A Community Resource: Emerging Prairie

Guest Blog By: Annie Wood, Director of Community Programs, Emerging Prairie

Founded in 2013, Emerging Prairie began with the goal to create a community we all want to be part of. We want to do our part to make Fargo a great place to bet on ideas, start companies and improve the human condition through technology-based solutions. In 2016, Emerging Prairie became a non-profit organization and maintains its mission to connect and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

At Emerging Prairie, we live out our mission in multiple ways:

– Platforms: we have an online content publication and several events that create opportunities for people to share and spread their ideas. We also utilize platforms like 1 Million Cups (caffeinated by the Kauffman Foundation) and TEDxFargo to help champion these ideas.

– Coworking: we run The Prairie Den, a coworking and event space in downtown Fargo. The Den provides a home for startups, small businesses, entrepreneurs, an office away from the office for other organizations, and a place for people to meet.

– Connecting: we run multiple programs and groups that are designed for authentic connection for entrepreneurs to connect to other entrepreneurs, as well as build connections between members of the community.

– Convening: we play a role in helping bring entrepreneurs together so our community learns together and can share what we collectively need when folks like the Bank of North Dakota are working on new ways to serve the startup community.

Companies of any stage can connect with us. Some of our programs are geared to companies of different sizes, stages and industries. For example, 1 Million Cups Fargo (which is supported by the Kauffman Foundation) is curated to be primarily tech-based founders or entrepreneurs who have a product or software as a service (SaaS) companies. We work to put founders first, so many of our programs are more geared toward supporting founders versus the size and stage of the company.

The Prairie Den is an inclusive space in the heart of downtown Fargo – it’s truly a place for community to be built. We think of it like a student union for our city. Just like a student union on a college campus is a place for students to study, hold meetings and social events, The Prairie Den provides a similar area to the community. It’s a place for connecting, for working, for moving ideas forward, and for groups to gather. We offer workspace for teams, individuals, and as an office-away-from-the-office for employees of many organizations. We also have conference rooms, a classroom and even an event space that we rent to members and non-members.

The Den is also where Co.Starters is hosted by our friends at Folkways. Co.Starters is a nine-week course to help people with ideas turn them into businesses, or people with young businesses strengthen them.

Emerging Prairie subscribes to the Fargo Thesis, which Co-Founder and Executive Director Greg Tehven first wrote about in Fargo Monthly. The Fargo Thesis is to Connect It, Believe It and Love It. This is how we operate in our community –Connecting people; Believing that Fargo is a place of possibility; and showing love by celebrating and caring for community members.

As an organization, Emerging Prairie is excited about continuing to support our startup community. We believe ideas matter. We know it’s a leap of faith to start something new, so we want to celebrate those who take the leap. And we want to be an organization that helps pave the way for founders to bet on their ideas, to build teams around them and to pursue possibilities to create a community that we all want to be part of.

Lessons from #SWFargo

Startup Weekend just happened in Fargo. It was pretty inspiring, full of creative ideas to answer real problems facing our community and region (check out the winners here). There was also a raging after party sponsored by some pretty sweet accountants (cough us cough).

Through all the creativity and the party, there were also some lessons learned that we feel the need to impart (we’re nice like that).

Validation is key.

Shane, the Startup Weekend leader/facilitator, made a point of this throughout the presentations. You have to validate your idea before you ever continue in your business. Read, if no one cares about or needs your idea, it doesn’t matter how good your business plan is.

Build a great community.

The beauty of Startup Weekend is how complete strangers can come together around an idea and end up creating a company. Each individual brings their own unique strengths, which contribute to the overall success of the team.

In the same way, this can be applied to our community. Mayor Mahoney recently talked about Fargo with Emerging Prairie (check it out). He discussed how building communities where people want to live, builds a better economy. In other words, when we all do our individual part to create the community we want to live in, we contribute to the overall success of our economy.

Seek innovation.

The creation of new ideas and different ways of thinking is essential for business growth. By challenging the status quo, we begin to think in new ways and expand our sights. The problems presented at Startup Weekend weren’t new (nonprofits, for example, have been looking for funding sources for a long time). But the innovative answers the teams created were new and, hopefully, will change the way we approach things.

We’re seeing this pattern of innovation not only at Startup Weekend, but on a local and state level. In their annual look at innovation across the United States, the Consumer Technology Association named North Dakota an innovation champion for its growth in 2015. We ranked first in the country for entrepreneurial activity. In other words, great things are happening here.

These are just a few of the things we learned at Startup Weekend, and we were only there for the presentations! We continue to be amazed by what’s happening here. So keep reaching, keep innovating and building. With a little validation sprinkled in, we’ll be on the right path to grow our business climate.

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Top 3 Takeaways from State of Technology

By: Katie Hutton

We spent Wednesday morning talking tech at The Chamber’s State of Technology with a rock star lineup of speakers from around the region. The theme for the day came straight from Senator John Hoeven’s opening remarks: “North Dakota is THE state of technology.”

Below are a few of our key takeaways from the morning:

Take a chance
“We’re going to make our own destiny and make ourselves THE state of technology.” – Senator John Hoeven

A key theme for the event (and for entrepreneurism in general) was taking chances and taking charge. Consider Cooper Bierscheid. He and his co-founders started Protosthetics, an organization dedicated to helping families and children (seriously, check out their story ) while still in school at NDSU. They saw a need, took a chance and filled it.

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And they were not alone. The day was filled with stories like theirs, of chances taken and ideas that became reality.

Adapt (and know your strengths)
“You have to learn to play to your strengths for promoting the commercialization of technology.” – Miguel Danielson, Danielson Legal

Another key takeaway was the ability to know your strengths and how to adapt to your environment. North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani spoke about higher education’s need to change the mindset about entrepreneurism. “We’re far better at creating IP than commercializing it or helping others to do so,” he said.

In response to the ever changing demands of the market and the fast paced growth of the entrepreneurial sector, President Bresciani said NDSU will start to offer programs for student entrepreneurism and innovation, which are long overdue in the Fargo area.

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Miguel Danielson of Danielson Legal also said that it’s important to learn that all of us have different strokes. When considering commercializing technology or innovation, he cautioned the audience to not have a one size fits all mentality. Rather, play to your strengths and help your whole organization get on board. “Entrepreneurism must be adopted system wide and become part of your culture if it’s going to succeed,” he said.

Collaborate collaborate collaborate
“We need to foster and build an ecosystem that allows folks to jump out in their individual ventures, while at the same time collaborating.” – Corey Kratcha, C2Renew

A vital component to the success of entrepreneurship, and building the Fargo Moorhead and North Dakota business climate, is COLLABORATION.

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Speakers heralded the connectivity of the community. Botlink noted that this was an essential component to getting their business off the ground. “There was such a sense of collaboration and cooperation in this community,” said Terri Zimmerman, CEO. “We connected with people who connected us with others in the community and around the globe.”

Every speaker on the panel championed the need to connect with one another and foster an environment of growth for all.

“We’re too small to not collaborate,” said Chad Ulven of C2Renew. “We all have to collaborate if we want to be global and make North Dakota known for technology.”

 

Imagine the Possibilities

By: Jenni Huotari, Partner, Director of the Possibilities Center

I’ve been an accountant my whole career. Believe it or not, I love numbers and everything about them. I love what they can tell you about a business, how they can project the next stage of growth or predict what needs to change.

Numbers can also tell you about a community. For instance, the population can tell you that Fargo and the surrounding communities are growing. Area organizations can tell you that our business community is thriving.

Essential to this business community is the entrepreneurial and startup movement. This movement is awesome … awe inspiring. These individuals are developing their own products, filling needs in our community, becoming their own boss. They’ve taken risks and jumped in with both feet to create, envision and, hopefully, succeed.

That’s why I’m proud to head the newly formed Possibilities Center within Eide Bailly’s Fargo office. Its concept is simple: helping businesses imagine what’s possible.

Through a variety of services, we’re helping businesses and startups get out of the day-to-day operation of their organization and instead concentrate on doing what they love. These services include:

  • Business planning
  • CFO 2.0
  • Bookkeeping Services
  • Tax Services
  • Technology
  • Your End Game

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We’re excited to help these small to mid-sized businesses and entrepreneurial startups grow and thrive in our community. Let’s imagine what’s possible.