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The Midwest’s Venture Capital Problem, And How Crowdfunding Could Help Solve It

The story of Zach Supalla’s capital campaign for his startup Spark didn’t begin where tech fundraising typically does — not in a coffee shop in Silicon Valley or a board room in New York City. It began in Shenzhen, China, with Supalla in an office at night staring at his laptop. Most of his employees, two people, were sitting next to him. The rest of the company, one person, was at world headquarters in a city not known for its tech startups: Minneapolis, Minnesota. But it didn’t really matter where any of them were. They were launching a video on Kickstarter, an online crowdfunding site, and hoping the site’s users would like the video enough to pitch in $30 here, $40 there until the business had raised the $10,000 it needed to cover manufacturing costs for its product, a piece of hardware about half the size of your thumb that connects ordinary electronics to the internet. At 11 p.m. China time, 10 a.m. Minneapolis time on May 2, Supalla clicked the launch button. He had a bottle of whiskey and plenty of Tsingtao beer nearby — the plan was to drink every time they took in another $1,000. The company […]

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