world. He started his career in consulting, working with hundreds of manufacturers, seeing first-hand the challenges they faced on a daily basis. With no solutions to the issues with which he watched manufacturers struggle, Sunny decided to start a company and convince his coastal friends to work on a foundational problem. Born in China, Sunny emigrated to Minnesota at an early age with his parents, largely due to the University of Minnesota's reputation in Computer Science. He believes his formative experiences in the computer labs of Sheperd Hall, UMTYMP, MITY, Capitol Hill, and all the other Twin Cities programs, helped to form the special set of experiences he was fortunate to have throughout his life, leading to who he is today.
Benjamin D. Wright
Vice President, 3M Ventures at 3M
Benjamin D. Wright is the Vice President of 3M Ventures, the venture capital arm of 3M Company, which advances 3M innovation by creating growth options in areas of strategic interest through minority equity investments, leveraging the global entrepreneurial and venture company. He has served in a variety of roles within 3M over his 11 years with the company, giving him a broad range of expertise including Corporate Venture Capital, Business Building, Mergers and Acquisitions, Strategy and Strategic Planning, Marketing and P&L Management; and New Product Development, Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. Before joining 3M, Benjamin served as Vice President, Marketing and Sales for Appareo Systems, LLC. As Vice President, he was responsible for leading Appareo’s Marketing and Sales functions as well as driving the company's revenue growth. Under his leadership, Appareo Systems experienced significant revenue growth, which resulted in the company being named to the Inc. Magazine 500 – a compilation of the 500 fastest growing private companies in the country. He also spent nearly eight years in the Army as an Aviation Officer and helicopter pilot. During his time in the Army, Ben gained extensive leadership experience, including leading troops in combat. Benjamin earned a BS in Systems Engineering from the United States Military Academy and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.
Executive Director St. Mary's University of MN, Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies
Christine Beech, D.M., is an Assistant Professor of Business at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, as well as the Executive Director of the Kabara Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies. She is active in the Southeast Minnesota entrepreneurial community, co-founding a Women Entrepreneur's Forum in Rochester, helping to launch a co-work space and bringing 1 Million Cups to Winona, and partnering with other local universities to create new cross-disciplinary student entrepreneurial events. Her research areas have included the examination of gender, faith, and military service as predictors of entrepreneurial activity. Prior to joining Saint Mary's University, Christine engaged in several entrepreneurial ventures, ranging from building a management consulting business line with over $21M in annual revenue, to operating a boutique consulting practice serving federal government clients. Christine is also a military veteran, having retired after serving 20 years in the Army as a military intelligence warrant officer.
Treasury Services Mayo Clinic
Xavier Frigola re-joined Mayo Clinic in 2020, in the institutional investment and endowment management group, where he works on the venture capital portfolio and Mayo's corporate venture capital fund (Co-investment Fund). Before that, Xavier was the Director of Entrepreneurship for Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. (RAEDI), where he managed a biotechnology incubator and helped entrepreneurs in the initial phases of company planning, launch and first rounds of founding. At RAEDI Xavier also managed two early-stage venture funds: a public seed investment fund for companies based in Rochester and a private angel fund. Xavier holds a Ph.D. in immunology and a master’s in business administration.
Executive Director Greater Bemidji Inc.
Dave Hengel has a 30-year history in economic development in northern Minnesota. He is Executive Director of Greater Bemidji Inc., a public-private partnership that seeks to drive development and promote prosperity in north-central Minnesota. In response to the skill needs of the region, Greater Bemidji was one of the first economic development agencies in Minnesota to create a training center under its umbrella. The Minnesota Innovation Initiative (MI2) provides skill training and recruitment for companies throughout northern Minnesota. With a focus on supporting emerging entrepreneurs, Greater Bemidji created the LaunchPad, an innovative vehicle to provide the mentoring, connections, space and resources that entrepreneurs need to succeed. The LaunchPad has supported the creation of over 50 new businesses in its four-year history. Dave was an early advocate for a new economic development vision that focuses on building talent, supporting entrepreneurship and innovation, and advocating for signature quality life amenities. A recipient of the Minnesota Vision Award, Dave also has received two Innovation Awards from the National Association of Development Organizations.
Jodi Hubler, Board Chair
Jodi Hubler is a board director, investor and executive best known for accelerating company growth and building enviable shareholder value. Throughout her career she has pioneered innovation and disruptive strategies that have differentiated and transformed businesses, markets and performance at all levels in global Fortune 100, private, and start-up companies across multi-industry domains. Jodi currently serves on several private, non-profit and advisory boards including Minnesota based Central Logic, Marani Health and Omcare, Caring Bridge (Chair), and Medical Alley Association (Vice Chair). She previously served as a board director or chair of more than a dozen venture and private equity backed health care companies, particularly as the CEO and Managing Director of Lemhi Ventures a $385M health care service venture capital firm. This work has included more than 50 financing rounds ranging from de novo startups to late-stage investment, resulting in job creation in the thousands and total value creation in the multiple billions. Her companies have redefined healthcare and payment models and have been acquired by some of the largest leaders in the sector.
She has held executive positions in both public and private companies, including Cargill, Alcoa, Definity Health, Lemhi Ventures and Bind Benefits. She is especially adept at leading and governing in industries facing transformative change, drawing on her experience across global organizations and multi-industry domains. Rick Huebsch Executive Director Technology Commercialization, University of Minnesota Rick Huebsch is Executive Director for the University of Minnesota's Technology Commercialization team, which is responsible for all facets of technology transfer including IP protection, marketing, licensing, and startups through the Venture Center, where UMN typically launches 20 startups per year. He has been with the University of Minnesota since 2008 in business development and management capacities. Rick joined the University after 20 years of software industry experience including roles in software engineering, technology strategy, and executive management with Minnesota and California software companies.
Aneela Idnani is Cofounder & Marketing/Design Lead at HabitAware. HabitAware is a Minneapolis-based mental health tech startup and 2018 TIME Magazine Best Invention. HabitAware’s flagship product, Keen, is a smart bracelet designed to help people overcome body focused repetitive behaviors (BFRB). HabitAware holds SBIR research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Having grown up with a hair pulling disorder (also known as trichotillomania, a BFRB), Aneela is now an outspoken mental health advocate, raising awareness of these very common yet unknown conditions. Aneela is a native New Yorker and first generation Indian American. She proudly calls Minneapolis home and looks forward to supporting tech entrepreneurs through Launch Minnesota.
Communications Lead, Technology Target
Ashley Lowes leads internal and external communications for Target’s technology, data sciences, and cybersecurity team. She works with press and other local and national stakeholders to highlight Target’s technology prowess and team. She also partners with Target’s chief information officer and other senior technology leaders on executive positioning and thought leadership. Ashley joined Target in 2020 following several years leading global communications and marketing for JetBlue Technology Ventures, JetBlue Airways’ venture capital arm in Silicon Valley. She elevated the fund’s profile through media, content development, events, partnerships and social media. She also counseled 25+ portfolio companies on public relations strategies and helped design the fund’s platform program. Ashley is new to Minnesota, coming from the Bay Area with her husband who is a Minneapolis native. She is also on the board of the Glen Nelson Center, an arm of American Public Media Group, which invests in and partners with emerging media and journalism ventures.