Try to imagine the past year without WiFi. Without Zoom and Slack. Without the ability to visit a doctor virtually or transfer documents through the cloud. While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect lives and businesses and disrupt the economy in ways no one imagined a year ago, it has also highlighted technology’s essential role in our lives.
“Technology is enabling the remote workforce that is keeping the economy afloat, the distance learning keeping students on track, the telemedicine helping to maintain community health, and the communication tools keeping us all connected,” says Jeff Tollefson, president and CEO of the Minnesota Technology Association.
And while the tech tools are important, it’s the people behind them who are the real innovators.
“From the inventor or engineer with the idea to the CIOs leading digital transformations at their companies, it’s all about the people,” Tollefson says.
TCB’s annual roundup of tech leaders represents both startup founders and corporate executives working on advances in health care, manufacturing, and even gaming. And they choose to do it here, in Minnesota, where talent recruitment, retention, and funding can be more challenging than on the coasts.
“When Ryan Broshar brought [global seed accelerator] Techstars here [in 2015], it was a major national signal and started to convince companies to bring their headquarters here. Now, more investors are setting up here too, and we’re starting to change the tone: You don’t have to move [from Minnesota] to be successful,” says Taqee Khaled, head of strategy at the Nerdery. “We still need to do good advocacy work, but it’s a pretty cool time right now in Minnesota.”