Mayor R.T. Rybak held a roundtable discussion with Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and local small business owners earlier today at CoCo Minneapolis — the co-working space on the former Grain Exchange trading floor.
Schmidt offered his take on the city's efforts to nurture its startup community and encourage entrepreneurship in new technologies among immigrant communities. He praised Rybak's role in bringing CoCo to the city and noted that cities need to support environments with a "coolness" factor, "coffee" and "connectivity" to encourage innovation and creativity.
The Google executive spoke at the University of Minnesota before the CoCo event and noted that it would be a great spot for another CoCo location.
Dunn Bros President Kim Plahn, Brand Ink owner Nick Lowrey and Tom Johnson, president of A. Johnson & Sons Florists, also participated in the roundtable and talked about how Google products, such as Analytics and Enterprise, have helped them grow their businesses. CoCo co-founders Don Ball and Kyle Coolbroth also participated in the discussion, reflecting on how they've worked to get the word out about the new co-working space.
Rybak said he'd like to see startups at CoCo grow to the point that they might take an entire floor in the Grain Exchange, but remain connected to the community that helped them get off the ground.
He also asked Schmidt about strategies for encouraging minorities and new immigrants to pursue careers in technology. The Google leader responded by saying that a college education with an emphasis on math and science is key.
"If you can do calculus, you can do anything," he said.