An idea, a dream, a vision… to that, we say – “I like that.” Well, ILT for short. Part incubator, part accelerator, ILT made its home in St. Cloud a few years ago to bring the people, resources, ideas, and funding together to help the entrepreneur and startup community in St. Cloud continues to thrive. Nick Tietz, Founder and CEO, shared what ILT is, how it works, and the incredible impact it’s made thus far in our communities.
“ILT Academy is committed to empowering and supporting underestimated entrepreneurs in underserved geographies by providing business development, technical assistance, and training to anyone looking to start or grow their business. By collaborating with organizations in Greater St. Cloud and more broadly, the Minnesota entrepreneur ecosystem, we provide ease of access for all types of entrepreneurs including BIPOC-, Women-, Veteran- and Rural-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, Native Americans, and veterans. Our services are vital to the economic development success of many early-stage entrepreneurs in our region, especially as our economy rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Though not originally from Central MN, Nick soon saw the many benefits of building ILT Studios and one of their first studio companies, ILT Academy, in this community. “I wanted to find a spot where I could plant my next company, in an area where there was an openness to new ideas and where people would want a company that exists to empower and unlock the talent in their region. My good friends Ryan and Rob Weber from Great North Ventures told me about all the advantages of having a business in the Greater St. Cloud region. In addition to their glowing review, I was able to quickly connect with many different business and community leaders from across St. Cloud because of the Greater St Cloud Development Corporation and the St. Cloud Chamber. That really set me up to find other like-minded business owners, founders, and non-profit community leaders in Central MN.”
ILT Academy is an EdTech platform with a virtual lean startup training program that offers a practical approach for ecosystem leaders, community leaders, and business leaders to unlock the talent in their community and enable more businesses to validate their idea, launch, obtain funding and grow.
“Startups are a unique type of new business focused on identifying repeatable, scalable business opportunities that often make extensive use of new technologies. A cohort model is an efficient use of dollars and resources to achieve the intended outcomes. Business education is built on design thinking and lean startup methodologies, the gold standard for disciplined startup entrepreneurship.” ILT Academy also utilizes workshops, virtual cohort learning using the latest education methods, collaboration business presentation tools, and ongoing coaching by successful entrepreneurs and product development professionals to significantly minimize the risk associated with startup ideas and maximize the chances of the entrepreneur’s business success and growth.
“Overall, this is a modern approach to business development, building capacity for innovation and creating a community of entrepreneurs who are able to better define and capture the market opportunity. By engaging with experienced mentors and instructors, those with successful startup experience, emerging entrepreneurs will have guidance along the way, helping them de-risk their business idea, avoid common mistakes and successfully navigate the journey. The frameworks we teach also streamline the process through which investors, venture capital, lenders, and other resource providers generate, filter, and select business for development and investment opportunities.”
Since 2020, ILT has trained over 380 entrepreneurs using a uniquely developed education curriculum, meeting the learning style of every entrepreneur by combining audio, visual, and kinesthetic methods. “We don’t just lecture to teach – we utilize a hands-on, practical, and interactive approach to ensure entrepreneurs don’t just graduate, they are able to clearly communicate their current business idea and put those ideas into action… and any new ideas they have in the future.”
The best part for Nick? The students of ILT Academy. “Some are novices, some are seasoned, and some have already sold a business or two. What’s really cool is the imagination, drive, and willingness to stay curious and find ways to solve problems for other people. I really enjoy learning from the students as they clarify the problems and opportunities they want to address in the marketplace and how they think of solving that through product or business model innovation.”
In addition to partnering with the Greater St Cloud Development Corporation, Great North Ventures, Minnesota State, ILT collaborates with Moss & Barnett, the St. Cloud School District, Herberger Business School at SCSU, the College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University, Kensington Bank, the Initiative Foundation, St. Cloud Rotaract, and local chamber groups.
“If people are interested in getting involved and supporting ILT Academy and the start-up community, we are looking for business owners and professionals interested in mentoring and collaborating. We’re also looking for sponsors to support the education program and work we started here in Greater St Cloud. We would love to continue getting the business community more involved in supporting early-stage and emerging entrepreneurs right here in our neighborhoods.