#StartupsEverywhere Profile: Sue Marshall, NetZro, CEO and Founder
This profile is part of #StartupsEverywhere, an ongoing series highlighting startup leaders in ecosystems across the country. This interview has been edited for length, content, and clarity.
Starting Up Environmental Change
Minnesota is known as the state of 10,000 lakes. However, do you know about the vibrant startup community throughout the state and in particular, in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul? This week, we met with Sue Marshall who has helped to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Minnesota, including her own company NetZro. Leaning on the traditional industry of food processing, Sue created a company to decrease food waste. Sue wishes for more policies creating low-cost and free space for research to be done by startups.
Tell me about you. What’s your background? Why did you start NetZro?
I have been an entrepreneur the majority of my professional life. I started in the real estate industry as a builder and developer of real estate. I started a business in almost every aspect of real estate then got interested in the science of real estate as it relates to environment challenges. I went back to school in 2011 in the science of real estate and knew I would start a new business that would have a positive impact on the environment. NetZro was born the last semester and officially started in January 2015.
Why’d you get started in Minneapolis? What makes Minneapolis an ideal place to start a company?
I was born and raised in Minneapolis. Minneapolis is an obvious place for a company in the agrifood technology. My company designs technology to process food waste from food manufacturers. We also partner to position the nutrients from this processing into new markets for animal and human consumption. Minnesota has large companies the likes of Cargill, General Mills as well as medium-sized companies like Michael Foods, Land-o-Lakes and Schwans. We are also ideally locate to access other Midwest states that have food processing.
What’s the most exciting or important development that has happened to the Minneapolis ecosystem in the last year?
The political environment in Minnesota continues to support the need to focus on initiatives and investment toward solutions to combat climate change despite the current administration. It would be tougher to be based in any other state in the Midwest from this perspective.
Are there specific public policies or government initiatives that have enabled startup growth in Minneapolis?
For my company programs through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and University of Minnesota have been instrumental for accessing funds and resources.
From a policy perspective, do you have any wishlist items for the startup ecosystem?
We need physical space that goes beyond co-working space (professional office space) to a research laboratory and mechanical engineering laboratory testing facility space. And it needs to be funded so it is financially accessible for startups.
What is your goal for the next year? The next 5 years?
My goal is that the technology that NetZro provides can recover food waste from all food processing plants so that there is zero food waste going to the landfill.
Engine works to ensure that policymakers look for insight from the startup ecosystem when they are considering programs and legislation that affect entrepreneurs. Together, our voice is louder and more effective. Many of our lawmakers do not have first-hand experience with the country's thriving startup ecosystem, so it’s our job to amplify that perspective. To nominate a person, company, or organization to be featured in our #StartupsEverywhere series, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Give us your feedback here.