Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Rochester, MN

Rochester, MN

Home to the Mayo Clinic and one of IBM’s largest facilities, Rochester has earned the motto “America’s City of Care and Innovation.”

Rochester, MN, located in southeast Minnesota, is the state’s third-largest city. Home to the Mayo Clinic and one of IBM’s largest facilities, Rochester has earned the motto “America’s City of Care and Innovation.” Though the two large companies are the primary reason for the city’s reputation, there is room for smaller-scale entrepreneurs to succeed as well. The city ranked well in Livability’s rankings of the best cities for entrepreneurs in both 2016 and 2017, at 37th and 9th overall, respectively. Also in 2017, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Rochester 9th on their list of the 25 best cities for entrepreneurs. More recently, the city also ranked well in a pair of 2019 lists: 5th overall in ChamberofCommerce.org’s list of the best small cities for business and 7th in a Verizon study ranking the most innovative metropolitan areas in the US.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Rochester’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

Down the road in Northfield, the Northfield Money Makers Business Networking International allows area entrepreneurs and small business owners to meet one another.

Down the road in Red Wing, the Red Wing Ignite accelerator hosts a monthly meeting open to everyone that centers around marketing strategies.

RochesTech is a networking group that provides opportunities for technology innovators and entrepreneurs in the Rochester area to meet and work with one another.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Rochester branch of 1 Million Cups meets on the first Wednesday of every month to allow local entrepreneurs to present their startups and make connections.

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce hosts a number of events that may be of interest to local entrepreneurs, including networking opportunities and the annual Small Business Week.

The Southeast Minnesota branch of SCORE serves Rochester and the surrounding area by hosting regular small business workshops and other events.


Startup Competitions:

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, located down the road in Winona but with a campus in Rochester, hosts an annual Elevator Pitch Competition for students.

Organized by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, the MN Cup is a startup competition open to entrepreneurs throughout the state.

Technovation[MN] is a chapter that plays host to the Technovation Girls technology entrepreneurship educational program and competition.

Walleye Tank is a competition for Minnesota-based life science startups held in cities throughout the state, including regular events in Rochester.


Co-working Spaces:

Cityfeet, which helps organize office space for rent in cities around the country, has office space at a location in Rochester starting at $18 per square foot per year.

Located in downtown Rochester’s historic Conley-Maass-Downs building, Collider Coworking offers a number of membership plans and a variety of amenities for its members.

Membership at the Offices at China Hall co-working space includes a private office and access to a conference room, a large kitchen and more.



The 125 Live Center for Active Adults offers a number of programs for those over the age of 18, including art studios and a woodworking shop.

Located on campus of Minnesota State College Southeast’s Red Wing campus, Red Wing Maker Space provides tools and equipment for small-scale prototyping and manufacturing.

The Rochester Public Library offers 3D printing in a variety of filament colors as well as hosting classes about 3D printing.



The Mayo Clinic has a number of entrepreneurial resources available through Mayo Clinic Ventures, including funding, an entrepreneur-in-residence program and more.

RAEDI is an organization that works with the Rochester government to help launch and grow small businesses in the area.

Rochester Community and Technical College is home to the Southeast Minnesota Small Business Development Center, which runs programs to help support local small businesses.



The Mayo Clinic runs an accelerator program that works to support entrepreneurs and their startups as well as area venture capital firms.

Red Wing Ignite is an accelerator program that helps launch agricultural technology, advanced manufacturing, clean energy, education, and healthcare startups.

In addition to the competition aspect of Technovation Girls, there is a 12-week program designed to help young girls gain entrepreneurship skills.



Rochester Community and Technical College’s Business and Workforce Education program help educate and support its business-minded students.

With locations in Winona and Rochester, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota offers both a major and minor in entrepreneurship.

Winona State University, located down the road in Winona, offers a minor program in entrepreneurship.


Angel Groups/VCs:

Brightstone Venture Capital is an investment firm that focuses on early-growth stage startups in the technology and life sciences industries.

Among the business development services offered by Mayo Clinic Ventures is the Innovation Program, which invests in and supports early-stage ideas.

The Southeast Minnesota Capital Fund invests in high-growth startups throughout the region, with an emphasis on agriculture, manufacturing, IT and healthcare companies.

Though it’s based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, Twin Cities Angels invests in companies across a variety of industries throughout the entire state of Minnesota.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce publishes a free monthly magazine containing information and news about the region’s business news and development.

Finance & Commerce, which covers business and economic development news throughout the state of Minnesota, offers a Morning Memo daily e-mail newsletter.

The Post Bulletin, Rochester’s daily newspaper, offers a number of newsletter options, including one focusing on business news that is delivered twice per week.

The Rochester Area Economic Development, Inc. organization publishes quarterly newsletters and economic reports about the area’s development.


Are you familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Rochester, MN not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

Detroit, MI, Minneapolis, MN, St. Paul, MN

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.