Prairie Capital Summit Preview

Written by: Grant Ayers

Take a sneak peek at one of this year’s most anticipated private capital events.

The History of Prairie Capital Summit

In 2017, a group of entrepreneurs and community builders gathered to brainstorm a way to bring together startups, investors and the people who support them in one room. Gathering inspiration from events in other major cities and responding to the needs of Fargo-Moorhead entrepreneurs, Greg Tehven, co-founder and CEO of Emerging Prairie, helped drive the creation of the first Prairie Capital Summit. The goal was to create an opportunity for entrepreneurs to have access to resources and opportunities. This was accomplished by allowing entrepreneurs a chance to pitch their ideas and companies, as well as creating space for startups and investors to meet one another in an inviting setting.

Two years later, after the success of Prairie Capital Summit and recognizing the need for more women in private capital, a team of investors and entrepreneurs created She Starts Week, a week-long event organized to connect, support and promote women entrepreneurs in North Dakota. Since then, Prairie Capital Summit has been an anchor event within She Starts Week.

Prairie Capital Summit continues to grow and evolve, and 2022 is expected to be one of the biggest years yet. Many founders and investors involved at the inception continue to attend and are able to share their successes as mentors and teachers. Reflecting on the last five years of Prairie Capital Summit, and the last ten years of Emerging Prairie, Tehven says, “It’s really exciting to see the evolution of the state of North Dakota and their commitment to entrepreneurship through a variety of programs and investments. It still feels like we’re in the early stages of this journey, but there is a lot of strength and traction.”

The gener8tor accelerator will host a panel of entrepreneurs who will be talking about their journey as founders and their experience in the accelerator. Stay tuned for a full lineup of panelists!
A panel discussion at Prairie Capital Summit 2021.

She Starts Week

Starts Week is a collection of free events designed to connect, support and educate female founders across North Dakota. This community-organized event welcomes both men and women to attend and learn more about finance, marketing, scaling and technology.

While a large portion of the events will be hosted at the Prairie Den in Downtown Fargo, all events will be available virtually on the She Starts Week Facebook page. To learn more about this year’s events and state-wide Happy Hour, visit

Ryan Weber, Dieumerci Christel and Peter Chamberlain at Prairie Capital Summit 2020.

Creating a Legacy: Investing in the Future of North Dakota

North Dakota is built on a history of people taking risks, betting on themselves and creating businesses that make a difference in their communities. The work of many has led to a business climate that supports the builders, doers and dreamers in our state to start companies of all kinds and welcomes those from across the world to learn of the possibility that awaits here. But for some companies to start and continue to grow in North Dakota, there has been a missing piece of the puzzle—access to private capital.

In 2021, the State Investment Board (SIB) of North Dakota announced the formation of the North Dakota Growth Fund (NDGF) as a result of House Bill 1425. NDGF was created to increase the amount of private capital available to the state’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. This historic commitment to North Dakota’s entrepreneur community is funded by the state’s Legacy Fund, which is comprised of revenues generated from the state’s oil reserves and investment income.

SIB selected 50 South Capital, a leading global alternatives asset management firm, to manage NDGF. The firm is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northern Trust, a leading, global financial services company. 50 South Capital’s investment philosophy focuses on providing access primarily to small-to-mid-sized managers who offer unique and differentiated sources of return. The firm has been a pioneer—investing in the Midwest for nearly 20 years.

“Thanks to the extraordinary vision of our legislators and elected officials, North Dakota entrepreneurs have additional access to private capital to build their companies,” Kodee Furst, Director for 50 South Capital in Fargo, said. “The creation of NDGF is an exciting first step in expanding the supply chain of capital for the world-class founders and business owners in the state.”

The North Dakota Growth Fund’s Strategy – Supporting the State’s Key Industries

Private capital exists to make investments in companies looking to scale. Investment firms throughout the world leverage their expertise to build a thesis that hones their beliefs about the future. Some emphasize a specific sector, investing in companies in a certain industry or in inter-connected industries. Others center around geography, knowing great ideas happen everywhere. Regardless of their thesis, investment firms are looking to generate strong returns by backing remarkable entrepreneurs. North Dakota has always had founders with grit and tenacity— those who have weathered the ups and downs of a market, who have executed despite the odds and who have humbly done their work without much recognition or time for celebration. NDGF was created to ensure investment firms regionally, nationally and globally know about the caliber of companies these entrepreneurs are building in the state and to provide more opportunities for founders to access private capital to scale their businesses.

NDGF’s investment strategy focuses on industries key to the state’s economy, primarily agriculture, energy, manufacturing, technology, infrastructure, life sciences, aviation and mobility, among others. NDGF aims to invest up to $250 million over a five-year initial investment period in order to further catalyze the investment and entrepreneurial communities and expand investment opportunities. Through NDGF, 50 South Capital makes targeted investments in venture capital, private credit, private equity, growth capital, infrastructure and real assets opportunities in both private companies and private funds.

“We have an incredible opportunity to showcase the talent of entrepreneurs throughout the state to firms who are investing in the future of industries key to our economy. For many businesses, private capital is instrumental to their growth. Increasing the number of firms investing in the state and its greatest resource— its people—will allow those companies to continue to build their teams and operations here,” Furst said.

NDGF seeks to invest in a strategy that delivers competitive investment performance for the state by building a prudently diversified portfolio. The fund will diversify across vintage, stage, sector, geography and strategy. The goal is to drive economic activity in North Dakota by making investments in companies and private firms that have a track record of investing in the state or have a physical presence in it to support the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The North Dakota Growth Fund’s Current Portfolio

The majority of NDGF will be invested in venture capital and private equity firms with an investment focus on North Dakota. Venture capital and private equity firms make equity or debt financings that are provided for starting up, expanding or relocating a company. Firms interested in raising capital from NDGF undergo significant due diligence by 50 South Capital, with attention paid to a demonstrated pipeline and network to further establish a track record of investing in North Dakota companies. NDGF will also make direct investments in expansion stage North Dakota companies.

“Whether in the Badlands or the Red River Valley, founders in North Dakota are delivering exceptional value to their customers. As stewards of NDGF, we are relentlessly pursuing opportunities to partner with companies and private investment firms that will provide capital, expertise and a network to form successful, longterm relationships with entrepreneurs in the state,” Furst said. “We have the privilege of building a portfolio with the potential to make a multi-generational impact on North Dakota. With a long-term view in mind, we are keen to identify firms supporting businesses of all stages as we construct the foundation of an enduring private markets ecosystem that serves current and future entrepreneurs.”

As 50 South continues to develop the NDGF portfolio, one of our guiding principles is building a supply chain of capital available for the needs of various stages of businesses. To date, NDGF has invested in Lewis & Clark AgriFood, Homegrown Capital, LongWater Opportunities and gener8tor. gener8tor will serve as a tremendous resource to entrepreneurs at the very beginning of their business ventures, providing mentorship and coaching on understanding market size, choosing a revenue model, setting milestones and facilitating introductions to investors. Homegrown Capital is an early-stage venture capital firm focused on seed and Series A stage investments where a startup is seeking to expand its early team, product and/or market. Lewis & Clark AgriFood invests in later-stage companies in the sweet spot between the seed/early stage and the buyout phase, minimizing risk and maximizing value. Finally, LongWater Opportunities is a private equity firm that partners with mature companies looking to sell a controlling interest and expand through add-on acquisitions and market consolidation in the U.S.

“The investments made so far reflect NDGF’s commitment to diversifying its portfolio while ensuring more growth capital is available to entrepreneurs. Investment teams with national experience have noticed the successes and energy occurring around North Dakota and recognize it is a place where more people are choosing to start their entrepreneurial endeavors,” Furst said. “The initial NDGF recipient funds provide differentiated value to entrepreneurs while maintaining a shared conviction in North Dakota’s rich resources.

“The efforts of NDGF are just beginning and we remain committed to finding partners who see the opportunity and value of investing in North Dakota. Our work continues to be centered around providing an attractive risk-adjusted return for the Legacy Fund, increasing access to private capital for the state’s entrepreneurs and raising the national profile of North Dakota. Entrepreneurs in our state are solving significant problems in critical industries and we continue to be inspired by their efforts. We look forward to sharing more of NDGF’s progress at the upcoming Prairie Capital Summit on September 14th in Fargo.”

To register to attend the Prairie Capital Summit, please visit its homepage at

The North Dakota Growth Fund Portfolio (as of June 30, 2022)

Additional information on each of NDGF’s initial investments is provided below.

The company, gener8tor, is a nationally-ranked venture capital firm and accelerator that brings together startup founders, investors, corporations, job seekers and universities. The gener8tor platform includes more than 75 programs spanning startup accelerators, corporate programming, speaker series, conferences, skills accelerators and fellowships. gener8tor is launching a flagship equity-based startup accelerator program in Fargo, as well as two non-equity-based (free) gBETA pre-accelerator programs in both Grand Forks and Fargo. The programs will run annually for at least the next five years. gener8tor will also make select direct investments in other North Dakota-based businesses. To learn more about gener8tor, please visit its homepage at

Homegrown Capital is an early-stage venture capital firm with offices in Fargo, as well as Brookings and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The firm focuses on serving the needs of early-stage founders in undercapitalized markets of the Northern Plains. Homegrown Capital invests in companies that demonstrate strong scalability, and focuses on the enterprise software, agriculture technology and financial technology sectors. To learn more about Homegrown Capital, please visit its homepage at

Lewis & Clark AgriFood looks for companies that deliver benefits to stakeholders throughout the food and agriculture sector, from producers to consumers. The firm invests in companies at the growth stage of their evolution that are poised to scale their technology to a national or global scale. As founders, operators, investors and scientists, Lewis & Clark’s seasoned investment team brings deep sector experience to every investment. To learn more about Lewis & Clark AgriFood, please visit its homepage at

LongWater Opportunities is a leading lower middle market private equity firm with offices in Fargo as well as Dallas, Texas. The firm targets control equity investments in family-owned and operated U.S.-based manufacturing companies and is centered on aligning interests with owners and investing long-term capital to build American manufacturing businesses. It seeks opportunities to partner with founding families and owner-operators of differentiated companies with compelling growth prospects that are looking for hands-on support as well as capital to fund organic growth initiatives and add-on acquisitions. To learn more about LongWater Opportunities, please visit its homepage at

More information about NDGF can be found at

2022 Prairie Capital Summit Agenda

12:30 pm | Registration
1:00 pm | Welcome
1:10 pm | Mainstage Speaker – Michael Chambers (Aldevron)
1:30 pm | Panel – gener8tor Alumni Insights
2:00 pm | Break
2:15 pm | Breakout Sessions
2:45 pm | Breakout Table Topics
3:15 pm | Break
3:30 pm | Panel – From Start to Sell: The Lifecycle of Money in Your Business
4:00 pm | Social Hour
5:00 pm | Event Ends

Don’t miss Michael Chambers, Founding CEO and Executive Chairman of Aldevron, as this year’s mainstage speaker!

A Conversation with Select Prairie Capital Summit Speakers

Tim Weelborg, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Homegrown Capital

How did you get involved in the industry?

I’m currently running a venture capital organization that invests in early-stage, technology-driven companies in the northern plains. Prior to co-founding Homegrown Capital, I led an entrepreneur development organization in South Dakota and created 14 angel investment funds.

What topics will you be speaking on at Prairie Capital Summit?

My business partner and I will be presenting a breakout session for entrepreneurs that will share some insight on how to craft your pitch to investors. The goal of the session will be to share and discuss some tactical tips on how to better pitch early-stage ideas to a financial audience.

What is something that you wish more people knew about Prairie Capital Summit?

I wish that more people knew that this event is a great networking opportunity for entrepreneurs, investors and anyone involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. You don’t have to be an investor or an entrepreneur seeking funding for this to be a valuable event.

What do you see as some of the best resources for capital in our region?

  • Homegrown Capital
  • Other venture capital and private equity firms
  • Angel investors and funds
  • North Dakota programs, such as the Commerce Department
  • Knowledgeable ecosystem participants and connectors like Emerging Prairie

What is some crucial advice that you’ve received over time in your industry?

Have your elevator pitch prepared and ready to go. You never know when you’ll have an opportunity to meet a potential investor, partner, employee, etc.

Give before you get. It is especially important in early relationships to give or offer some value before asking for something.

Be honest and transparent—especially with business plans and financial projections. Don’t be tempted to exaggerate anything. Just be honest and state your assumptions.

Would you recommend any business-oriented books, podcasts, etc.?

I would recommend the book Venture Deals by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. It’s a great primer for entrepreneurs to understand the inner workings of venture/equity deals.

“Venture Deals” by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson

Amanda Heyman, Managing Partner, Tundra Ventures

How did you get involved in the industry?

My first business was a law firm for sustainable food and agriculture startups. I have been a lawyer for startups for almost a decade. I am also the co-founder of a VC-backed sports technology startup called Starting 11, which is a mobile platform for live daily fantasy soccer.

I brought the combination of my experience as a lawyer for startups and as a founder myself to the creation of Lunar Startups, where I am a founding partner and co-led the creation of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area’s first inclusive startup accelerator. Having seen the insides and outsides of hundreds of startup companies as an attorney and startup coach, becoming a founding managing partner of Tundra Ventures was a logical next step.

What topics will you be speaking on at Prairie Capital Summit?

I will be discussing why earliest-stage startups outside of the traditional venture capital bubble represent the greatest opportunity for investors today. I will also speak about the trends in VC investment and the market inefficiencies that make startups in places like North Dakota and Minnesota some of the best bets for value creation. Further, I’ll explain why the unseen, diverse CEO talent can lead to better financial returns for angel and VC investors.

The Upper Midwest in particular is undercapitalized but has lower burn rates and better valuations than the coasts, and is also home to a talent-rich, pragmatic and resilient founder ecosystem. I’ll speak to why, at Tundra Ventures, we believe doubling down on the Upper Midwest’s regional advantages makes sense for investors anywhere in the world.

What do you see as some of the best resources for capital in our region?

Growing the region’s pool of angel investors. Early-stage angel investors who invest either directly in startups or early-stage venture funds are the keystone of any successful startup ecosystem. Without those early bets from angel investors – which often represent both the highest risk and the highest reward potential—many startups with the potential to become billion-dollar companies won’t be able to make it off the ground. Our region is home to significant wealth, and adding angel and VC fund investments into local folks’ portfolios will build more wealth for all.

What is some crucial advice that you’ve received over time in your industry?

  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Keep your focus on your customers and your goals instead of comparing yourself to others.
  • This quote from Backstage Capital founder Arlan Hamilton: “Be yourself so the people looking for you can find you.”

Would you recommend any business-oriented books, podcasts, etc.?

I would recommend the podcast BEHAVE by Team Dynamics, which is a whip smart podcast by Lunar Startup’s alums Trina Olson and Alfonso Wenker. It’s all about workplace inclusivity and how we can build better workplace cultures and teams.

I also recommend the Venture Deals book and associated free online course for any startup founder thinking about taking on outside investments.

Amanda Heyman’s List of Accomplishments:

  • Super Lawyers – 2021 & 2020 Minnesota Rising Star (Thomson Reuters)
  • 2017 Minnesota Cup High Tech Division Award Winner
  • 2015 Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal Women in Business Award Winner

“BEHAVE” by Team Dynamics

Kodee Furst, Director, 50 South Capital

How did you get involved in the industry?

After graduating from NDSU, I worked in roles that took me across the country. In 2015, I found my way back to North Dakota ready to be closer to family and excited about the spirit of collaboration and possibility present at home. I co-founded and served as the Managing Partner of Annie Capital, a fund that invested in the power of women entrepreneurs through funding, education and community development.

That work introduced me to the challenges facing entrepreneurs throughout the state and I spent time at The Nice Center at NDSU to support its mission of entrepreneurship for all. When 50 South Capital was selected to manage the North Dakota Growth Fund, I was honored to join the team and continue to be excited about building the private capital ecosystem to support current and future entrepreneurs in our state. I also serve on the boards for Emerging Prairie and The North Dakota Women’s Business Center.

What is your role at Prairie Capital Summit?

I have the privilege of serving as Host/Emcee and sharing more about the North Dakota Growth Fund.

What is something that you wish more people knew about Prairie Capital Summit?

You don’t have to be actively raising capital to attend. If you are thinking about starting a company, seeking a path to scaling your company or interested in learning how funding works, join us!

What do you see as some of the best resources for capital in our region?

  • Understanding what kind of capital you need for your business is critical. Non-dilutive funding, loans and private capital each serve distinct purposes in helping businesses grow.
  • The North Dakota Growth Fund is designed to grow the private capital ecosystem in our state. Our portfolio of funds has a diverse thesis in both sector and stage of funding to support startups across the state and currently includes gener8tor, Homegrown Capital, Lewis & Clark Agrifood and Longwater Opportunities.
  • Beyond private capital, the Department of Commerce, Bank of North Dakota and local economic development companies have a multitude of funding programs created to help companies of all kinds grow.

What is some crucial advice that you’ve received over time in your industry?

  • If everything’s a priority, nothing’s a priority.
  • Embrace a give-first mentality.
  • You can’t find the answer if you don’t ask the question.

Would you recommend any business-oriented books, podcasts, etc.?

Whatever we can do to expand our perspective, learn from others’ experiences and embrace the lessons learned from people ahead of us on our own journeys is time well-spent. If you don’t enjoy reading, take time for coffee with a peer or a mentor, listen to a quick interview with someone you find interesting or read a feature on someone you admire. But if you’re looking for books, two of my favorites are Playing Big by Tara Mohr, which helps demystify some of the reasons we have limited mindsets, and The Best Advice I Ever Got by Katie Couric, for a wide variety of insight that made me pause.

Did you know?
Kodee Furst was Emerging Prairie’s 2020 Dr. David Wells Belief Award honoree. The award is given annually to an individual who believes in the potential of entrepreneurs and the difference they can make in our community.

“The Best Advice I Ever Got” by Katie Couric

Dr. Joshua M. Riedy, Founder/CEO, Airtonomy

How did you get involved in the industry?

I was born and raised in the Dakotas on a ranch near Thunder Hawk, SD. After a failed attempt as a founder in my late 20s and a career in higher education, I was given a second chance. Moving forward, I founded Airtonomy with the vision of digitizing our nation’s often overlooked, yet vital, critical infrastructure.

What will you be speaking on at Prairie Capital Summit?

“Aligning Visions: A Conversation Between Founder and Lead Investor” with Blaine Crissman.

What is something that you wish more people knew about Prairie Capital Summit?

Events like the Prairie Capital Summit are important opportunities for all parties to educate themselves on how best to support founders in the region. Access to capital in the region is a more complex topic than most realize. Differentiating startups and those that support them is a point of distinction not yet well understood.

What do you see as some of the best resources for capital in our region?

The region, North Dakota in particular, is a tremendous place to start a company with outstanding access to early-stage, nondilutive capital.

What is some crucial advice that you’ve received over time in your industry?

  • Never stop actively raising investment funds. This comes in many forms and should never be underestimated.
  • The correct lead investor is invaluable. There is nothing more important at the Series A stage.
  • It is difficult to attract coastal investment. This will get better with time and sustained success.
  • The North Dakota ecosystem is a boon to early-stage companies.

Have you won any awards, accolades or achieved any recent accomplishments?

Airtonomy’s journey began with Microsoft, their TechSpark program to be specific, providing initial funding. Since that time, there have been many notable moments including outstanding industry support from Xcel Energy and Minnkota Power Cooperative, in addition to vital funding from a variety of programs under the North Dakota Department of Commerce umbrella.

A defining achievement was winning the Genius NY competition against hundreds of domestic and international companies. Last, but not certainly not least, when announced, successful funding of a Series A round, led by Badlands Capital, will be a monumental achievement, especially considering the rarity in North Dakota.

Would you recommend any business-oriented books, podcasts, etc.?

I highly recommend the book The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture as the founder’s journey is too often defined by its beginning and end, whereas the middle is the unheralded, yet critical determinate between success and failure.

“The Messy Middle” by Scott Belsky

Blaine Crissman, Private Equity Investor

How did you get involved in the industry?

I’m a native of South Dakota. I attended graduate school out of state and spent 18 years in Chicago as an investment banker and private equity investor. I’ve been a private equity investor for more than 20 years. I’m a Partner in a fund that invested exclusively in South Dakota from 2018 to 2022. Our recently raised fund, Badlands Capital, invests in North Dakota, South Dakota and adjoining states.

What topics will you be speaking on at Prairie Capital Summit?

I will be speaking with Airtonomy Founder and CEO, Josh Riedy, for “Aligning Visions: A Conversation Between Founder and Lead Investor”.

What is something that you wish more people knew about Prairie Capital Summit?

More people should know about the various types of equity capital available, given a company’s history and growth. It takes a cooperative network of founders, management teams and investors to grow and diversify a local or regional economy.

What do you see as some of the best resources for capital in our region?

High net worth investors, angel funds, growth equity and more mature buyout funds. Access to experienced, active equity investors is still limited in the region, but has been improving over the past few years.

What is some crucial advice that you’ve received over time in your industry?

  • Private capital investing is a people selection business.
  • Invest in businesses that are developing a future that doesn’t currently exist.
  • Liquidity and access to capital are critical; a business dies when it runs out of cash.
  • Stay disciplined around a proven investment strategy.

Would you recommend any business-oriented books, podcasts, etc.?


  • Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore
  • Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
  • The Success Equation by Michael Mauboussin
  • Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman


  • Invest Like the Best
  • Bloomberg Masters in Business
  • The a16z Podcast

“Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore

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Grant is a Senior Editor at Spotlight Media. Grant writes for Fargo INC! and Bis-Man INC!