Target Begins Venture With Techstars To Boost Start-Up Retailers

By Kavita Kumar
Star Tribune (Minneapolis).

Target Corp. is on the prowl for the next great retail start-ups.

It is becoming the first partner in the Twin Cities for Techstars, a company that has developed an impressive track record in several other U.S. cities of helping tech start-ups grow into thriving firms.

Techstars will set up an office for the next three years in the headquarters of the Minneapolis-based retailer, where it will run 13-week boot camp-like programs, known as accelerators, to teach start-up companies about business, help them overcome hurdles and even provide them with investment cash.

It has run similar programs, often with help from other major companies around the country, for nearly a decade.

On Monday, it will start taking applications for the first retail accelerator at Target. Based on programs Techstars has helped elsewhere, hundreds of ambitious young companies are expected to apply.

In the process, Target hopes to find some good ideas and energize both its own company and the local technology community.

“Not all of the best ideas in the world exist solely within our four walls,” said Jamil Ghani, a Target executive.

The companies that are selected will move to Minneapolis and work out of Target’s offices during the program. After it is over, about 50 to 70 percent of the firms that have participated in Techstars programs in other cities wind up either setting up their offices or keeping some sort of presence in that city.

“For Target to be successful here in Minneapolis, we have to build that community,” said West Stringfellow, who is part of Target’s first entrepreneur-in-residence program and pushed to bring Techstars to Target. “It’s our responsibility to take a leadership position.”

Earlier this year, Hydrate, a company formed by University of Minnesota graduates that makes a smartphone-connected water bottle, participated in a Techstars accelerator at Sprint Corp.’s headquarters in Kansas City. “These people are from Minneapolis, but they had to go to Kansas City to get that information,” Stringfellow said.

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