Category: Minnesota

Best Buy investing millions in Brown Venture Group, a firm exclusively backing BIPOC founders

Last summer, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Best Buy committed to “do better” when it came to supporting communities of color. As part of the retail giant’s self-proclaimed mission to better address underrepresentation and technology inequities, the company announced today that it is investing up to $10 million in Brown Venture Group.

Minnesota-based Brown Venture Group is a three-year-old venture capital firm that has pledged to exclusively back Black, Latino and Indigenous technology startups in “emerging technologies.” Black and Latin communities were the recipients of just 2.6% of total funding in 2020, according to Crunchbase data. 

Brown Venture Group is in the process of fundraising for its targeted inaugural $50 million fund, 75% of which has been committed, according to its principals. This means that Minneapolis-based Best Buy’s pledge to invest “up to $10 million” could represent as much as 20% of the total capital raised, making it a lead LP in the fund.

Brown Venture Group co-founder and managing partner Dr. Paul Campbell said that in the early days of forming the firm, he and co-founder Dr. Chris Brooks were told by “multiple people locally” that they should leave the Twin Cities metro area because “all the capital was on the coasts.”

“We just made a firm decision in the very early stages to stay put in the Twin Cities and that we wanted this to be a Twin City story,” Campbell told TechCrunch. “So when we thought about our Twin Cities ecosystem (Read more...)

Upsie’s direct-to-consumer swing at the warranty space nets $18.2M

Upsie, a consumer warranty startup, has raised $18.2 million in a Series A round led by True Ventures. 

The financing brings the total raised for the St. Paul, Minnesota-based startup to $25 million since its 2015 inception.

A large group of investors participated in the round, including Concrete Rose VC, Avanta Ventures, Kapor Capital, Samsung Next, Massive, Backstage Capital, Awesome People Ventures, Draft Ventures, Matchstick Ventures, M25, Silicon Valley Bank and Uncommon VC, among others. A number of angels also put money in the round. 

Clarence Bethea (pictured below) founded Upsie after realizing the significant markup that retailers were placing on warranties.

His goal was to focus not on the retailer, but rather the end user and making the process more transparent, more affordable and simpler. For example, Upsie claims that it saves its customers anywhere from 50% to 90% compared to competitor warranty plans. Most other companies in the space, such as SquareTrade, offer warranties at the point of sale via retailers.

Image Credits: Upsie

“I’m sure you’ve walked into a Best Buy or a Target, and when you’re checking out somebody at the register is offering you a warranty. But what most customers don’t know is that you’re paying as much as 900% more for that warranty than you should,” Bethea said. “There’s no transparency at the register and you never get to ask what’s covered and what’s not covered, or what should you do if you need to make a claim.”

Just like many other companies, (Read more...)