Startup Sunrise SDSU Takeover: Top Insights from Amy Moore & Matthew Cole

This article is written in partnership with local founder Megan Raposa from Sioux Falls Simplified. "Feel smart about where you live. We make it simple."


South Dakota State University brought a lively and exciting energy to November’s Startup Sunrise event – and it wasn’t just because they put SDSU ice cream on waffles. 


The Jacks took over Startup Sioux Falls’ monthly networking event, hosted by Vernon Brown, SDSU’s associate vice president for external affairs. The event featured speakers, and SDSU alumni, Amy Moore and Matthew Cole, who talked about their entrepreneurial journey and took on some tough questions from attendees. 

Before the discussion, November’s random act of art was a performance from musician Ben Gertner, as well as an acrobatic performance from South Dakota Aerial and Arts. You can catch both of them featured in the next Live & Local series at the Washington Pavilion – tickets here

Attendees then heard from Lemonly Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director Amy Moore, who’s got over a decade of entrepreneurial experience. She shared her career path, which started with a double major in marketing and advertising at SDSU and led her all the way through Lemonly’s acquisition by ClickRain in 2021, where she stayed on as creative director. 

Pioneer Biotech CEO Matthew Cole is still pursuing his education – and closing in on a doctorate as he also builds his bio-based business. Cole shared about his experience in the Co.Starters program through Startup Sioux Falls.

Here are some highlights from the Q&A with Amy Moore and Matthew Cole: 

Regardless of industry, it’s important to know your customer. Both Cole and Moore – though in different stages of their own entrepreneurial journeys – noted the importance of pivoting and iterating your business idea as you learn more about what your customers want. 

  • Cole shared how his business expanded focus from food preservation to also including animal feed ingredients after customers kept asking what he planned to do with canola meal once he was done using it for food preservation. 

“If the customer keeps bringing up this other stuff, it might be worth it to start focusing on that,” Cole said. “That was a defining moment.”

Have a clearly defined framework for growth. Moore talked about a turning point for Lemonly when the company began implementing the Traction Entrepreneurial Operating System, a business management framework to help keep the team organized and working toward the same goals. 

  • Moore also noted that having those strong systems in place was vital when Lemonly was acquired years later. 

Hiring is always at least a little bit scary. Moore also shared that the first hire at Lemonly was a relatively easy decision because the work was coming in, and they needed the help. Adding new team members along the way continued to feel scary though, especially in a company where most of the work is project-based. 

“That can feel very scary because what if the calls stop coming?” Moore said.

Storytelling is essential. Cole knows his work – like that of most scientists – can be tricky for folks to understand. He said some of the best advice he’s received was to “always be ready to tell a story” that helps people understand what you’re researching and what problems you’re trying to solve. 

Stay connected. Want to be part of the next Startup Sunrise conversation? Make sure to sign up to attend December’s event, “From Seed to Growth,” with featured speakers Scott Petersen, co-founder of HireClick and Don Feige, co-founder of Five Star LTC.