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Startup Showcase: A police body cam app, of sorts, for citizens

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on November 19, 2018. 

According to Governing the States and Localities, between 2013-2015, 20 of the 25 largest U.S. cities paid out a combined annual average of $1.2 billion in judgments and settlements of lawsuits stemming from real or alleged police misconduct.

Mondo Davison, the developer of new app called SafeSpace, built in partnership with Software for Good, believes he can help reduce those city costs by giving community members a tool to engage and share feedback about the police interactions they witness. With immediate access and later evaluations of these interactions, SafeSpace is hoping to curate enough data to predict negative and positive outcomes based on behavior trends. This  information can then be provided to police departments in real-time to help create preventative and productive strategies to truly create a safer community for all.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: SafeSpace (built in partnership with Software for Good)
Website: https://safespaceapp.com
Business Start Date: January 2018|
Number of Employees: 1|
Number of Customers: 14 and growing

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Mondo ‘The Black Tech Guy’ Davison
Age: 33
City of Birth: St. Paul
City you live in: St. Paul
High school attended: Central High School
College attended: University of Tennessee and Florida A&M

Q. What led to this point?

A. My mission has been to inspire a generation of black males to pursue a career in technology. I have branded myself as “The Black Tech Guy,” to be a trailblazing figure in the tech space and lead to show a more compelling “Plan A” than rapper, trapper, or athlete. During the past eight years I have worked to birth minority-led tech startups with TEAM Studios. In partnership with Dario Otero of Youth Lens 360 and Mary Rick, TEAM Studios brings together tech, entrepreneurship, art, and media to impact the world specifically through the brilliance of youth aged 18-24.  SafeSpace is one of the businesses young cohorts within TEAM Studios has been challenged to scale as an impactful solution to the fear, distrust, and insecurities between police and communities of color.

Q. What is your business?

A. SafeSpaces overall goal is to separate good cops from bad cops as well as ones unfit to serve on the force. Our solution is a two-step approach.

1) Immediate interaction — when being pulled over, a single tap of the SafeSpace automatically alerts emergency contacts and people nearby to witness and record the interaction to increase immediate accountability and transparency.

2) Post interaction — SafeSpace asks specific questions to involved community members about the interaction. Our intent is to curate quantitative and qualitative data in real-time to better understand how the community believes they are being served and how to make these interactions safer.

Q. What is the origin of the business?

A. I can point to multiple police interaction stories (personal or otherwise) that may have served as the origin for SafeSpace. Unfortunately, the common denominator is black men feel their life is potentially in jeopardy when engaging with law enforcement. Creating a technology tool to decrease the fear and anxiety in that moment makes perfect sense.

Q. What problems does your business solve?

A. When people have a conversation about police, it’s likely someone will say, “but not all cops are bad.” This statement is 100 percent accurate. When the follow up question is, “but who is bad?” Nobody seems to have the answer. SafeSpace can solve that problem over time through accurate and real feedback.

Q. Where do you go when you need help?

A. I tend to seek help from people whom I am confident will challenge me. If I’m seeking help, it’s likely because I am facing a tough decision and I consult with people that don’t allow me to take the easy way out.

Q. What big obstacle or hurdle did you have to overcome?

A. Our biggest obstacle to date has been owning the narrative. Internally we perceive ourselves as an independent company trying to make our communities safer. But over the past year our story has been hijacked as the “black people app AGAINST police.”

The past year we’ve had independent conversations with police chiefs, mayors, and community leaders to come together in a joint effort to combat this dynamic problem. But I’ve concluded the topic is too polarizing for all stakeholders to freely opt into a unifying strategy.

Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?

A. I believe my greatest strength is empathy. I love listening to perspectives that don’t match my own because I genuinely want to understand how people presented with the same information can conclude opposite opinions. With that, I believe I can help craft solutions that meet the needs of people with whom I may not agree.

Q. What are you most proud of?

A. I’ve never wavered in my journey to change the world. I believe so strongly I am on the right path that it’s not “if,” it’s “when.”

Q. What obstacles must you overcome to be wildly successful?

A. WE vs. Me is the key to success. The more I’m able to surround myself with amazing, dynamic, passionate people, the more successful WE will become.

Q. How are you funding your business?

A. To-date everything has been self-funded or in collaboration.

Q. What would be success for your business in the next 2-3 years?

A. If SafeSpace is operating on all cylinders in the top 25 populated cities, decreasing police brutality, and increasing confidence in local law enforcement, I’d feel a level of success.

Q. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great entrepreneur?

A. (Product + Marketing + Sales) is the recipe for business. But the two parentheses on each end hold it all together. Those parentheses represent TEAM & CULTURE. If a business has all the assets of this equation, success is inevitable.

Q. What haven’t we asked you that we should understand about your business?

A. We currently have a technical barrier. We are only built for iOS (iPhone) to date and seeking financial resources or development talent to build out an Android version. Any support from the community would be helpful.

Q. How did 1 Million Cups St. Paul help you?

A. Post 1MC pitch I had a great conversation with a seasoned PR expert to talk through our story and how to control the narrative. If it weren’t for 1MC I likely would have never met this person.

You can hear from startups like this every other Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul.  Please check the calendar at jjhill.org/calendar for up to date information. The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8AM – 4PM, Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.jjhill.org

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Twin Cities Startups and Small Businesses Can Get Free Professional Research Help

We are thrilled to have the James J. Hill Center featured on TECHGEN’s blog Tech Tips for the Twin Cities. Enjoy some great tips by Reid Johnston in his post originally posted on November 5, 2018.

Twin Cities Startups and Small Businesses Can Get Free Professional Research Help

For an entrepreneur, a breakthrough product or service idea is the seed. Research makes it grow. Here’s how Twin Cities startups and small businesses can get professional help researching key business areas, plus some IT areas you’re probably wasting time trying to learn yourself.

Startups and small businesses need information on key areas such as:

  • Your industry
  • Your competition
  • The marketplace
  • Possible funding sources
  • Infrastructure (especially your IT systems)

Google is an awesome research tool for entrepreneurs, but the quality and sources of information are hit-or-miss. Mostly miss. Are you going to entrust the future of your startup or small business to seat-of-the-pants research?

In St. Paul, there is an invaluable alternative: the James J. Hill Center. Let’s take a look at how they can help you find the information you need to succeed…READ FULL BLOG HERE.

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Non-Profit and Grant Research 

Finding funding for a for-profit business is difficult enough, but how do you go about researching funding for a non-profit? You’ll still have the same operating costs, personnel expenditures, and one-off expenses, but many traditional financing options aren’t good fits for your financial needs. If you’re stuck on how to get the funding you need to get your non-profit off the ground, the James J. Hill Center has two specialized resources that can help.  

The Hill’s GuideStar subscriptions let users research other non-profit and not-for-profit entities across the country. You can search by geography, size, and most importantly by cause type. This can be valuable if you’re trying to see how other non-profits organize themselves financially. GuideStar collects selected non-profits 990 tax forms, in which the organizations provide required financial breakdowns of their operating models. This can provide insight on how to financially set up your own non-profit.  

Beyond GuideStar, the Hill subscribes to Foundation Directory Online, a tool that indexes both 990 forms of non-profits, but also organizations that give grants, organizations that have received those grants, and short descriptions of the grants themselves. Naturally there aren’t filled-out grants to examine, as that is private information, but this tool allows those interested in exploring grants to make initial connections. Users can search for grants and grantmakers by topic, giving cause, grant type, and location of grantmakers and grant-recipients. This lets users explore the funding available to non-profits and additional contact information to explore the application process.  

Confused about where to start? Sign up for an introductory appointment at jjhill.org.


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or [email protected].

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Business Plan Resources

Maybe the most overwhelming task that faces an entrepreneur is writing the business plan. Where to start? What data to include? While some sections, like finances and management plan, are hyper-specific to each individual venture, some sections require data that can be found at the James J. Hill Center. Let’s look at three major components: industry trends, competitor list, and market analysis.

Industry trends can be found in the Hill’s IBISWorld subscription. Within each industry breakdown, organized by both NAICS code and IBISWorld-specific specialized reports, IBISWorld provides a five-year forecast of the industry in question. The reports include some product or service segmentation, allowing researchers to learn more about the newest developments in their industry as well as projections forward.

Developing a competitor list for a business plan allows a researcher to better understand how crowded the market is and how much competition they’ll be up against once their business opens. Entrepreneurs can use the Hill’s subscription to A-to-Z Databases to make this a quick and simple task. Use this directory service to search for similar business listings by industry code, estimated annual revenue, geographic location, and employee size in order to locate your peer businesses for broader understanding of the local competitive market.

When it comes to building a customer profile or doing a market analysis, many business plan writers falter at step one: where to find relevant survey information? Thankfully, the Hill offers SimplyAnalytics, one of the premier consumer demographics and behavior databases. Look up information on household buying behaviors, types of media consumed, household demographics and concentrations by geography. You can even map this information to the state, city, or zip code level, then export a graphic to include in your business plan!

Make a Hill Introduction Appointment today at jjhill.org to learn more about the Hill’s resources and classes, and let us take some of the confusion out of finding data for your business plan.

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or [email protected].

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Open Access

Wondering why you should check out the James J. Hill Center’s business resources? Can’t everything be found online nowadays? Not quite. While there are plenty of openly available data resources, often you end up spending your time in place of your money to access and understand them.

Say you’re looking for industrial information? Surely that’s accessible outside a subscription database like IBISWorld? You’re right! Much of the data in IBISWorld reports are gathered from open access resources. These sources can include federal or state government websites, annual reports for publicly traded companies, and general economic indicators published at the national level. For example, the U. S. Census counts more than just people. It also records the number of businesses in certain sectors and industries, which it updates every five years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases new information on industry-level employment including information on average employment and projected growth on a regular basis. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has industry and sector data on employment, wages, operations costs, and more at the state level. With all this available data, why bother with subscriptions?

The truth is that these resources are formatted for accuracy, not ease of access for a user. Learning to navigate and decipher government websites, let alone the charts and spreadsheets themselves can be a time-consuming and frustrating endeavor. In the James J. Hill Center’s Business Research Boot Camp, we address what’s publicly accessible and worth digging for and what are more easily found in a subscription database. Typically, while a subscription may cost money, you’re spending that instead of time. There’s no one right way to get data. Just know which of your resources you’re willing to spend!

Curious to learn more about openly accessible resources and how they interact with subscription databases? Check out the Hill’s newest class offering, Business Research Boot Camp. While sold-out for the September session, we’ll be back in November for another round, so please keep an eye on the Hill Center Calendar!

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or [email protected].

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Get Your Food Truck Cooking

With the long, hot days of summer upon us, plenty of budding entrepreneurs begin to dream of working out of the office, out on the open road. How can someone balance a roving heart and a small business? Open a food truck! Downtown at the Hill, we have plenty of food trucks surrounding Rice Park, but finding the right research to get one started can be a challenge. Save your energy for preparing delicious food and head to the Hill for all your research needs.

You can find a full industry report on food trucks in our IBISWorld database. Get a sense of food truck trends, national regulations, and a five year forecast. Curious whether you should specialize in Mexican cuisine or Peruvian fare? Look at product and service segmentation within the industry for a sense of market concentration at the U.S. level. IBISWorld can also discuss consumer expectations so you know if your customers will expect organic produce or biodegradable plates. By understanding the industry at the national level, you’ll be able to anticipate and prepare for new trends, understand the field’s influencing factors, and fulfill regulatory requirements, letting you concentrate on your recipes.

Interested in reading profiles on successful food truck? Use Business Source Premier to find local newspaper and magazine articles on other trucks. Keyword searching in Business Source Premier will instantly search thousands of trade journals, magazines, and product reviews in addition to publications like Forbes and Fortune. Looking up “Food Trucks” and “Minnesota” will yield articles on award-winning food trucks, truck design, unconventional menu trends, and beyond. This is a fantastic resource to investigate the latest news in the industry while getting in-depth interview from food truck owners on the secrets to their success.

Curious about these resources? Want to know what else the Hill has to offer? Schedule an appointment at jjhill.org to speak with us about everything the Hill can do to support your dreams.

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or [email protected].

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Underutilized Research Gems

If your first thought when hearing the phrase “government information,” is a stack of boring, bureaucratic reports, you’re not alone. There’s more to government information, however, than you may realize. Several government agencies regularly produce valuable business intelligence and the James J. Hill Center can direct you to some underutilized gems.

If you’re exploring a new industry, the U.S. Census Bureau should be your first stop. The Census does far more than count people; it counts businesses as well! The Economic Census run every five years and collects data at the sector and industrial level along with information about business expenses and industrial growth. The 2017 Census is scheduled for release soon, so keep an eye on that space for the latest information.

Interested in gleaning public company data from the web? Check out the SEC’s EDGAR search tool. Located on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website, this tool allows users to pull certain mandated reports for public companies. These include annual reports (10-K), quarterly reports (10-Q), and special announcements (8-K) along with a variety of other documents. If you’re interested in getting the nitty-gritty information on publicly traded companies, using EDGAR can trim down your time spent searching company websites for glossy annual reports.

Want to learn more about government information and how it pertains to your business? Check out the Hill’s Research Boot Camp series. This accelerated class combines government and subscription database information for a 360-look at how business information is gathered and more importantly, how you can use it to succeed.

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or [email protected].

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A Consumer’s Guide to Women’s Equity

Check back each month for the Original Thinker Series as we explore local innovation in entrepreneurship, the arts, and our community one pioneering mind at a time.

It is hard not to be optimistic after a conversation with Kateri Ruiz, founder of MAIA.community. Kateri is committed to emboldening women’s equity and has vowed that she “will not cease until all data sets can prove it.” Her approach to gender equity work: speak passionately and carry a big directory.

MAIA is a free access directory of women-owned businesses across the nation. It is built for the conscious consumer who wants to spend their money in alignment with their values—especially when it comes to gender equity. Companies with at least 50% or greater female representation in the highest levels of leadership are listed for free with the option to purchase a premium listing for greater visibility.

The idea for MAIA began when Kateri and her husband started paying attention to the products and services they were bringing into their home. They put them through a litmus test: were these products and services ideated by, created by, or done in a holistic image of a woman? After failing month after month to match their spending with the 5:1 female to male ratio of their household, Kateri realized there was a larger problem to solve. “Why is this so hard,” says Kateri. “Women owned firms are everywhere.”

Kateri began earnestly gathering every list of women-owned businesses she could get her hands on. (Shameless plug: She did some of her research at the James J. Hill Center.) What she realized in the process was that these lists are plentiful but scattered. They are often owned by groups or associations and accessible only to paying members. Additionally, most are designed for business-to-business use and not for the consumer.

Someone needed to gather all these lists into one place and make them searchable and user-friendly to the everyday person trying to live a socially conscious life. Thus MAIA was born. “We wanted to make it easier for consumers to have that level of information,” says Kateri. “So that consumers could spend their money in a way that meant something to them.”

Women make up nearly half of the workforce in the United States (46.9%). Yet, only 5% of S&P 500 companies have a female CEO and only 21.2% of board seats in these same companies are filled by women. “The disparity between who is doing the work and who is leading the companies we find to be a systemic barrier,” says Kateri.

After spending a career in workforce solutions, Kateri is taking the reverse approach with MAIA to influence systemic change. “If we are being told that we cannot figure out how to solve gender pay parity for another 50 years… then perhaps we should move outside of that status quo and drive a more female-centric economy—potentially on its own,” says Kateri. This is what makes Kateri an original thinker. She is harnessing the free information philosophy of the Internet to allow us to support the businesses—and the women leading them—that we’d like to see more of in the world.

“We believe that when women are involved equally at the highest levels of leadership where we ideate, where we create, where we are making the decisions… that can yield a more holistic product and solution,” says Kateri.

To join the MAIA Community visit their website maia.community or reach out to the team at [email protected].

 


Written by Christopher Christenson, Program & Event Coordinator, at the James J. Hill Center. Have an idea of a person or organization to feature in this series? Send your recommendations to 
[email protected].

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“Building” Data

Opening a store-front location adds an additional research layer onto an already complex process. In addition to industry and competitor investigation, you now must consider foot traffic, signage, and accessibility issues as part of your research! Thankfully, the James J. Hill Center’s resources offer ways to connect you to the information you need to finalize your business’ location.

The Hill offers SimplyAnalytics on a walk-in basis for demographics and consumer behavior research. You can look up survey data on a variety of topics including buying behavior and consumer attitudes, and blend it with information on population, ethnicity, household income, and others pulled from the U.S. Census Bureau. SimplyAnalytics, formerly SimplyMap, offers multiple ways to view this data. You can compare two (or more!) specific locations down to the block level using the Comparison chart tool or rank counties, cities, zip codes, and beyond using the Ratings view. A stand-out feature of SimplyAnalytics allows users to map other, similar businesses as sorted by NAICS code onto a map of a desired location. You can literally chart your competitors in a designated location, creating exportable maps for future presentations!

While the Hill is your first stop when it comes to business research, when it comes to location-specific information, however, there’s no substitute for going straight to the source. The City of St. Paul can seem overwhelming for an entrepreneur at any stage of business development. Fortunately the Saint Paul Public Library’s Nicholson Workforce and Innovation Center is here to help. Located at the George Latimer Central Library downtown St. Paul, the Innovation Center works with St. Paul businesses to connect them to city resources on zoning, state-specific human resource requirements, and other support organizations to get your storefront up and running. If you need any help navigating the Twin Cities business research ecosystem, head over to the Hill for guidance and support during your referral process!

Additional questions? Book a complimentary 20 minute introductory appointment at the Hill by heading to jjhill.org and choosing a time that fits your schedule.

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or [email protected].

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Librarian vs. Research Consultant: Is there a difference?

If you’re familiar with the fast-paced world of start-ups, the last word that may spring to mind is “librarian.” After all, what do dusty, silent spaces have to do with the high-intensity, data-focused mindset of your business. You thrive on intel and need constant updates on the latest and greatest news within your field. But what if I told you that there’s a new disruptive force in the information game? Able to pivot with each new technological advancement, analyze new industries and companies daily, and mine the Web for the best business intelligence to be found? Amazing, right? Now what if I told you all that could be yours at the library?

The James J. Hill Center combines widely available online resources with industry-standard subscription databases to provide high-level intelligence for start-ups. Ready to starting pitching venture capitalists and unsure where to start? Curious what your competitors’ funding rounds look like compared to yours. Your first stop may be Crunchbase.com, like any good Internet sleuth. What happens, though, when you want to go more in-depth with a private company’s financial history? What about searching for funders geographically? Enter PrivCo.

PrivCo offers a behind-the-scenes look at private companies valued at $10 million and above, funding rounds for equity and venture capital investors, and a detailed history of mergers and acquisitions for profiled firms. Stop in to take advantage of this fantastic resources anytime the Hill is open, Monday to Thursday, 8AM to 4PM.

Disrupt your research routine. Visit out the library. Check out the Hill.

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. If you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or [email protected].

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IMPORTANT NOTICE:

Patrons with accessibility needs please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit.

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