Graeme Thickins on Tech

Reflections & analysis about innovation, technology & startups, with a focus on Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Lakes

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TreeHouse Health Names Its 13th Portfolio Company

The winner of the 2016 Minnesota Cup, the largest business plan competition in the U.S., has been named by healthcare-startup incubator TreeHouse Health in Minneapolis as its latest portfolio company. StemoniX is leading the development and manufacturing of human-induced pluripotent stem cells for pharmaceutical drug-discovery applications, such as biologically accurate, miniaturized organ-like microtissues.TreeHouse-FinalLogo

“We are excited to announce the addition of StemoniX to the TreeHouse Health ecosystem,” said J.D. Blank, managing director, in a prepared statement. “Through their innovative work, they are advancing the field of drug discovery and ultimately helping patients get better treatment more quickly.”

StemoniX’s biotechnology provides scientists with standardized, easy-to-use, cost-effective access to relevant human microtissue for toxicity and efficacy screening. stemonix-logoIncorporated in Minnesota, the company is colocated in Minneapolis and San Diego, California.

TreeHouse Health defines itself as an “innovation center” designed to invest in emerging healthcare companies and help accelerate their growth. It says Stemonix is setting a new standard for stem cell technologies to meet the demands of drug discovery and personalized medicine.

mncup-logo-squareStemoniX earned the Grand Prize and title of “Best Breakthrough Business Idea of 2016” at the 12th annual MN Cup awards, held on September 22, 2016 at the University of Minnesota.

StemoniX says its efforts are revolutionizing stem cell-based research and drug screening and will lead to a new era of drug discovery and personalized medicine. “We’re grateful to become part of TreeHouse Health as a portfolio company,” said Ping Yeh, CEO. “We’re confident our relationship with TreeHouse Health will help us establish a strong presence in Minnesota, as well as generate new opportunities for Minnesota-based financing and collaborative partnerships with TreeHouse Health anchor tenants and other connections.”

TreeHouse Health now has 13 portfolio companies.

TreeHouse Health now has 13 portfolio companies.

Yeh continued: “We are thankful to the MN Cup organizers, sponsors, and community for their support and the opportunities created by our participation in the competition this year, which includes our new relationship with TreeHouse Health.”

Along with providing investment, TreeHouse Health offers its portfolio companies access to its ecosystem consisting of leading healthcare organizations (its “anchor tenants”), professional service providers, and other emerging healthcare companies. To date, TreeHouse Health has invested in thirteen early-stage healthcare companies and has anchor tenant relationships with Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC), Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (BCBS), and Accenture.


My Live Blog of the 2016 ‘Pioneer Summit’…


I just wrapped up my live blogging at the Pioneer Summit in Redwood City, CA, covering both days of the conference, September 14 and 15. More than 1,500 attended. Here’s how the organizers described the conference:

“The agenda is packed with thrilling conversations on the ideas and people who will shape the world. Whether you’re inspired by game-changing entrepreneurs building our robotic future, or determined investors that fuel billion-dollar startups, the Pioneer Summit is bringing the Global Silicon Valley’s best and brightest to Redwood City.”

They weren’t kidding — it was packed with awesomeness!

What follows is my complete live blog, now archived in chronological order.

(Also see a selection of the photos I took at the event in this Flickr Album.)

My Latest Post on LinkedIn Is About ‘Bootstrapping’

(Note: I posted the following on my LinkedIn page earlier today and decided to repeat it here. It was entitled, “Bootstrapping: Why Do Entrepreneurs Do It, and How?”)

Photo: @LLBean

Photo: @LLBean

The word “bootstrapping” actually has several meanings according to Wikipedia. But in a business context, it means “to start a business without external help (capital).” You can read more about that specific meaning, also called “bootstrap funding,” here on Wikipedia — lots of helpful information there. Okay, now that I’m sure you know what it means…

What got me thinking about bootstrapping recently was tripping on an old blog post of mine, which is still very timely in our current startup climate. It was called “Raising Startup Money? Here’s 20 Ways.” Note the “Big List” included in that post, called “20 Way$$ to Feed Your Startup Habit.” A large number of those 20 ways fit into the spirit of bootstrapping. Yes, the money you save as a bootstrapping entrepreneur is as good as any other money — maybe better.

Before I wrote that piece above, I got inspired about bootstrapping by a blog post written by a guy named Jeff Cornwall. He heads the entrepreneurial studies program at Belmont University (and used to teach here in the Twin Cities at the University of St. Thomas). That blog post was entitled “Why Do We Bootstrap?” The interesting thing Dr. Cornwall said he’d found in his work was that entrepreneurs bootstrap for a wide variety of reasons, and only some of them relate to necessity. Some just do it because they like it, I guess — and to allow them to keep more ownership of their company, which is no small benefit. (Jeff’s web site is here, and he also runs a well-followed community site called The Entrepreneurial Mind.)

The other reason I find the topic of bootstrapping interesting is that I’ve practiced it myself and worked with many founders who’ve done the same over my 30+ year career working with tech startups. In addition, I think there’s especially a need here in the Midwest for founders to get more educated on this topic. Why? Because, try as we might, startup venture funding is never going to flow as freely here as it does in Silicon Valley, or Boston, or Austin, or you name it.

Entrepreneurs in these parts, and in so many areas of the country away from the major VC hubs, have to be one thing above all else: clever. And there’s a lot they can learn from people who study this phenomenon, and people who’ve practiced it for a long time. We have tons of those here in Minnesota (and all over, really) — serial entrepreneurs who’ve proved bootstrapping works. Many of these folks are friends of mine, and they’ve accumulated a large amount of knowledge on bootstrapping based on hard experience. The key, of course, if you’re a budding entrepreneur, is to learn how to tap into the expertise of those folks — find them and learn from them. (Think mentors.)

Let me also suggest a couple of great, short books on bootstrapping. Dr. Jeff Cornwall, mentioned above, published one in 2009 simply called Bootstrapping. Way before he published that book, he recommended one by Seth Godin, called the “Bootstrapper’s Bible.” It’s certainly not a new book, but no matter — it’s a timeless classic. (Here’s some background on it from Seth’s blog.

The price is right.

The price is right.

But, wait — here’s a big tip for you: don’t buy it. That’s right, save your money! Because you can download an ebook version of it that Seth published for free. He calls his ebook a “manifesto” and you can get it as as a PDF file right here.

How’s that for a bootstrapping move! Go grab it while you can, before Seth changes his mind. Then, read up, go forth, and continue bootstrapping your way to startup success. Ka-ching!



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