A Rochester startup discovered success at the prestigious MN Cup business competition.

Shrpa, an online platform that spotlights communities through day trips, was created by Chris Lukenbill and Andy Vig in 2019. The project has grown as they and a small team have continued to work on it.

They applied to the annual MN Cup competition, which is an annual public-private event managed by the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

Shrpa placed third last week in “High Tech,” one of nine categories. While Lukenbill was pleased with that, it was an unexpected award that really gave the young company a positive boost.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development named Shrpa the “Most Innovative Greater MN Startup," an award that came with a $10,000 prize.

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“The recognition and support of DEED for Shrpa is a vote of confidence as we look to scale throughout Minnesota and beyond,” he stated. “That was something we weren’t expecting. That’s a great way to get our name out and get some funds to help continue our mission.”

Shrpa is aimed at helping travelers explore communities and experience them as a “local” would. To do that, Shrpa offers “crowd-sourced” itineraries for day trips in a community, like Rochester, that highlights specific businesses and features.

“Our customers are the local communities, visitors bureaus, destination marketing organizations, the chambers of commerce …,” Lukenbill said. “How are they getting the word about their community to potential travelers? … We’ve created subscriptions opportunities for them to be able to promote their sites, be able to connect with travel influencers and be able to provide content featuring their location.”