Today at the State of Technology event, Emerging Prairie co-founder Greg Tehven received the North Dakota IT Champion award.

Greg TehvenThat’s right, a guy who struggled yesterday with how to work an Apple TV just got a very techie-sounding award. But while Tehven might not call himself a techie, he’s well recognized as the techies biggest fan. And the work he’s put in to help local tech entrepreneurs succeed is well recognized across the field.

“This award goes to someone who has been a champion of IT in North Dakota,” said Deana Wiese, Executive Director of the Information Technology Council of North Dakota (ITCND). “It can be in the field of entrepreneurship, academic, government…for Greg it was specifically in the entrepreneurial realm. He’s really fostered the growth of the entrepreneurial community, many of which are in the tech field.”

On stage, emcee Gary Inman shared that the reason Tehven was selected goes deeper than his work in the tech sector.

“Greg has dedicated much of his life to creating the community you want to live in,” Inman said. “He’s brought national attention to Fargo, and shifted the culture to one of possibility.”

Tehven was joined on stage by Aatrix, a Grand Forks-based company that designs accounting software and won the Premier IT Business award.

Photo credit: Office of Senator Hoeven

The Non-Techie Tech Champ

Tehven co-founded Emerging Prairie in 2012 with Miguel Danielson, Jake Joraanstad, and Andrew Christensen. The hope, he said, was to create a news site that would cover the startup activity in Fargo-Moorhead area – particularly in the tech industry.

The result was – well, you’re looking at it. Part of it. Today, Emerging Prairie serves as an umbrella for connecting entrepreneurs in Fargo, North Dakota, and the nation. We do so through our news site, as well as programs and events like 1 Million Cups, Startup Drinks, Startup Weekend, and TEDxFargo to name a few.

So, why focus on tech? We sat down with Greg to ask him exactly how a non-techie like himself became a techie champion. Here’s what he had to say.

When you initially co-founded Emerging Prairie, why did you choose to focus on tech entrepreneurship?

Photo credit: Fargo Monthly

Photo credit: Fargo Monthly

There was a small group of us – myself, Miguel, Jake and Andrew – that were curious why the stories of the innovators and entrepreneurs that we all looked up to weren’t being told or translated in a way that… we were hearing them.

I grew up in a time in North Dakota’s history where the Buffalo Commons was discussed, where there was an effort to turn the Prairie back to the buffalo and try to get the people out. There weren’t interesting things happening in North Dakota.

But as I reflect on that, I believe there were interesting things happening – but those stories weren’t being told. Part of our culture is folks have a level of humility, where folks don’t always say what they’re up to. For me, and for Miguel, we left. We were curious what was happening at home, but we didn’t know.

So when we talked about the idea of telling the stories of entrepreneurs, we recognized that it was important to tell the stories of the tech-based entrepreneurs, because of growing trends throughout the country and the world, and also as a way to celebrate them for their hard work.

When I was 19 I helped start my first company with some friends, and the folks that gave us platforms to share what we were up to gave us a tremendous amount of value and partnership opportunities. So when I came back, I wanted to do that for others.

How do you see the tech entrepreneurs of North Dakota improving the human condition?

I think of examples like Cooper, an NDSU student that with a team is designing a prosthetic arm for children with 3D printing. If he can drop the price point from $30,000 to $400, that family is going to have the chance for a higher quality of life, that child’s going to have a better experience as a young person…it removes a financial barrier. I think of Intelligent InSites, tracking equipment to create more efficient hospitals. Our utilization of resources in a more cost-effective manner – it does improve the human condition. And there are countless organizations in town that are doing so. Botlink, and Appareo, that are trying to create safe skies, or helping people find information. It does make a difference.

As a non-techie, how does it feel to get the IT Champion award?

It’s a unique honor to be recognized for a lot of hard work over the last few years, in collaborative efforts with great teams. Together we’re celebrating the risk-takers, and the creative folks that are trying to solve problems using technology.

State of Tech

Tehven receives the North Dakota IT Champion award. August 26, 2015.

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Marisa Jackels