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Minne Inno’s 25 Under 25

Reposted article by Minne Inno

By Maddy Kennedy

One of the best ways to measure a startup ecosystem and where it is headed is by looking at its youngest entrepreneurs and technologists.

From classrooms at the University of Minnesota, to the city’s accelerator programs for budding entrepreneurs, there is evidence in all corners of Minnesota that show it’s not just tech veterans pushing the city’s innovative spirit forward.

To highlight some of the state’s young startup and tech leaders, Minne Inno has compiled a list of 25 promising and notable young entrepreneurs and technologists in the city’s tech and startup scene. They range from current students, to recent graduates and to even those who’ve dropped out of college to pursue their tech dreams.

Those on the list were chosen based on nominations received from the community and Minne Inno’s editorial selection process. Here they are, in no particular order:

1.) Sarah Nichols | 24 | RSV Tea Founder

Photo courtesy of RSV Tea

Sarah Nichols has been working to build her beverage company, RSV Tea, from the ground up since graduating from Macalester College in 2016. Since then, the first-time entrepreneur has gone through Macalester’s MacStartups program, gener8tor’s gBETA accelerator and was a semifinalist in the food/agriculture/beverage division of the 2017 Minnesota Cup.

2-3.) Isabel and Caroline Bercaw | 17 & 16 | Da Bomb Co-Founders

Photo courtesy of Da Bomb.

Sister entrepreneurs Isabel and Caroline were just 10 and 11 years old when they founded Da Bomb in 2012. What started as a past time quickly turned into a prosperous business. The company that they started now employs 150 people, produces 650,000 bath bombs per month and reported $10 million in revenue last year. The girls also recently published a book, “Fizz Boom Bath!” that teaches readers how to make their own bath bombs and body scrubs.

4.) Ocean Salazar | 18 | Studioso Founder and CEO

Ocean Salazar may have just graduated from high school, but at age 18, he’s already an experienced entrepreneur and musician. Salazar has been playing the violin for 14 years, and in 2017, he founded Studioso, a mobile platform that connects music teachers to their students, encouraging efficient practice. Studioso is currently a finalist in the youth division of the Minnesota Cup. Salazar is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California.

5.) Meghan Sharkus | 20 | ExpressionMed

While still in high school, Meghan Sharkus founded ExpressionMed, a medical accessory startup creating adhesives for wearable devices. The adhesives feature fun designs and allow wearers to remove them easily and comfortably, with no residue upon removal. Sharkus’ company was one of six to participate in the inaugural gBETA Medtech program this spring. She recently completed her sophomore year at St. Thomas, and was awarded $100,000 through a Thiel Fellowship.

6-9.) Bharat Pulgam, Sam Lerdahl, Niel Patel, Josh Chang | 19 | Runerra Founders

These four University of Minnesota students were accepted into the competitive Target + Techstars retail accelerator less than a year after founding Runerra, an app designed to make it easier for neighbors to run errands for each other. But they were making moves before joining the accelerator. Just a month after its launch, Runerra’s 600 users logged 2,400 transactions worth $20,000.

The Runerra team from left to right: Niel Patel, Sam Lerdahl, Josh Chang, Bharat Pulgam.

Prior to founding Runerra, CEO Bharat Pulgam built two other startups, one of which is headed toward an exit, and another that was accepted to the initial gBETA Medtech accelerator. Pulgam and Josh Chang, Runerra’s CMO, led a series of youth startup weekends, which eventually became Generation.MN. CTO Sam Lerdahl built edupass, a school optimization software that tracks what students are doing during their free hour in high school. COO Niel Patel has worked for Northwestern Mutual and recently received his insurance license.

10.) Alex Rodriguez | 24 | Workmand Founder and CEO, Graveti Founder

Alex Rodriguez is the founder of both WorkMand and Graveti.

Two years ago, Alex Rodriguez founded Workmand, a platform that helps general contractors find the subcontractors needed for special construction projects. When he’s not working on his own startup, Rodriguez is actively involved in the Twin Cities startup community. Rodriguez is the founder of Graveti, a local organization empowering minorities to launch, join or fund a startup.

11.) Francis Kanneh | 23 | UnderRecruited Preps Founder and CEO

Francis Kanneh’s startup UnderRecruited Preps won the student division of the 2017 Minnesota Cup. The company connects student-athletes to college coaches and teaches them about the athletic recruiting process.

12.) Ethan Levin | 19 | Athletes Against Sexual Violence Founder

Ethan Levin created Athletes Against Sexual Violence. (Photo via YouTube)

Ethan Levin, a sophomore defensive lineman on the Macalester College football team, is tackling a big issue through his program Athletes Against Sexual Violence. For the last year, Levin has been working to help college players speak with their younger peers about consent and sexual violence. The organization’s mission is to create a culture around athletics that promotes equality and does not tolerate any form of sexual violence.

13.) Kate Kuehl | 21 | Mobineo Co-Founder

Kate Kuehl was recently named University of Minnesota’s student entrepreneur of the year. Kuehl is developing a platform called Mobineo that aims to standardize and streamline land surveying, purchasing and management in Eastern Africa. In this region, land ownership is recorded on physical documents, which can be lost or misplaced due to inefficiency or corruption. Mobineo hopes to digitize these documents to reduce land transaction costs and malpractices.

14.) Cuauhtemoc Cruz Herrera | 21 | Integración-Matemática Founder

Macalester College senior Cuauhtemoc Cruz Herrera created Integración-Matemática to increase the availability of math education for elementary students in Mexico. Herrera was inspired to start the program because he felt that public schools in Mexico did not provide opportunities for students to pursue advanced mathematics or participate in math competitions. He officially kickstarted the program in 2016 after receiving a grant from Macalester’s Live It Fund. In its first summer, the program provided free advanced mathematics training to 37 elementary school students in Guadalajara, Mexico.

15, 16.) Tyler Ebert and Chris Kuehn | 26 | CEO and CTO of Adrenacard 

After witnessing challenges faced by severe allergy sufferers, Tyler Ebert and Chris Kuehn created Adrenacard, a medical-device startup that aims to reinvent the epipen. Ebert was the University of Minnesota’s student entrepreneur of the year in 2016.

17.) Lanice Sims | 24 | Director of Women Who Code Twin Cities

Lanice Sims leads the Twin Cities chapter of Women Who Code. (Photo via LinkedIn)

As director of the Twin Cities chapter of Women Who Code, Lanice Sims helps local women entrepreneurs gain access to programs and services that help them step up their tech career. Women Who Code hosts monthly “HackNights” where members of all tech levels help each other with different coding projects. Sims is also a business development representative at GitLab.

18.) Peter Schultze | 21 | Plyo Co-Founder and CEO

Peter Schultze, a current student in the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, is the leader of Plyo, a finalist in the student division of this year’s Minnesota Cup. Plyo is a loyalty app that rewards college students for exercising on campus with deals to local restaurants and popular brands.

19.) Aditya Siripragada | 21 | Fountane Co-Founder and CEO

Earlier this year, software development startup Fountane won a startup showcase sponsored by the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. Fountane’s CEO, Aditya Siripragada, founded the company last year with three other Carlson students. The company helps early-stage entrepreneurs find the tech talent they need to grow their businesses.

20.) Chris Hofacker | 24 | Northern Ale Guide

Chris Hofacker established partnerships with more than 30 Minnesota craft breweries to create Northern Ale Guide, a passport and coupon book for local beer lovers. The startup’s annual guidebook costs $25. Book owners receive buy-one-get-one-free deals at participating taprooms. The Northern Ale Guide is now also available for Wisconsin breweries.

21.) Ian Lim | 17 | Generation.MN, Pocket Perks

Photo courtesy of gener8tor.

Ian Lim, a senior at Maple Grove High School, recently wrapped up a summer with local startup accelerator gener8tor, where he was an associate with the gBETA Medtech program. Lim has three small businesses of his own, one of which, Pocket Perks, was a semifinalist in the youth division of the Minnesota Cup. He is also the president of Generation.MN, a group supporting Minnesota’s young entrepreneurs.

22.) Rahul Tiwari | 23 | Spooky Action CEO

Rahul Tiwari wants to build a drone that can fly forever. That idea and ambition landed Tiwari and the rest of the Spooky Action team a spot in gener8tor’s gBETA accelerator this spring. The drones use a tether system that allows them to fly days without needing to land. They can be operated as a stationary watchtower, or mounted to a vehicle for mobile use.

23.) Eric Jung | 24 | Y Translator Founder 

Eric Jung’s company, Y Translator, provides quick and accurate captioning for YouTube videos. The company participated in gener8tor’s spring gBETA accelerator earlier this year. Y Translator’s service is used by several high-profile YouTubers who have millions of subscribers.

24.) Leensa Ahmed | 17 | Green Garden Bakery

Leensa Ahmed and the other youth leaders of Green Garden Bakery are changing their community from the ground up – literally. The bakery was started by a group of North Side teens who wanted to create healthy, vegetable-based desserts. Ahmed, the business’ 17 year-old CEO and CFO, has been with Green Garden since its start. She is currently a senior at St. Louis Park High School. This summer, Green Garden Bakery raised more than $200,000 for a new commercial kitchen and expanded education space in the community room of their home base, the Heritage Park residential community.

25.) Michael Cao | 16 | Solupal Founder

Solupal, a startup created by Michael Cao and a group of five other high school students, is one of three current finalists in the youth division of this year’s Minnesota Cup. The company aims to reduce plastic waste with a new plastic shopping bag that leaves zero waste. Solupal’s bags are completely biodegradable and also dissolvable in water. Solupal took first place at an area Junior Achievement competition earlier this year. At that same competition, Cao was named Student Entrepreneur of the Year and received a $1,000 post-secondary scholarship.


Note: We included one entry with founders who turned 26 while reporting this story, but were at the proper age limit when the project was announced earlier this summer. 

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