10 Finalists Named in $1 Million Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs Challenge and $30,000 in Cash Prizes Awarded

Seven Minnesota Businesses Make it to the Final Round

ST. PAUL, Minn.--()--Ethnic minority business owners from across the country competed in a speed pitching event in St. Paul on Wednesday night as part of Twin Cities Startup Week. Ten companies were selected to advance to the final round and two were singled out to receive a total of $30,000 in cash prizes. The challenge is being held by the Metropolitan Economic Development Association (Meda), the top-performing minority business development agency in the nation, and the City of Saint Paul. Chase is the presenting event sponsor.

Wednesday’s top scoring entrant, HabitAware received a $15,000 cash prize. The top woman-owned entrant, also HabitAware, received an additional $10,000 in cash and $5,000 was awarded to runner up, Cytilife Inc. A panel of 16 judges evaluated each company on its potential for growth and success.

In all, more than 200 businesses applied to participate, and 19 semi-finalists competed. The following 10 companies were named as finalists.

  • Cytilife, Minneapolis, MN, provides the Smart Campus platform to help students and college administrators make data-driven decisions to help reduce college dropouts.
  • HabitAware, St. Louis Park, MN, has wearable technology that helps people with body-focused repetitive behaviors, such as compulsive hair pulling or nail biting, take control of their condition.
  • Ilerasoft, Chicago, IL, provides a software solution that aids hospitals in optimizing their medical equipment utilization by improving their capital planning and budgeting.
  • LegacyArmour, Minneapolis, MN, is a secure online asset protection platform to organize important information in encrypted vaults that is automatically delivered to designated recipients on a scheduled date or life event.
  • Mobility 4 All, St. Paul, MN, is a kinder, gentler ride hailing service for seniors and people with disabilities.
  • PopCom, Columbus, OH, makes vending machines and kiosks "smart" with unprecedented software and artificial intelligence capabilities at the point-of-sale.
  • SquarePac, Austell, GA, uses design and metal fabrication expertise to create solutions that help clients maximize space, reduce freight, save money, and promote safety.
  • THOR Companies, Minneapolis, MN, is a turnkey real estate management company that balances intuition and science to build, transform and sustain healthy communities.
  • Vemos, Minneapolis, MN, enables hospitality venues to manage, understand, and grow their business from a single dashboard.
  • Virtue Analytics Inc., Woodbury, MN, provides an eEnrollment Management platform allows educational institutions to leverage the power of machine learning and predictive modeling to make better decisions across the admissions process.

The finalists will now participate in a “boot camp” offering investor and industry feedback, mentorship, exposure and professional connections. These finalists will return to St, Paul in January for the final round, which will award up to $1 million dollars in financing.

Minority business owners have historically found it difficult to gain access to capital. This type of funding often plays a big part in determining the success or failure of the business. Studies have shown that financial, human, and social capital, as well as racial discrimination, are primarily responsible for disparities between non-minority and minority businesses. Achieving parity is key to significant U.S. economic growth, creating new jobs and raising wages in economically disadvantaged communities. To help solve this dilemma and bring attention to this issue, Meda, the City of Saint Paul, and Chase are hosting this first-ever ethnic-minority Million Dollar Challenge.

About Meda
Meda was founded by a group of Minnesota business leaders who saw minority business ownership as a positive, long-term response to rising economic inequity within minority communities in our state. Meda provides business development services, access to capital and corporate and governmental market support for minority entrepreneurs. Over the years, Meda has helped launch more than 500 minority businesses and assisted more than 20,000 Minnesota minority entrepreneurs. Today, Meda clients employ 6,000 Minnesotans and have a combined annual revenue of $1 billion. Meda operates a growing Community Development Fund Institution (CDFI) that provides needed capital for minority businesses to become sustainable. Meda is also the host organization for the Minneapolis Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Business Center, which has been recognized by the MBDA as the top performing center three consecutive years. For more information, visit meda.net.

About JPMorgan Chase & Co.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE: JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $2.5 trillion and operations worldwide. The firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers and small businesses, commercial banking, financial transaction processing, and asset management. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase & Co. serves millions of customers in the United States and many of the world's most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its J.P. Morgan and Chase brands. Information about JPMorgan Chase & Co. is available at www.jpmorganchase.com.


Andrew O'Leary, 612-259-6581


Andrew O'Leary, 612-259-6581