✈ A visit to the Bluegrass + a world-changing company and more! – November 27, 2019
The odds are in Lexington's favor
WHEELS DOWN: LEXINGTON
Bridles, bourbon and basketball!
Madgeek1450 at English Wikipedia [Public domain]
You know a city is something special when you can’t figure out which of its features to touch on first. Lexington, KY, is one of those cities.
Then there’s the Kentucky Horse Park, a 1,200-acre working farm that showcases all breeds of horses and offers museums, demonstrations, barn tours, trail rides, and indoor and outdoor show venues. In 2010 it staged the World Equestrian Games, the first time a non-European site hosted the event.
Lexington is also home to the popular Keeneland racetrack, which has a spring and fall meet each year. On top of that, Keeneland is the largest thoroughbred auction house in the world, racking up more than $600 million dollars in sales last year.
More of a “trotters and pacers” fan? Lexington has you covered. Its venerable harness racing track, The Red Mile, offers simulcasts, horse sales, and pari-mutuel gaming terminals.
One last note about Lexington’s horse-driven culture before we move on: The University of Kentucky isn’t just about championship-winning basketball (although it’s got that going too). It also offers numerous programs with an equine focus, including an Equine Science and Management degree and a cutting-edge equine research center.
Some 95% of the world’s bourbon is made in Kentucky, so it’s not surprising that distilleries are a big (and ever-growing) deal in Lexington—and its bourbon heritage dates back to the 1700s.
The city has multiple downtown distilleries: the historic James E. Pepper Distillery and craft distillers Bluegrass Distillers, Town Branch Distillery, and Barrel House Distilling Company.
A number of famous distilleries are scattered within a 35-mile radius of Lexington as well, so you can have your fill of tours and tastings at major players such as Woodford Reserve Distillery, Castle & Key, Buffalo Trace Distillery, and Wild Turkey Distillery. Just follow the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, an initiative of the Kentucky Distillers Association, if you want to explore distilleries in the Lexington area.
The business climate
Lexington has seen impressive economic development, including a growing entrepreneurial ecosystem, thanks to its highly educated workforce and support systems like the Startup Lex community, various mentor- and internship-driven programs, co-working spaces, coding schools, and networking facilitation, and funding and co-investment opportunities.
Add in Lexington’s affordable cost of doing business, low startup costs (SmartAsset rates it 6th in the US), and strong job market, and it’s easy to see a bright path into the city’s economic future.
A note about culture and recreation (and food!)
The city is also known for its prolific street art, with stunning murals adorning all sorts of buildings. You’ll find a mural map and photos of some of the art on this site.
And as promised, a word about Lexington’s food scene. That word might be diverse. Or innovative. Or classic. Lexington’s culinary landscape is rich with choices, gaining momentum, and garnering attention. It recently landed on WalletHub’s list of the Best Foodie Cities in America.
Tech startups given flight in Minnesota
Good news, Minnesota startups: You can now apply for an Innovation Grant to help jumpstart your business. Launch Minnesota, a statewide accelerator initiative, is encouraging Minnesota’s “promising, innovative and scalable technology businesses” to apply for grants and various other financial incentives aimed at helping tech startups take off.
The grant applications will be reviewed on a “rolling basis,” and those received by November 30 will be reviewed in December. Applicants will find out in January whether they’ll be a grant recipient. The Innovation Grants cover a variety of expenses, including business operations, housing, and childcare.
Launch Minnesota, which has an annual budget of $2.5 million, was established in collaboration with the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), legislators, and private sector leaders. Its goal is to grow Minnesota’s startup ecosystem and promote Minnesota as an innovation leader, with a focus on tech sectors like aerospace, agriculture, nanotechnology, and medical devices.
DEED commissioner Steve Grove said, “Entrepreneurs are the future of Minnesota’s innovation economy. We need to play an active role in helping make this state a great place to foster new technologies and ideas so that maybe the next Google or Apple could come from Minnesota.”
Duolingo makes Fortune’s Change the World list
Photo by Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)
Fortune has just released its fifth annual list of world-changing companies, and Pittsburgh’s language-learning app, Duolingo, made the cut. According to Fortune, “The list honors companies that recognize public health, environmental, economic, and social problems as major challenges—but also as opportunities to initiate a so-called virtuous circle. They understand that doing good for society and the planet can help them bring in more revenue, which can help them do more good, in a self-reinforcing loop.”
Duolingo was launched in 2011, created by computer scientist Luis von Ahn, a consulting professor at Carnegie Mellon, along with former grad student Severin Hacker. The app, which Fortune says is “actively used by 28 million people,” offers 36 languages to choose from. And not just the more familiar languages, either—Duolingo also offers courses like Navajo and Hawaiian. Even Klingon. (That would certainly punch up your resume.)
You know you’ve achieved success when you land on a prestigious Change the World list. But there are other measures of success as well. Like being spoofed on a recent Saturday Night Live skit. In response, von Ahn tweeted, “Loved seeing @duolingo on Saturday Night Live last night! Proud to have helped build this awesome brand.”
Deals in the News
Marketing tech firm is moving its headquarters to KC
Professional training provider receives investment from NexPhase Capital
Brighton Park Capital acquires majority stake in Tennessee healthtech vendor
Chicago-based Inhabitr raises $4 million in Series A funding
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