How We ILLUMINATE Investors

ConnectUP! Institute is a social finance innovation and enterprise development studio powering equitable economies that work for all.

connect with growing entrpreneurs

Join Our Expert Network

Connect with local founders and share your expertise! Our Expert Network is a group of highly accomplished business professionals in Minnesota who volunteer their time to provide 1:1 coaching, workshops, event sessions, high-ROI consulting and other business training. 

We know that connections and social capital is a key ingredient to the success of any business venture. We’re dedicated to building the peer and professional networks of the founders in our programs to help engineer their success during and after participation!


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Statistics indicate that women claimed just 2% of the VC funds, and women of color claimed just under 1% in 2021.

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Black startup entrepreneurs still received only a tiny fraction — 1.2 percent  — of the record $147 billion in venture capital invested in U.S. startups through the first half of this year, Crunchbase numbers show. That compares with the more than 13 percent of the U.S. population that is Black or African American. (Crunchbase, 2021)

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In a 2019 study conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York it was noted that only 17% of firms with non-Hispanic Black ownership reported their funding needs were satisfied.

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29.4% of BIPOC business owners receive all the funding they request from the bank compared to 54.2% of that of white business owners.

If you’re like us, you know that there are systemic injustices that limit access to capital and need to be addressed.

From our Due Diligence Accelerator to our Integrated Capital Fund to our ConnectUP! Summit, we curate genuine connections between investment-ready (or near-ready) business founders and investors to cultivate an informed and collaborative entrepreneur ecosystem in Minnesota and beyond! You have the power to help us continue supporting the entrepreneurs you know and love in the community.

Our Initiatives designed for INVESTORS

ConnectUP! Summit

The ConnectUP! Summit brings together entrepreneurs, investors and entrepreneur support organization leaders from Minnesota and across the country for two days of culturally responsive talks, action-driven workshops, deep-relationship building and diverse networking opportunities. With an emphasis on entrepreneur needs and realities, the ConnectUP! Summit provides education and connection for investors ready to #LevelUp their investments!


CEO Circles

Our CEO Circles equip second-stage CEOs with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles of surviving in the market space, maintaining good business practices, and scaling up. Twice a month Expert Mentors (investors, entrepreneur support organizations, business professionals, etc.) will be joined by four 2nd-stage CEOs to work through issues they may be facing. These topic-specific meetings are also a space for Expert Mentors to learn the current scope of needs for small businesses founders. Submit an interest form to be considered!

“[The ConnectUP! Summit was a] Reminder to balance rigor and relationship in investments”
ConnectUP! Summit
Investor Attendee


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86% of ConnectUP! Summit attendees reported forming a new connection with an investor through their participation!

Help Us Reach Our $10,000 Give to the Max Day Donation Goal!

Join us for #GivetotheMaxDay this year as we gear up to provide more funding, programming and resources for the local entrepreneurs that bring life to Minnesota with their unique small businesses.