North Dakota Department of Commerce: A Catalyst for the Start-Up Ecosystem

Jay Schuler is the current Commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Commerce. “We [The Department of Commerce team] are a ‘can do’ staff…. and we are working to make North Dakota a better state to live and work,” explained Schuler. Through state-established programs and grants, this team desires to be a catalyst for the start-up ecosystem in North Dakota following the entrepreneurial leadership of Schuler and Governor Doug Burgum.

As an entrepreneur, Schuler’s past is full of experience in starting, leading, and expanding companies in North Dakota. As a founding member of 15 companies, Schuler has gathered valuable insight to share with fellow entrepreneurs on topics such as innovation, finances, employees, risk management, and passion-filled determination. One of these lessons is to “Always innovate… When you believe you are staying the same, you are going backwards,” explained Schuler.

Resource to Entrepreneurs

In Schuler’s role as commissioner, he is an advocate for expanding the commerce throughout the state including providing resources to entrepreneurs and small businesses for new innovation and research. Schuler shared that “[The Commerce Department] offers assistance to start-ups all the way from boot camps to helping to finance major expansions of businesses.” Currently, the Innovate North Dakota program operates as an idea catalyst and resource generator for entrepreneurs. With as little as $250, a person receives access to training, mentors, and start-up competitions. In regards to research, there are two active programs including Research North Dakota and Biotechnology Grants. Research North Dakota provides matching dollars to the state’s universities to assist private companies to research, develop, and commercialize projects, and the biotechnology grants focus on developing and commercializing vaccines and antibodies for diseases or pathogens. Schuler shared, “I hope we can influence a better way to join the great research from our universities with our entrepreneurs.”

Given the recent cuts in the North Dakota state budget, Schuler explained that “our department will have to do more with less and need to partner with other agencies to accomplish goals.” Schuler sees the future of start-ups in North Dakota in a positive trajectory despite the budget changes. Through his entrepreneurial experience and now in his role as commissioner, Schuler desires to support entrepreneurs in their journeys towards viable companies based in North Dakota. On May 17th, Jay Schuler will be presenting at 1 Million Cups in Fargo, North Dakota that will also be simulcast to other 1 Million Cup locations across the state.

Learn more from Jay Schuler and the North Dakota Department of Commerce as he speaks at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, May 17th, 2017 at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

Brent McNeal