In North Dakota’s journey to close the gap between investors and entrepreneurs, Emerging Prairie hosted over 120 people from around the region at Prairie Capital Summit in Fargo, ND. Prairie Capital Summit is an event that aims to intimately connect entrepreneurs, investors, resource partners and students to create a space to discuss capital and equity financing.
“Fargo-Moorhead is fortunate to have a wealth of resources available to support entrepreneurs, but they can only grow so much without capital. Prairie Capital Summit exists to make those crucial connections between investors and entrepreneurs to get them the capital they truly need to scale and expand their companies,” declared Dani Haekenkamp, one of the organizers of Prairie Capital Summit.
Mary Grove, Partner at Rise of the Rest Fund, shared that 75% of all venture capitalists goes to three states: California, New York, and Massachusetts; while only 1% goes to North Dakota. Over the past two years, there has been increased movement in investing and talent migration to the Midwest. Mary expressed that some of the biggest challenges with capital are from outside of our region, “it’s the lack of visibility of the companies and opportunities available in cities like Fargo that offer the most challenges.”
Entrepreneurs were able to share what they’ve done to secure capital as a way to encourage others who are starting the process. Jake Joraanstad, co-founder and CEO of Bushel, talked about the journey of narrowing down a business focus. “When you finally get a vision of what your company is going to do and you understand a specific problem really well – create a vision statement that describes how you’re going to solve that problem.” Jake shared that once they really understood their vision, they were able to secure more capital because investors could see how their start-up was going to make an impact.
Other organizations are also working to break down barriers for entrepreneurs to gain capital. Resource partners, organizations focused on bettering our ecosystem by bringing a state resource or public dollar to entrepreneurs, took the stage to share what programs are available in our region. These organizations include the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, the Bank of North Dakota, the West Central Initiative, the Small Business Administration, and the North Dakota Department of Commerce.
The event ended with a panel that dove into what it looks like to make investing in women a priority. In 2019, 3.3 billion dollars went to all female founding teams which is only 2.8% of all venture capital that was invested that year. While investments in women’s companies are on the rise, there’s still work to be done. “Someone has to hold the torch and make a culture where women can come together in entrepreneurship,” shared Patty Post, founder and CEO of Checkable Medical.
Events like this allow entrepreneurs, investors, and community builders to come together, support each other and build up our entrepreneurial ecosystem to keep capital moving in our region. Jake said it best when he stated that “we need more entrepreneurs talking and solving problems together, which is why being a part of an ecosystem is so important.”