> MinneAnalytics

Supporting a Growing Data Science Community and Disrupting the Conference Scene through Radical Engagement

MinneAnalytics is a nonprofit organization serving the data science and emerging technology community in Minnesota, the Upper Midwest, and beyond by organizing accessible, authentic, and engaging events.

They facilitate the sharing of knowledge among analytics professionals across business and technology through industry-specific conferences. They also support the next generation of data science professionals through scholarships, career fairs, and experiential learning opportunities.

It all started as a humble user group for professionals in the decision sciences—this was pre-2010, and the now-ubiquitous term “data science” was still relatively unheard of. A few dozen people would meet up at the local library to talk shop, with a particular focus on building networks and sharing knowledge. A turning point occurred in 2012 when the group organized a predictive analytics and big data conference keynoted by Geek Squad founder and former Best Buy CTO Robert Stephens. More than 500 people showed up, and it only got bigger from there.

The organization currently boasts more than 18,000 members, encompassing a vast array of job titles and industries. Its ranks include executives and directors, founders and entrepreneurs, quantitative analysts and developers. Minnesota’s Fortune 500 companies are well-represented, as well as a long list of up-and-comers and startups. MinneAnalytics has now organized data science conferences across a wide range of industries, including Healthcare, Finance, Retail, Marketing, Agriculture, Supply Chain, Human Resources, and even Sports.

Their industry-agnostic, technology-focused Data Tech conference is now in its sixth consecutive year, the most recent of which sold out in 24 hours with more than 1,200 registrations. The success of these events is measured by the experience of the participants, and event surveys reveal Net Promoter Scores reaching as high as the world-class 70 mark. Part of what makes the MinneAnalytics conference experience so unique is the accessibility.

On a typical conference agenda, you might find a nationally-renowned keynote speaker alongside the founder of a local meetup group, or a professor from a nearby college. The speakers aren’t speaking to the community, the speakers are the community. “We offer the same quality content of many of the bigger national conferences, but we offer superior engagement,” says co-founder Dan Atkins. “And we do it for free.” Despite its growth, the organization has maintained the community-driven values that made it so special to begin with.

The focus remains on accessibility and engagement—you don’t attend a MinneAnalytics event, you participate in it. It is free to join MinneAnalytics and events are free to attend. Funding comes from sponsors eager to connect with the impressive list of members. This funding has allowed the organization to expand its scope. Recognizing the importance of education to the future of the data science community, MinneAnalytics created scholarships and education initiatives.

Through partnerships with universities, nonprofits and businesses, they organize experiential learning opportunities for hundreds of students each year with events such as the MinneMUDAC student data science challenge. Investments in scholarships have increased annually, providing support to a greater number of students. As the number of data science programs grew exponentially, MinneAnalytics saw the value in connecting graduates with companies desperate for talent. Their first career fair in 2018 was designed to do just that, and the popular event is now an annual occurrence.

Innovation is also a key element to any thriving technology-focused community, and MinneAnalytics has taken great interest in showcasing the latest startups in the data science space. Since 2013, more than 100 startups have participated in the startup showcase sessions featured at all of their major conferences. In 2019, they organized a healthcare startup event that included pitches from more than 70 startups. These events proved to be a valuable way to connect innovators with investors and enterprise executives to make big things happen. The future is wide open for MinneAnalytics.

The group has already spread its message of engagement to the East Coast, organizing conferences in Boston in 2018 and 2019. These are not destination conferences—rather they are experiments in building a local community organically. They have plans to take this experiment to other regions in the coming years. One thing that won’t change is the almost indescribable quality that makes MinneAnalytics special: its atmosphere. MinneAnalytics does not create the community—they represent it.

“I have often described MinneAnalytics as one would Lake Wobegon. ‘MinneAnalytics: where all the data is strong, all the graphs good looking, and the engagement above average.”

Dan Atkins, President


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