Looking Back and What’s Ahead for the Sioux Falls Startup Ecosystem

Looking Back and What's Ahead

Looking back on 2021, it’s incredible to think that our small team was able to achieve so many milestones in a year of great transition.

Our accomplishments over the last year are largely due to the fact that Sioux Falls is a remarkable community filled with people willing to roll up their sleeves in support of one another. Many of those community members either: sit on our board of directors, serve as mentors in our network, are forward-thinking business leaders or are entrepreneurs themselves. For years, these champions have been unwavering in their support of the startup community, even when the future was incredibly uncertain.

Today, thanks to all of these champions, the greater Sioux Falls startup ecosystem is thriving and experiencing unprecedented growth.

Why is this important? Thriving startup ecosystems create jobs, attract and retain talent, spur local development, improve quality of life, increase tax revenue, and attract larger companies to town. A strong startup ecosystem also supports long term regional economic development—something we have been working toward alongside our partners at the Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, Forward Sioux Falls and the City of Sioux Falls.

In 2022, we will be expanding resources, education, mentorship and programming for underserved communities (largely by way of our $1M SBA Community Navigators Grant), planning our move downtown, introducing new membership levels to meet the needs of today’s entrepreneur, expanding our team to provide specialized support to startups and opening up our doors as a think tank to support innovation and work with the city, private sector, and public to help solve problems with an entrepreneurial mindset.

We have a clear vision of our future, which is largely inspired by the continued resilience and innovation of these startup champions. Thank you to everyone who has been and continues to be a part of this important journey.

— Brienne Maner, Executive Director

As we reflect on a remarkable year, our annual report features the following ecosystem achievements:

Looking Back on 2021:

1. Launching CO.STARTERS and Building Momentum

One of our greatest success stories of 2021 was the launch of our CO.STARTERS accelerator program. Due to the pandemic, our first cohort was hosted remotely, but we are grateful to be back to in-person programming now. We also hosted a special cohort for entrepreneurs who faced challenges because of COVID-19: our CO.STARTERS Rebuild program. Graduation for our third cohort of 2021 will take place January 25, 2022. Get to know the entrepreneurs of CO.STARTERS 2021:

Interested in applying for CO.STARTERS in 2022? Learn more and apply to be considered for our next cohort here: https://www.startupsiouxfalls.com/accelerator/


2. Rebranding to Startup Sioux Falls

2021 was a monumental year for our organization’s strategic direction. We announced our rebrand to Startup Sioux Falls in May, and enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on all the growth and transition that has happened since opening as the South Dakota Technology Business Center in 2002. The rebrand represented not only a change in name and visual representation, but also a renewed strategic plan that includes, among other important elements, our organization’s impending move to Downtown Sioux Falls.


3. Receiving the SBA Community Navigator Grant

In November, we announced that we received a $1 million grant from the SBA through the Community Navigator Pilot Program, which we will use to provide more access to ecosystem resources, including our CO.STARTERS business accelerator program to underserved populations. We are proud to have been one of just 51 selected grantees out of over 700 applications nationally, and we can’t wait to get this project rolling in 2022.

Additional highlights of 2021:

  • We welcomed Barb Glazier to the team as our bookkeeping and administrative coordinator, along with Laura Arce as a summer and fall intern. Read more about Barb and Laura here.
  • We hosted consistent events this year, including Nonprofit Pitch Night, Startup Socials, Startup Pitch Nights, Morning Marketing Parties and more. 
  • We once again celebrated Sioux Falls Entrepreneurship Day on March 3.
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Looking Forward to 2022:

1. Ramping up the SBA Community Navigator Project
We’re kicking off the project and will host a community facilitator training in Q1 of 2022. We plan to have cohorts and other facets of the project beginning in Q2. This is an incredible opportunity to reach more people and expand access to underserved entrepreneurs through valued partnerships with other community organizations.

2. Planning our Move to Downtown Sioux Falls
2022 will bring significant changes to our organization—one of the most prominent being the move from our current building to the heart of downtown Sioux Falls. Our focus will be on creating an energetic space that directly serves entrepreneurs and founders in the center of the community with resources such as an accelerator, mentorship, events, workshops, and more.

3. Continuing to Build Meaningful Community Partnerships
Part of our role as an ecosystem organization is to build strong partnerships and relationships. We will continue to build relationships with community, government, nonprofit, and university partners in order to better serve entrepreneurs. When your community is so rich with resources and knowledge, the best thing you can do is find ways to collaborate, and doing so will be key to our strategy in 2022.

Nonprofit Pitch Night

More milestones to look forward to in 2022: 

  • We will establish a 501c3 foundation to allow for more impact and support.
  • We are growing our board of directors by five: Keith Severson (Eide Bailly), Jason Herrboldt (First Bank & Trust), Nancy Reynoza (Reynoza Realty Group), Mike Lynch (Forward Sioux Falls) and Paul Tschetter (Boyce Law Firm).
  • We will strategically expand our team and our reach through opportunities like the SBA Community Navigator grant.
  • We will establish a CO.STARTERS graduate alumni network to maintain connection and impact.
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Thank you for sharing our excitement about all that the next year has in store. We’re fortunate to have incredible partners throughout this ecosystem, including board members, community builders, startups, university partners, and many more. We don’t own the ecosystem; it is a collaborative and sometimes messy project, but the past few years especially have reiterated to us just how worthwhile and impactful this work truly is. 

We wish you all the best in the new year!