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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 hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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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 hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Helping Higher Education Improve Its Business Model

Each month the James J. Hill Center interviews 1 Million Cup presenters for the Startup Showcase feature in the Pioneer Press.  Recently we connected with presenter Vikas Mehrotra. See interview as seen in the Pioneer Press Startup Showcase originally posted on April 21, 2017.

Each year, $30 billion are spent on incoming freshmen scholarships in our country. However, research indicates that several educational institutions are struggling financially and student success is questionable. Student loans continue to increase, and degree attainment rates for 4-year college are around 34 percent.

Far too many educational institutions are on probation or at risk of losing their accreditation. The loss of accreditation is a serious issue for students, institutions and the community. Senior leaders and their respective board members are under tremendous pressure because of an enrollment crisis in higher education. The business case for a quick turnaround is clear. There is a need for comprehensive end-to-end enrollment strategy and data-driven decision making to improve the business health of our universities and institutions.

MANBOAT enhances student success and increases net tuition revenue for institutions. It is an essential tool to close the college attainment rates as the demand and need for skilled talent grows higher than ever before.

COMPANY PROFILE

Name of company: Virtue Analytics LLC
Website: www.virtueanalytics.com | www.manboat.com
Business Start Date: 2013
Number of Employees: Our team size varies from project to project and consists of full-time and part-time consultants.

ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE

Name: Vikas Mehrotra
Age: 43
City you live in: Woodbury
College attended: Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Q&A

Q. What led to this point?
A. I have two decades of field experience in business, consulting, analytics with an engineering background. My love for math, consulting and entrepreneurship led me to start Virtue Analytics back in 2013. I have a Master’s of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and a second Master’s degree in Engineering Logistics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Before starting Virtue Analytics, I worked in strategy & operations at Deloitte Consulting and in category management at Supervalu.

Q. What is your business?
A. Virtue Analytics solves critical business problems using advanced analytical techniques and predictive modeling. We are an emerging Midwest EdTech startup headquartered in Woodbury. We are the world’s first applied intelligent and AI enabled, end-to-end platform that allows educational institutions to increase net tuition revenue and improve student success by optimizing scholarship and admission processes and decisions.

We use advanced machine learning techniques and models to solve critical business problems. Our product platform is called MANBOAT. MANBOAT is an acronym for Merit and Need Based Optimization and Allocation Tool. MANBOAT helps optimize enrollment decisions and improves student outcome. Using our product institutions are able to minimize cost over-runs and reduce student withdrawals.

Q. Where do you go for help when you need it?
A. We rely heavily on our network in the Twin Cities. We recently graduated from the gBeta program and Eric Martell and Adam Choe from Gener8tor were phenomenal. Both 1MC and Gener8tor teams have helped us strengthen our local network immensely. We are also fortunate to have a strong team of advisers who believed in us right from the beginning and have continued to support us through our journey.

Q. What is the origin of the business?
A. A few years ago, I obtained an opportunity to work with an education institution. We were contracted to build predictive models to help their business. While working on the problem, I realized that the enrollment challenge is much bigger and decided to pivot the company from consulting to developing software to solve this challenging problem. We developed a prototype product and shared it with several industry leaders, receiving excellent feedback that gave us enormous confidence. We realized there is a marketplace for our product MANBOAT and went on to build the platform.

Q. What problems does your business solve?

A. The more substantial macro issues in higher education give rise to additional micro problems, which significantly impact a college or a university meeting its strategic goals; issues which we help institutions address strategically and mathematically. Each year post-secondary institutions increase tuition fees by 3 to 5 percent but are still struggling as businesses….READ FULL ARTICLE

 

You can hear from startups like this one each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. 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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Libraries Lead: Dru Frykberg

In celebration of National Library Week the James J. Hill Center has reached out to individuals who are involved with the transformation of libraries to celebrate their story and hear their perspective on the future.

Dru Frykberg is Librarian at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), is the state’s principal economic development agency. DEED programs promote business recruitment, expansion, and retention; international trade; workforce development; and community development.

Tell me a little bit about you and how libraries are integrated into your life?
As a librarian, libraries are obviously a big part of my professional life. But they’re also part of my personal life. During the last year, I’ve turned to libraries to get my toaster fixed at a Fix-It Clinic, attend a meditation class, learn about First Avenue’s history from local music writers, see my teenage crush actor-turned-travel-writer Andrew McCarthy read from his latest book, and of course, borrow all the fiction and nonfiction titles I want.

Where did libraries lead you?
Libraries led me to my academic degrees and to my careers in journalism and librarianship.

Tell me a about your library and its defining function?
The Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development (DEED) Library is an internal, staff library where I anticipate and respond to the information needs of my 1,500 colleagues. That means I’m performing research and managing resources for economic developers, labor market analysts, vocational rehabilitation counselors, regional trade managers, employment counselors and more. They keep me busy and on my toes!

Where do you see the future of libraries?
I see libraries continuing to respond to the needs of their communities. I’m not sure anyone knows what that will be. But if I had to guess I see libraries promoting the skills and literacy needed to live in a democracy, preparing people for jobs, providing space and resources for entrepreneurs and gig economy workers, and playing a role in the sharing economy. Maybe they’ll be circulating drones and driverless vehicles along with everything else they make available.

What is a way that communities can take action for libraries and be involved with their transformation?
Don’t take libraries for granted. Use them. Promote them through word of mouth. Let them know how they can better serve you. And support them financially.

 

The James J. Hill Center, founded as the James J. Hill Reference Library is 1921, 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 visit www.jjhill.org

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Take Your Interview Prep to the Next Level

It’s finally happened! You’ve landed the big interview for your dream position. You’ve got the passion and drive to succeed once you’re hired, but how do you stand out from the crowd of other applicants? Supplement that charming smile with some hot facts to impress your interviewer by visiting the James J. Hill Center.

Start by checking out an industry profile using IBISworld. IBISworld reports include sections on supply chain, competitive landscape, and a five year forecast for revenue, growth, and trends at the national level. Link your position within the company to one or all of these topics and explain how you’re ready to be a solution to a company’s present and future challenges.

Once you’ve perfected the macro-level view, head to A-to-Z Databases to get a sense of the company’s competition. You can pull a list of companies within a specific industry at the state, metro, or even zip code level. This helps you generate questions for the company, namely how are they different from the rest of the field? A-to-Z Databases partners with Indeed.com so you can also scope out other job postings, just in case.

Finally, check through Business Source Premier from EBSCO for recent news stories on your company. Nothing says “I did my homework” than casually referencing an upcoming merger or saying congratulations for a recent award.

Keen to find out how these resources can take your interview to the next level? Visit jjhill.org to see our collection of databases and research guides to get started.

 


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 hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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America’s Seed Fund

For startups, financing can be challenging, and often the biggest barrier. Each month we’re focusing on a different financing option in Minnesota for startups and featuring experts in the field. 

From innovation, entrepreneurship and commercialization, America’s Seed Fund has helped startups and small businesses transform their ideas into marketable products and services. America’s Seed Fund focuses on high-risk, high-impact technologies — those that show promise but whose success hasn’t yet been validated — and each year, nearly $2.5 billion in non-dilutive funding are available from the congressionally mandated programs – Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR).  These programs support commercialization of technically risky ideas with research interests and budgets varying among the 11 federal participating agencies.

MN-SBIR, a program of the Minnesota High Tech Association, is the State’s focal point to assist seed, early stage, emerging and existing firms (1-500 employees) to successfully access funding through the SBIR/STTR programs. MN-SBIR’s goals are to foster innovation and help create businesses and jobs in Minnesota.  MN-SBIR assists companies with proprietary technology, which refers to technical innovations that are unique and legally owned or licensed by a business, including innovations that are patented, patent pending, a subject of trade secrets, or copyrighted across the spectrum of science, technology and engineering, and multiple industrial sectors.

MN-SBIR provides outreach, education and coaching to companies to research, develop and commercialize world class technologies for social and economic benefit.  MN-SBIR is funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, University of Minnesota, Office for Technology Commercialization and the Minnesota High Tech Association. To learn more click here: Minnesota High Tech Association.

Ms. Pat Dillon is the director of MN-SBIR. She is responsible for the strategic direction and leadership and its services to seed, startup and small businesses in Minnesota. Dillon has consulted with hundreds of businesses to support technology innovation and commercialization in science and technology sectors important to state and national economies.

For more information about MN-SBIR please visit the website or follow them on twitter @MHTA.

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Angel Investing 101

For startups, financing can be challenging, and often the biggest barrier. Each month we’re focusing on a different financing option in Minnesota for startups and featuring experts in the field. 

An angel network is a group of investors who make individual investment decisions. In the case of Gopher Angels, our accredited investors collaborate on any deals of interest. There is a disciplined approach to this process and we have an administrative director who manages the due diligence.

An angel fund requires a minimum investment by angels of X dollars to go into a pool or fund to be managed by an individual or by a committee who deploys the dollars.

Seeking and using angel dollars should come after funding by friends, family, and self financing.

Angels generally invest in seed sage or early stage companies. By our definition seed stage is conceptual with a business plan supported by research to validate the business model.

Early stage is further along. It has a minimum viable product/prototype, a patent or being tested in the market with potential customers. The business can be pre-revenue but with some proof of concept. Better yet, there will be some level of revenue with paying customers.

While each fund/network/individual have their own criteria, here are some highlights:

  1. An exit such as an acquisition or an IPO where there is a return on investment within 5 to 7 years.
  2. Angels look for companies that can scale with a significant market potential.
  3. A team with relevant experience. This can be management but also can include a strong board of advisors.

So when angel investors pass on what could be a very successful business it is because there may not be an exit in sight, the company is not tapping into a large market potential or concern that the team does not have the skills to execute.

 

Further reading:

  • Rob Wiltbank, “Investment Practices and Outcomes of Informal Venture Investors”
  • Guy Kawasaki, The Art of the Start
  • Brad Feld, Venture Deals

 

David Russick is an established entrepreneur and angel investor. Russick is co-founder, Managing Director, and Board Member of Gopher Angels.  Russick was also founder and CEO of TUBS, Inc., a family owned waste and recycling business operating in the Twin Cities, Denver and Cleveland.   In addition, Russick serves on the Board of Advisors for the Dakota Venture Group.  Russick has been featured in the “Star Tribune,” “Twin Cities Business,” and the “Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal.” “Twin Cities Business” named him a “2014 People to Know – Finance.”  

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Hill’s Library for the “Original Thinker”

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 was rumored that Mr. James J. Hill had plans for a new project. For nearly two decades the St. Paul Library Association had been working on a new location for the city’s flagship library. On March 5, 1912 Hill came forward with an offer to fund a “reference library”—one that would be independent of the public system but complement its resources and share the same location between Rice Park and the Mississippi River.

Hill’s announcement sparked an outpouring of public support that ultimately brought both libraries into the light. Interestingly enough, the article in the St. Paul Dispatch from that day includes a note that Hill specifically declined an interview.

What then was Mr. Hill’s intention behind such a project? Why a reference library? Why St. Paul? Thankfully, though he would not comment publicly about it, Hill confided in his friend and biographer (and first Head Librarian) Joseph Gilpin Pyle.

In his authorized biography of the magnate, Pyle writes this about Hill’s motives: “He felt that in the average public library the average reader is well taken care of. The advanced student, the original thinker, the man engaged in investigation and research, the serious author were relatively unprovided with proper tools.”

Hill greatly admired libraries like J.P. Morgan’s in New York and believed it was time for the earnest minds of the North to have one of equal caliber, a place that would “distinguish St. Paul as a centre of learning and art.”

Hill’s vision was so clear that, even after his death in 1916, the first Board of Trustees wrote in the Articles of Incorporation that the purpose of the organization “shall be to maintain, free of charge, for the use of students, scholars and all members of the public engaged in the work of original investigation a research library.”

When Hill describes his ideal patron as an “original thinker” we can only imagine he means someone with a mind like his. Hill was well read in almost all areas of human thought. He saw opportunities where others saw roadblocks. He was not afraid to invest his whole being into his work and, perhaps most significantly, he kept his eyes fixed on the landscape of human progress.

“Mr. Hill always thought in terms of the future,” Pyle writes in an address to the American Library Association, “always visualized it, always worked in harmony with what the prophetic eye revealed to him.”  Almost a century since the library opened its doors in 1921 the James J. Hill Center is still serving the original thinkers in our community. In honor of Mr. Hill’s vision, tune in each month for a new series probing the pioneering minds of the North.


Written by Christopher Christenson, Marketing & Events Coordinator, at the James J. Hill Center. Have an idea of a person or organization to feature in this series? Send your recommendations to
christopher@jjhill.org.

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5 Smart Research Tips 

Do you have the next great business idea? Is your small business ready to move into the mainstream? If so, you probably know that business intelligence is key to making an informed decision about the next stage of your career. That means you’ll need to navigate the exciting world of business reference sources! 

Getting started with your research can feel overwhelming. With so many websites, topics, and techniques to choose from, it can seem like doing research is more trouble than it’s worth. With a little guidance, however, you too can find the key facts to jump-start your business.  

Here are 5 smart research tips from the James J. Hill Center: 

1) Start with Broad Topics 

It’s very tempting to search for the exact fact you want, but looking up “2010 household spending trends” might be counterproductive. By searching so specifically, you might miss a great article on that topic that doesn’t have your key words included. Instead, start with wide-ranging topics like “household income” and “domestic spending trends” to maximize your research results.  

2) Limit your Date Range 

When searching online or in the databases at the James J. Hill Center, pay attention to the date range on your results. You don’t want to build a pitch deck around an article on real estate trends only to find out it’s from 2002. Give yourself a range of two to five previous years to find the most recent information. 

3) Use Synonyms 

Is your search for “trade shows” coming up short? Remember, there’s many different ways to describe what you’re looking for, so brainstorm some alternate search terms. You may hit the jackpot when searching for “convention expositions” instead.  

4) Combine Resource Types 

Plenty of people are satisfied with a couple online searches, but true entrepreneurs go beyond Google. While some helpful information, such as the Economic Census or labor statistics, are freely available online, subscription databases can elevate your research process. The James J. Hill Center subscribes to a series of databases, such as IBISworld and Business Source Premier, that contain valuable information not available anywhere else. Stop in to use our resources on-site!  

5) Ask for Assistance  

Remember, research is a long, slow process, but it’s not something you need to handle alone. Make an appointment with a business librarian at the James J. Hill Center and let us connect you to the business information you need.  

 


Written by Jessica Huffman, Business Outreach Librarian, at the James J. Hill Center. To meet with Jessica about your research needs, make a free appointment hereIf you have more questions about the reference library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Innovations on the Shelves

The bookshelves in the James J. Hill Center are more than mere places on which to rest historic volumes. They tell a story which reflects the Hill’s vision of supporting innovation. Original to the building, our copper-toned shelves were designed and built by Snead & Company, a cast-iron that adapted with the times and “built a better bookshelf.”

Around the turn of the 19th century, public libraries were becoming increasingly popular, largely due to grants distributed by Andrew Carnegie. At this time, most libraries used wooden, fixed bookshelves. Snead & Co. recognized that these shelves were inadequate for these new, large libraries. They applied their metalwork expertise to design and patent innovative metal shelving that included features such as customizable shelf heights; a standardized length to introduce interchangeable parts; and more evenly distributed lighting. The goal of these shelves was both practicality and affordability, along with options for a fancy detailing.

 

Snead shelving took off—their shelves can be found in the Sterling Law Library at Yale University, the Vatican Library in Rome, the New York Public Library, and the Library of Congress, among many others.

 

Another feature of early Snead Standard Shelves is that they were load-bearing, yet another way Snead saved libraries money. Such is the case with the Hill shelves. More so than the grand columns gracing the Reading Room, our bookshelves are vital as structural reinforcements, holding the building up.

 

Of course, Snead & Co. never anticipated the ways this feature may cause problems in the future, as libraries today adapt to then-unbelievable electronic technology—the New York Public Library recently wanted to remove some shelves to create a larger services-oriented space, but were unable to do it due to the structural necessity of the shelves! Here at the Hill, we don’t quite have the same problem since our large Reading Room affords us lots of space for events.

  

Snead & Co. recognized a need in their community as public libraries grew in both size and popularity, and stepped up with innovative products for that market—forever changing the world of library shelving and, in turn, libraries themselves.  

 


Written by Ann Mayhew, Reference & Support Specialist, at the James J. Hill Center. 
If you have more questions about the reference library our our historic collection at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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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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