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Neela Mollgaard Named Launch Minnesota Executive Director

8/8/2019 9:30:00 AM

Commissioner Steve Grove

I am excited to announce that Neela Mollgaard will serve as Executive Director of Launch Minnesota, starting August 26.  

As Executive Director, Neela will help create an environment to support entrepreneurs, nurture tech startups, and build a team that will kick off Launch Minnesota, a new program designed to foster an innovation ecosystem across the state that draws global attention, talent, and capital. Launch Minnesota will work collaboratively with public and private partners to create incentives and programming to demonstrate that Minnesota is committed to helping startups thrive.   

2019-08-08-Neela-MollgaardWe couldn’t be more thrilled to have Neela at the helm. She is a proven leader in Greater Minnesota and has a track record of getting things done for entrepreneurs and small businesses across the state. In her career, she has led and managed initiatives in government, business, and communities.    

Most recently, Neela was a founder of the nonprofit Red Wing Ignite, which supports entrepreneurs, businesses, and students to succeed in the 21st century economy. She has created a model in Greater Minnesota that has received national attention by forging partnerships with government, academic, corporate and organizational partners to develop an innovative ecosystem, including the creation of a regional makerspace at Minnesota State College Southeast, the Golden Triangle angel investment fund, a network to support entrepreneurs, and programs to grow the talent pipeline.   

Neela has served in various leadership roles with local non-profit and philanthropic organizations. She is also a former member of the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband and chair and a founder of Women Cents, which brings women together to learn how national issues affect Red Wing children and families. She holds a Bachelor of Science in consumer affairs in business from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a Master of Science in community health from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.  

We’re excited for Neela to work with ecosystem leaders and entrepreneurs across the state to kick off Launch Minnesota and help elevate and amplify all the great work that’s taking place in Minnesota’s innovation economy.   

So what is Launch Minnesota?  

Launch Minnesota grew out of a collaboration between DEED and the Minnesota Legislature – with legislators on both sides of the aisle making meaningful contributions. It is a joint initiative with private businesses and nonprofit organizations statewide and will provide financial incentives, training, and grants to people starting companies in technology sectors such as aerospace, agricultural processing, nanotechnology and medical devices. The program has an annual budget of $2.5 million and is set up to provide special consideration and social capital connectivity for startups and small businesses in Greater Minnesota as well as businesses started by women, veterans and people of color.  

A key goal of Launch Minnesota is to make the risks related to leaving a steady job to start a high technology company a little more manageable for entrepreneurs through:  

  • Grants to assist in attracting federal research and development funding 
  • Business liquidity grants to help entrepreneurs with capital constraints 
  • Child care and housing assistance 
  • Training in areas such as understanding equity capital, building toward scalability, and pitching venture capitalists 

Beyond serving as a backbone of new incentives that will help startups thrive across our state, Launch Minnesota seeks to bring together our statewide startup ecosystem to promote further collaboration, and to tell the story of our innovation economy to the rest of the country and the world. Not only will Launch Minnesota include all programs that DEED has for startups (such as the Angel Tax Credit), but it will have deep ties in the private sector and stage itself to spin out of government after its initial years of ramping up.  

We’ll be formally kicking off Launch Minnesota on October 1st, and look forward to working with such an accomplished and entrepreneurial leaders like Neela to bring this vision to reality for our state!  

– Commissioner Steve Grove

Economic Development

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