Minneapolis: Micro-Tech Hub

BrightAI has created an IoT “micro-tech hub” in Minneapolis—with nearly half our staff based out of the area, including one founder.

Smart city and big data connection technology concept with digital blue wavy wires

You know you’re from Minneapolis if the words “hot dish” mean something to you beyond a warm plate, and what most people consider a harsh winter doesn’t hold a candle to yours.

If you ran this by half the BrightAI team, it might not mean so much. However, the other half would be able to tell you their favorite toppings for the tater tot-laden casserole, and where they were for the Halloween Blizzard of ‘91.

While the BrightAI team lives all throughout the United States—everywhere from California to Florida—nearly half of us, including one of our founders, are local to Minneapolis, and for good reason.

In the last decade, we’ve formed a micro-IoT hub within a city that’s as varied, enterprising, and vibrant as our team.

From SmartThings to BrightAI 

It all started when our founders Alex Hawkinson, Robert ParkerNathan Hanks, and Douglas Burman came together from different start-ups to establish BrightAI in 2019—a unique infusion of IoT and artificial intelligence technologies.

“It's a little bit infectious when you have a group of people who really like getting stuff done and working on interesting problems,” explains Burman. “It’s like an automatic fit.”

A ‘Micro-Tech Hub’ in the Midwest

As more engineers joined the team, we formed what Burman dubs a “micro-tech hub” within Minneapolis’ already thriving industry landscape—spanning retail and medical devices to marketing and education.

In fact, that is a good metaphor for Minneapolis, as a whole: It offers a little bit of everything, all in one place. 

We kind of naturally found the best of the best,” shares Burman. “Once you get a solid group together, it’s a lot easier to find other people attracted to working with a solid team. We planted the seed with some really good people, and now you can pull in some elite talent that has different experiences and from different areas to do more.”

One such engineer is Barry Andersen, who grew up a half hour north of the Twin Cities and earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Minnesota.

“I would agree with that,” he says of Burman’s assessment. “When I was looking for new opportunities for a technology job in engineering, there’s really no other place to go in the Midwest. You have Denver and maybe Chicago, but to find opportunities like Minneapolis and the Twin Cities provide, there’s really nothing else around the Midwest area.”  

Andersen is one of 18 people—from BrightAI’s 45 total—working out of the lab in Northeast Minneapolis. 

The bright, spacious office is in the heart of the city’s northeast neighborhood—a stone’s throw from Jackson Square Park, and home to a sizable artistic community.

While some bike to the office, others drive, and stop at spots such as Young Joni for pizza or Dangerous Man Brewing Co. on the way home. In fact, Minneapolis and Saint Paul are regularly voted the best cities for walkability and bikeability, even despite snow and winter.

Minneapolis' foodie scene, alone, makes it a worthwhile destination for the other half of our staff to make the trek for intermittent meetings in person. However, the city’s got much more to offer. 

The ‘Special Flavor’ of Minneapolis

This extraordinary city combines industry, nature, art, education, music, and sports—a unique collage that keeps locals around.

The mighty Mississippi River runs through downtown—home to a vibrant arts scene that includes such landmarks as the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and Walker Art Center’s enormous sculpture of a spoon and cherry. Drive about an hour outside the city, and you’re sitting on the banks of Lake Minnetonka enjoying one of the most beautiful sunsets—one of so many in the “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.”

Among U.S. cities with the most green space per capita, Minneapolis reserves 20% of its lands for parks, and 95% of residents live within a 10-minute walk of one. Yet on any weeknight, you’ll find locals heading downtown for a Jucy Lucy, Walleye sandwich, or Twins game.

In the much-awaited reprieve following a five-month-long winter, residents don’t waste a second of the warm weather. Outdoor activities include biking, hiking, waterskiing, fishing, or heading to the state fair—the country’s largest, based on attendance. Still, even in the winter, they embrace the cold while ice fishing, snowmobiling, or skiing.

“When they're shut in, it gives them a natural mental space to spend time to do something a little bit more creative than you would do if you always had the opportunity to be spending time outdoors,” says Burman. “Your year is not necessarily uniform, which I think it's a good thing. I think it has kind of invigorated a lot of the art scene.”

From its 55 museums and characteristic architecture to indie movie theaters and comedy shows, Minneapolis’ arts culture leaves very little to be desired. However, along with shows at the Armory or State Theatre, the city has also commemorated its outpouring of social justice activism through a striking mural of George Floyd Square on 38th Street and Chicago Avenue—marking the location Floyd was murdered at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020.

“We have a pretty recent history with social justice work going on,” explains BrightAI Engineer Pat Nelsen. “It's really been embraced by some of the professional sports teams and other things within the community. So I think all that, with the other arts and different things, kind of gives a special flavor to Minneapolis.”

BrightAI: What Makes Us Unique 

Minneapolis is an extraordinary place, but the people are what gives the area its special vibrancy and atmosphere. 

At BrightAI, we feel much the same. 

Our team not only pushes the boundaries of modern technology in the workplace; they are constantly innovating outside of work—often learning new hobbies such as woodworking, gardening, musical instruments, or website building.

They are curious about new questions, relentless in disrupting with AIoT, intelligent in unlocking unimagined potential, and optimistic about how these innovations can transform the future of industries. 

Much like our city, we are a little bit of everything, all in one place—and it’s exactly what makes us unique.

BrightAI infuses IoT with artificial intelligence technology to help industries illuminate unimagined potential for growth and social good. We are powered by the experienced minds behind Samsung SmartThings, Amazon Alexa, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) platforms. To learn more about disrupting your industry with AIoT, contact us today.