We started our journey as GoKart Labs 10 years ago as a product and experience company. We saw a need for transformative digital solutions to human problems. And in 10 years, that need hasn’t changed. So we continue to look to the future.
GoKart Labs formally came together in 2009 based on a desire to do things differently and to create something we didn’t believe existed yet—a digital innovation lab.
We cut our teeth on digital products and experiences. We weren’t an ad agency. Not a business consultancy or a dev shop. We had those capabilities, but we applied them to helping business leaders grow their organizations. Then, it was about innovation. Today, it’s about transformation.
In that time, we saw a need for education accessible from any location and built Sophia. an online education platform which continues to offer low-cost for-credit courses today.
In 2010, we grew out of our two-guys-in-a-garage model and hit double digits.
We saw the Twins Stadium go up in our little downtown Minneapolis backyard. We developed our process and methods and birthed Playing Field : a framework for planning goals and constraints in a grounded, easy to understand metaphor.
Between 2011-2012, we had plenty of firsts. Both joyous and frustrating, we knew we were just getting started.
In 2011, we had our first intern start working in the Minneapolis lab. We innovated on our strategic offering and held our first Iteration Zero with a client. Our office flooded for the first time, an incident few of us will soon forget. In 2012, Sophia, our first business venture, was acquired by Capella Education Company. And we hosted our first GK600; a race day bringing our whole company together to invent a viable product with $600 in 600 minutes.
In 2013, we clarified what was important to us with the launch of our core values, as well as a framework called Traction to guide our internal processes.
Coming together as a company, we discussed what values an ideal GoKarter exemplifies. What do we admire about each other. What do we aspire to every day. We came away with Balance, High Standards and Taste, Pursuit of Clarity, Fearless Exploration, Purposeful Innovation and Ownership.
We also established a new way to celebrate those who exemplify the core values week to week with a dolphin-shaped trophy called Baco.
Entrepreneurship has always been in our blood, and we started to see big opportunities with the ventures we had already started, while new ideas cropped up left and right.
Throughout 2014, we ramped up our startup cred with a couple of big moves—killed our darling Kinly, a social media app for families; exited BringMeTheNews, a first of its kind news aggregator; and started The Big Know, the world’s first branded education company.
In 2016, A.J. Meyer, our co-founder, moved out to Washington D.C. to quietly open another lab.
We decided to branch out of Minneapolis, and if our experience in launching products and companies has taught us anything, it’s that we couldn’t get too attached to any particular ideas before they were validated. We had already picked up some DC-based clients and it made sense to have our people closer to that work.
In 2017, we doubled down on our entrepreneurial roots and expanded our capabilities to start taking pitches for investment in new startups.
This manifested as the GoKart Ventures, a startup studio and incubator that invents and invests in businesses. We saw an opportunity to help entrepreneurs with resources and guidance while at the same time offering our knowledge of lean startups to larger companies that needed a big problem solved.
A big year for us, 2018 ushered in our most focused plans for increasing diversity and inclusion at GoKart Labs.
As our office has grown from small to medium, amount to roughly 50 full-time employees, we have taken a hard look at ourselves and our culture to understand where we want to be as we continue to grow as a company.
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As our business strategy evolves, we’ve made the decision to put a focus on the number of lives we impact rather than other traditional business metrics. This year and moving forward, we are looking at user numbers and reach to understand how many lives we are touching. While it’s not an exact science, it’s a place to start.
Lives impacted through our work in healthcare
Lives impacted through our work in finance
Lives impacted through our work in education
Once a GoKarter, always an innovator
Many amazing people have come and gone from our labs.
We don’t think of them as ex-employees, but rather alumni. These are the folks who have gone into the world and started ventures like business consulting, jewelry design, food community incubator or coffee industry disruptor. They’ve joined companies we have founded like The Big Know and Sophia Learning or our clients like Allina Health. Or, they’ve branched out entirely to write children’s books, pursue a career in acting or work to fight fake news.
They are leading teams, departments, consultancies, and projects elsewhere, but they will always be a part of what has made GoKart Labs a special place these last 10 years.
Our first 10 years is not our last.
Reach out to say hello, congrats, or if you’d like to change the world with us.