2023 Most Disruptive Business School Startups: Nivoso, University of Minnesota (Carlson)


University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

Industry: Robotics

Founding Student Name(s): Max Minakov

Brief Description of Solution: The developer of a self-activating snow-clearing robot for driveways and sidewalks at zero-tolerance facilities. The robot is completely autonomous and keeps surfaces safe and accessible 24/7 without human intervention. Think of it as a Roomba for snow.

Funding Dollars: $27,700 – Competitions | $30,000 – Bootstrapped

What led you to launch this venture? My science fair project in 6th grade was a remote-control robot that could plow snow and mow the lawn because I hated yard maintenance and clearing snow.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with this venture? Filing utility patents, receiving LOIs from the largest nursing homes and snow-clearing companies in the state, completing our MVP, pitching to Fortune 500 companies at age 16, and being a Grand Finalist at the MN CUP and winning the student division – Glory to God!

How has your business-related major helped you advance this startup venture? It exposed me to the right people. Without the connections made by the dense, high-caliber group at Carlson, I would be lost, with very little footing going forward in the challenging world of startups.

Which business class has been most valuable in building your startup, and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? New Venture Financing – The primary lesson I’ve learned is the importance of early market signals and a dedicated team that’s passionate about what they’re doing. Without these, it’s tough to demonstrate the viability of your product and to convince others that you have a winning team and company. Shout out to John Stavig for constantly helping me hone in on my value propositions and business plans!

Which business professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Amee McDonald – She graciously offered to tailor the curriculum in her class to align with my work at Nivoso, creating problem-solving lessons and assignments specifically for my company, which were custom-built for me.

Who is the founder or entrepreneur that inspired you to embark on your own entrepreneurial journey? How did they motivate you? Steve Jobs – He wasn’t just building products; he was crafting extensions to our bodies. His unwavering focus on purposeful creation, coupled with his ability to pivot quickly, has been a source of inspiration for me. His story highlighted how swiftly companies can move and that the only one slowing you down is yourself. Never underestimate the one who overestimates themselves.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? I want people to see Nivoso robots at the hardware store right next to a snow blower and people be faced with the choice of whether or not they want to back pain from manually plowing the rest of their life. Additionally, I hope every nursing home and other zero-tolerance facility in the country will have their sidewalks consistently cleared by Nivoso robots during every snowstorm.

How has your local startup ecosystem played a part in your venture’s growth and success? Twin Ignition Start-Up Garage stands as the HQ for some of the most promising startups in Minneapolis. The founders of the garage are seasoned entrepreneurs and professionals who consistently push everyone to excel and offer unwavering support and resources. Thanks to this environment, I’ve refined our product roadmaps, business models, release plans, and made informed business decisions based on their invaluable feedback. A shout out to Seth, Ben, and Scott!


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