Earlier this month, Emerging Prairie sent out a request to North Dakota’s gubernatorial candidates — Democratic candidate Marvin Nelson and Republican candidates Doug Burgum and Wayne Stenehjem. As an organization that focuses on tech-based entrepreneurs, we asked each candidate the following questions:

Q: 1) How do you view the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in North Dakota? 2) As Governor, how would you respond to the rising startup culture across the state? 3) What is your background or experience in working with or leading tech entrepreneurs in our state?

We are publishing the candidate responses in the order they are received. We received our first response from Republican candidate Doug Burgum.

Doug Burgum on Entrepreneurship in North Dakota

DB: Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy. From the original Dakota Territory pioneering settlers, to the grassroots innovators whose ideas and actions lead to the creation of global companies such as Bobcat or Concord, or more recent successes like Giant Snacks, and national retail and service successes such as RDO and Scheels, North Dakota has a history of innovation.

The economy of the future will be built around collaboration from research, universities, communities, companies, and entrepreneurs. We have to do more than create great jobs; we have to create communities that foster interaction and ideas that become attractors for innovators.

While innovation and entrepreneurship are simply buzzwords for some, for me, they are tangibles that I have lived and breathed throughout my entire life in North Dakota.

At the age of 26, I literally “bet the farm” to provide the seed capital for then fledgling startup, Great Plains Software. Before being acquired by Microsoft, we grew Great Plains to 2,000 team members hailing from more than 220 towns and cities across North Dakota. After leaving Microsoft, I co-founded Arthur Ventures, which strongly supports the tech startup community in North Dakota. One of Arthur Ventures’ partner companies is Fargo-based Intelligent InSites, which has grown to more than 120 team members and is working to transform healthcare operations across the U.S. and the world.

A strong tech sector helps create new jobs and opportunities for bright, motivated young people from every corner of our state. Just like we have built a huge ecosystem of success in Fargo with alumni from Great Plains and Microsoft (for example, WEX Health [formerly Evolution1], Sundog, Botlink, RealTruck, Appareo Systems, and more), we can build more community around new and emerging opportunities. One of our biggest opportunities will be with UAVs, combined with the collaboration between our global reputation at UND in aviation and our global reputation at NDSU in agriculture.

In Bismarck-Mandan, we can build around successes of companies such as powerhouse National Information Solutions Cooperative (NISC) and exciting startups including CoSchedule.

We also need to work to ensure higher education keeps improving its own value proposition, and is delivered cost-effectively, so that young entrepreneurs are not burdened with so much college debt that it dampens their ability to take risks on startups and new ventures.

The role of governor is the closest thing to a CEO-type job in government. It’s about leadership, bringing people together around a shared vision, and creating an environment of empowerment so people are willing to innovate and take risks. That’s what I’ve done at the companies we have built and created, and it is what I will do as governor.

Every industry in North Dakota is facing accelerating change. The digital revolution is touching every job, every company, and every industry in North Dakota. Moore’s law, super-cheap storage, increasing bandwidth infrastructure, and a proliferation of super low-cost and highly accurate automatic data sensors are transforming every process and workflow.

There is a truism in business today that “every company needs to become a software company, or will be disrupted by one.” I believe that is absolutely true.

As governor, one of my top priorities will be to help create an environment that inspires entrepreneurs and innovators want to work and live in North Dakota. To accomplish this, we need vibrant and dynamic communities that embrace and support risk takers, and respect and support diversity of ideas and approaches. With North Dakota facing a changing economy, strengthening our culture of innovation and startups is more important than ever.

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Thank you Doug Burgum for your response!

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Marisa Jackels