2020 was a year of immense challenge, strain, and loss for all of us — but some good shone through.
After hosting our second annual BETA State of the State with over 350 attendees, BETA quickly pivoted all of its programming to virtual, including the BETA Startup Accelerator. Our spring cohort quickly adapted to the new format, with curriculum on Zoom and virtual interactive Q&As with guest speakers.
The Fall BETA Cohort helped us lay the groundwork to achieve our goal of tripling BETA’s impact in the Minnesota entrepreneurial community and becoming more inclusive. With the new virtual format, several startups from Greater Minnesota were able to participate that would not have otherwise been able to.
Surviving a Recession
To address the current climate, we then created a five-part weekly series that featured community leaders who had survived recessions and crises in the past to share their stories of survival and inspire Minnesota entrepreneurs.
The murder of George Floyd brought into focus the urgency to accelerate BETA’s DEI efforts. Our BETA Board of Directors released a public commitment to add at least one board member of color, diversify its cohort selection committee, and integrate more diverse speakers in the cohort curriculum, emphasizing the importance of early DEI efforts.
To achieve these commitments, the Board increased the number of board seats from five to seven and welcomed Allison Barmann and Clarence Bethea to the board, with Shonnah Hughes scheduled to join the board in January 2021. BETA’s Entrepreneur in Residence Cihan Behlivan brought together Caroline Karanja, Clarence Bethea, and Andrew Leone as part of our first BETA founder-supported cohort selection committee, as well as started the process of restructuring our cohort curriculum.
Twin Cities Startup Week
Just like the rest of our programming this year, we took Twin Cities Startup Week virtual for the first time. Instead of a week jam packed with sessions across the Cities, we spread hundreds of virtual sessions and workshops over three weeks. With six tracks, focusing on industry-specific topics like Sustainability and EdTech, we bookended the event with socially-distant in-person activities at local breweries.
With the first virtual TCSW came the Resource Library, a free online platform where registrants can view videos and slides from 100+ TCSW 2020 sessions all year round. This helped us realize the value in recording sessions — they now live on through the TCSW site and are accessible to all interested in tech, startups and seeking insights and learning opportunities.
To make it easy for community members to support BETA’s mission to uplift Minnesota founders and make the ecosystem more inclusive, we created a Sustaining Membership Program for individuals to donate on a monthly basis and support local founders and startups.
With perks at every level of support — from free access to events like TCSW and Showcase, to job postings on our page — we’ve created a variety of ways for the community to easily give back and receive some awesome BETA benefits.
Looking to 2021 and Beyond
We’re anticipating programming in the first half of 2021 will continue to be virtual as we learn to adapt to new normals with COVID-19. Included in the programming line up is the launch of our new monthly education series called, BETA Explore! Every month, we’ll cover a different startup topic for the community, from fundraising to hiring best practices.
We’ll also be taking a hybrid approach with TCSW 2021 — including smaller in-person events and sessions, many of which will be either live streamed or recorded and hosted in the TCSW Resource Library.
Thank you to everyone who was along for the rollercoaster ride of 2020, and here’s to 2021!