Expo 2015: Milan World’s Fair


Milan hosted the Expo 2015 World’s Fair for its second time since 1906.  The fair opened on May 1, 2015 at 10:00 CEST,and the Expo closed on October 31, 2015.  The fair grounds are just northwest of the center of Milan accessible from the Rho Metro Station. The exposition site covers 110 hectares (272 acres) and is expected to attract more than 20 million visitors.  Over 145 countries participated directly in the pavilions.  The theme for the fair was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”
Several Minnesota delegations attended the fair as groups of MN representatives.  This provided a great opportunity for networking and experiencing the fair.   Some delegations where focused on learning best practices from the Milan organizers and to build partnerships for developing the Minnesota’s plans to host a World’s Fair.  Other groups used the opportunity for international business and networking to accelerate major corporate initiatives.
Learn more at:
See more images of the fair in the gallery

UMN Visit to Ed Campus


I facilitated a delegation of Deans and Economic Development representatives form the UMN to attended a Ed Campus briefing from their CEO.   Hosted at their current HQ in the western suburbs of Minneapolis,  the delegations got to see a grand overview of their model of the future of education.   This spanned next generation facilities, architecture and community integration to new forms of experiential learning, industry internships, and a integrated system of K – Higher Education in career planning and development.   Many of these new models have been taken from extensive global research on effective education models and the funding of education.    Of particular interest is the model is built around advanced curriculum developed by multiple academic institutions and industry partners combining academic and applied knowledge.    The collaborative nature of the partnership provides a best of breed alternative to solo institutions and creates opportunities for differentiated learning where degrees and certificates are coming from multiple leading institutions from around the world.   The funding models also change how education can be funded to build a more sustainable system in comparisons to today’s student debt models.
There was extensive Q&A from the attendees and acknowledgment of the innovations and large base of institutions collaborating around the model, including many prestigious institutions will to participate in our region.  Reflecting on the conversations it was clear to see the desire to understand the model but at the same time the fear that the new models of education happening in the world will disrupt the older models that are struggling in the USA today.   The challenge universities like UMN will face is that these opportunities will be available in the coming years and offer much more attractive options that the systems that are currently failing today.    Remaining to be seen is whether our universities will become a part of the change or be left behind by the disruptive forces while holding on to an internal financial compensation model that serves them but not the greater good of society.

Praxis Market Place – Urban Farming & Community Development


While at the university I had the change to reconnect to the Praxis Market Place initiative that has an amazing model for revitalizing urban neighborhoods around a compelling new business model.
I wanted to share their vision statement:
Our vision entails the growth of Praxis as a vertically integrated enterprise that uses the natural necessity of food and jobs to revitalize neighborhoods. Long term we target fifty-five percent of the food on our store shelves to come from the communities they serve. In time we aim to create 200 stores and a minimum of 30 large-scale Aquaponics locations. Our vision brings production back to inner cities as a means to create livelihoods. This vital link improves the Praxis supply chain and is also a means of reducing the amount of perservatives in food, reducing food travel miles, while delivering fresher food with local involvement. All the approaches are major factors in creating better urban health and improving living conditions.
At first glance the model is focused on urban farming and what it can deliver to the community in terms of health benefits.  Deeper investigation sees beyond this into the impact it can have on job creation,  community development, and education.   What is also easily missed at first glance is the new forms of cross business exchange that it can bring to the community where business can be exchanging products, byproducts, and services for the mutual benefit of everyone’s business. Buy helping communities at the health, job, and education levels it creates a deeper form of economic development and community growth.  While in the early phases of implementation,  there is yet to be discovered what communities can accomplish next as they rise to the basic potential this program offers.
I had first connected with Praxis during my employment at Microsoft.   We had explored partnership areas around the underlying systems to support the business model and the consumer technology solutions to help integrate a community across both the services and social aspects of the business model.  Not only could technology help underpin the business, but create dynamic social, communication and education links for the community.
Reconnecting with Praxis I was able to appreciate the continued evolution and maturation in the business model as well as catch up on the the momentum they where gaining in cities across the USA.   Our conversation at the University explored how we could support these concepts with curriculum and training for communities in urban farming,  cross business collaboration, and city development planning.
I’m looking forward to watching the progress of this initiative in multiple cities and how the potential spreads as more community success stories are available.
Praxis Facebook Page

Mayo Ventures Meeting

Mayo Ventures

I presented the North-Star Initiative to Mayo Ventures leadership.   The meeting was an overview of the development of innovation ecosystems through the creation of innovation centers focused on industry clusters.   Mayo has been a leader in the Rochester region in direct corporate to startup incubation.  The conversation spanned the center model of co-opition between corporations, government, academics and entrepreneurs to spur the overall ecosystem and bring new ideas to market at a combined scale vs. individual efforts.


ARCCoM Fall 2015 International Event – Part II

ThARCCoMe ARCCoM event was any amazing experience to participate in.  The opportunity to learn from so many diverse speakers in the area of global innovation and collaboration was inspiring.  Below I’ll break out some of the insights by categories of speakers and also share some of the key topics and questions that where raised from the discussions.


  • The corporate executives shared their experiences and business practices in the area of global collaboration and business development.  Many of their case studies highlights the competitive advantages to capitalizing on innovations around the world.   These where very progressive organizations that realized that innovation is happening all the time around the globe, not just internally,  and that only those organizations that could partner in joint ventures would be leading in the market.
  • One of the best practice themes that was emphasized was around working in global markets.   They would make great investments in building partnerships in the markets and building organizations with talent from the regions.  This made the development of new assets / business models a direct part of the region and ultimately successful

Innovation Centers

  • A variety of models where shared.   They differed on two main areas.   The first was if they where independent businesses or university based.   The second was who they where built to serve i.e.: The start-ups,  corporations or academic institution.   The best models served the needs of the full ecosystem vs. just a subgroup.
  • Each Innovation Centers had philanthropic money to create the center, team, and basic capabilities.  This was a combination of Public and Private funding.
  • Centers very quickly had cutting edge start-ups and research that was of great interest for Corporations to have visibility to deal flow and direct engagement in the centers


  • Full of research and patents,  but having a hard time commercializing products due to lack of experience and capital
  • Online education, networking, and mentoring is key in developing a global ecosystem of exchange


  • Need international corridors in place to other centers to help in the accelerations, incubation, and commercialization services to other markets.
  • Global expertise and investment capital critical to success

US Commercial Services

  • Broad global services and network to facilitate B2B ventures
  • Case studies of MN companies working in foreign markets and vice versa

The networking and conversations with attendees over several days and social events was fantastic.   Many insights into actually doing business and procedures required based on actual markets.

Take Aways:

  • Innovation Centers are being built in many countries and are thriving.  They are seen as critical parts of the ecosystem for competitive advantage
  • Corporations are directly funding and participating in the centers to help scale the overall capabilities and maturation of startups
  • Start-ups are able to accelerate with less time & capital and pivot quicker to viable solutions for commercialization
  • Centers are very interested in building international corridors for ease of collaboration and access to other markets
  • Universities play a support role with education and subject matter experts
  • Online Education is playing an increasing role of brokering knowledge and networks
  • US Commercial service can be a key partner in entering new markets and B2B joint ventures
  • Politics in the media is not always representative of business opportunities.  People from around the globe could share the difference between what their own media was saying the realities their markets where experiencing. The many case studies of success demonstrated that even in difficult times there can be very valuable collaborations and shared interests

Support the MN Chambers as they host international events bringing businesses,  academics, and innovations center representatives from round the globe

ARCCoM Fall 2015 International Event – Part I

ARCCoMI was a speaker and panelist at the ARCCoM Fall 2015 International Innovation event.   This event hosted representatives from Russia, Europe, and North America to participate in a dialogue about B2B collaboration and building Innovation Corridors for start-ups to collaborate with markets internationally.  The event began on Oct 8th, hosted at the Carlson School of Management and included daytime sessions and evening social/culture events over several days.  Speakers at the event included Corporate, Academic,  State Government, Federal Government, Innovation Practitioners, Innovation Center Executives, and Start-up speakers.  Below is the event agenda, content and speakers.  I will expand on the learnings in a second blog post.

October 8, Thursday, CSOM, room 2-206 8:30 am – 9:00 am – Registration and light breakfast

9:00 am -10:20 am – Greetings and introductory remarks

  • Anatoli Korkin, Chairman of ARCCoM, St Paul, MN, Welcome and introduction
  • Mark Ritchie, Minnesota Secretary of State (2007-2015) and President/CEO, Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee, St Paul, MN, Introductory remarks
  • Alexander Stadnik, Russian Trade Mission, Washington D.C., introductory remarks
  • Thomas Bruns, United States Commercial Service, Washington D.C., Introductory remarks
  • Steve Riedel, Minnesota Trade Office, St Paul, MN, Minnesota trade with Russia: Current status and opportunities
  • Jamshed Merchant, Consul General of Canada, Minneapolis, MN, Introductory remarks Vladimir von Tsurikov, Museum of Russian Art, Minneapolis, MN, Museum of Russian Art mission in international cultural exchange

10:20 am -10:40 am – Coffee break
10:40 am -12:00 pm – Business opportunities and technology innovations

  • John Pournoor, 3M Corporation, St Paul, MN, Solving National Needs and Creating Public Value
  • Robert Gaiiuliin, Tatarstan Trade Mission, Washington D.C., Business opportunities in Tatarstan
  • Vasily Kutsakov, Skolkovo Foundation, Moscow, Russia, Skolkovo Foundation: How experts and enterprises abroad can get involved
  • Todd Lefko, International Business Development Company, Minneapolis, MN, Possibilities in the Russian water sector

2:00 pm – 3:20 pm – Technology innovations and academic partnerships

  • David Williams, Cheval Partners, Minneapolis, MU,Building innovation ecosystems- durable business services to support and grow innovation
  • Kendrick White, Marchmont Capital, Nizniy Novgorod, Russia, Connecting Russian universities to global business – the new International Proof of Concept Association (IPOCA) as a mechanism to develop cross country collaboration
  • William Petuskey , Arizona State University, AZ, Opportunities for internationaleducation, research and technology innovations at Arizona State University
  • Liliya Kiryanova and Sergey Zamyatin, Tomsk Polytechnic University, Tomsk, Russia, Partnership opportunities with Tomsk Polytechnic University
  • Yuri Kistenev and Aleksandr Zamyatin, Tomsk State University, Tomsk, Russia, Partnership opportunities with Tomsk State University

3:20 pm – 3:40 pm – Coffee break

3:40 pm – 5:00 pm – US – Russia partnership proposals and opportunities

  • Leonid Grichiner, Russian Publishing House “Zerkalo”, Minneapolis, MN, Introduction to Russian-speaking business community in Minnesota
  • Alexandra Johnston, DFJ Aurora, San Francisco, CA, Russia-USA business
  • Partnership: A view from Silicon Valley
    Vlad Pavlov, RollApps, Palo Alto, CA, rollApp’s experience of offering application virtualization platform in the USA and Russia: similarities and differences between the two markets
  • Alexander Shalumov, Presidential Academy of national Economy and Public
  • Administration, Automated system ASONIKA for electronic device design and reliability:Expending international research and business opportunities
  • Tatiana Tatarchevskly, University without Borders, New York, On-line education and social entrepreneurship: Internet platforms for international collaboration
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm – Reception and concert @ St Petersburg restaurant, address: 3610 France Ave N, Robbinsdale, MN 55422

October 9, Friday 10:30 am – noon; CSOM, room 1-127

  • Thomas Bruns, United States Commercial Service, Washington D.C., Overview on Russia market and economy
  • David Edmiston, United State Commercial Service, Minneapolis MN, Overview on Commercial Services Organization and examples of facilitating international business
  • Round table discussions on Russia’s water and wastewater treatment Sector.
  • Moderators: Steve Riedel, Minnesota Trade Office, and Todd Lefko, International Business Development Council.

1 pm – 2:30 pm; CSOM, room 1-135

  • Panel on E-Learning as a Vehicle for U.S.- Russian Collaborative Projects in Social Entrepreneurship, Education, and Science
  • Moderators: UMN, UMD, University without Boarders

2:30pm – 4:30 pm; CSOM, room 1-135

  • Panel on International Corridors and Innovation Centers
  • Moderators: David Williams, Cheval Partners;  Kendrick White, Marchmont Capital

See images from the event at:

Innovation Centers – Corporate Officers – part III

male-silhouetteThe journey of corporate officers to participate in a regional innovation center can seem like a long road to ROI.    Officers that I have spoken with where strong skeptics of the value proposition and time horizons.   The level and ways of participating were very unclear initially.   Paying forward in both the regional capabilities and for services seemed a risky proposition.  Not being able to predict, plan or guarantee success in the innovation space also seemed like a minefield to navigation.  Those brave enough to explore the potential have now become the strongest advocates for the model.  Let’s explore the types of value they discovered on the journey:

  • Paying upfront:   In the philanthropic phase of center development created new regional capabilities around registration, data collection and ultimately visibility into the opportunities within the region.   This created a platform to discover start-ups,  corporate partners, international partners, investors,  mentors,  subject matter access,  industry expertise,  new channels, new commercialization capabilities, etc.
  • Deal Flow:  The data platforms allowed early access to the funnel of start-ups, ideas, and partnerships.   This allowed for a competitive advantage in getting early access to the most innovative ideas in their developmental stage.  The opportunity to act early became empowering and a key input tor strategic planning of corporate direction and investments
  • Disruptive Innovation:  Early access to deal flow could also identify disruptive ideas and trends that business would need to prepare for.  Again critical opportunity to act or plan accordingly
  • Partnerships:  By offering directly at the center, with dedicated staff, companies placed themselves at the nexus of deals, ideas, and partnerships
  • Co-opitition:  By directly collaborating with other companies at the center, strong collaborative relationships where formed.   Exploration, ideation, investments, and risk could be shared between B2B partnerships.   The ability for consortium partners to invest in a much larger portfolio of innovation and bring all the support and assets of the consortium for commericalizing at less cost/time became a reality
  • Research:  Academic institutions providing training and research programs directly into the centers made these immediate accessible for start-ups and corporations
  • International Networks:  Global companies and government delegations frequently visit centers and directly office and invest.   Opportunities abound for international joint ventures and market access
  • Talent Development:  Corporations can rotate personnel into the centers to  expand their access to ideas and trends.   Training and mentoring opportunities to develop new skill sets.   Sponsoring students as interns working on corporate projects is a good way to develop new talent for recruitment.
  • Culture Shift:  Integrating more corporate talent into the center can help shift older culture norms to stay current with prevailing business trends and agility of organizations
  • Fund of Funds:  New funding models letting investment sit in portfolios of start-ups can spread the risk and scale the number of new ideas corporations have a vested interest in
  • Internal Projects:   Internal projects of a corporation can access the services, labs, research, and subject matter experts of the centers
  • Analytics:  The combined resources of the corporate members can help in more extensive market analytics and research.
  • Industry Parks:  Have corporate facilities and personnel in the a joining industry parks speeds collaboration and in accessing the centers
  • Best Practices:  Methodologies, processes,  research ,etc are all learning opportunities for corporations to adopt these practices internally
  • Boards:  Joint boards of cross industry expertise can help board members stay on the pulse of innovation and organization needs of their own companies

Seeing existing center swelling with corporations having dedicated office space and personnel.  The number of corporate facilities being built in the adjacent industry parks.  The number of joint ventures and joint patents.  The number of start-ups being accelerated, incubated, and commercialized through the centers are all good indicators of the attraction of the value propositions.   In some examples, corporations are relocating their global HQs to the industry parks seeing that the advantages at being at the nexus is critical to their business success and influence in the market.  In less than a few years most centers outgrow their facilities due to demand.

Many companies today participate in centers across the globe.   For many this experience leaves them wondering why they don’t exist in their own region.  For the corporate officers evaluating the journey, it is not a matter of speculative investment but and imperative to have the strategic advantage of participation, engagement, and influence at the centers.