Five years ago Steve and Mary Grove left big jobs at Google in California and moved to Minnesota with their twin toddlers to start a new chapter. Since then, the married couple has navigated a pandemic, job changes and, earlier this month, the start of first grade.
“We both made a bet on Minnesota,” says Steve Grove, who grew up in Northfield and started as CEO and publisher of the Star Tribune this spring, after serving four years as the state’s commissioner of employment and economic development.
While Steve Grove was the public face of the state’s effort to keep businesses and workers afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mary Grove has been less visibly building Minnesota’s startup culture. She arrived in Minnesota as a partner in Bread & Butter Ventures, an investment firm founded by AOL billionaire Steve Case focused on investing in startup businesses outside of Silicon Valley, New York and Boston. Now she runs her own venture capital firm that skews heavily toward tech startups in Minnesota and companies started by women and people of color.
MPR News host Angela Davis talked with Steve and Mary Grove about their marriage and shared commitment to the state as part of Power Pairs, a series featuring conversations with people you might know separately, but when you get them together, you discover a different side of them.
Steve Grove told Davis how the first thing that struck him about his wife was her confidence and ability to make decisions.
“She exudes this confidence. She's thoughtful but doesn't overthink things. She just goes. And I think that really inspires me as a person. And then as I got to know her more and saw her with her family and now with our kids, of course, she's a very caring person. She's always looking out for other people. She's from a small immigrant family that came here from Thailand, so they're tight. It's just a few of them but they look after each other. And I think seeing her do that every day inspires me to try to do the same.”
Mary Grove said Steve showed her the power of unconditional love.
“We are really best friends, we have a close friendship that is rooted in trust – such different backgrounds and yet so similar. He's also just an incredible confidant and the person that I and so many people go to just to share everything. And he's a great sounding board. He listens first, which you'll hear sort of as a theme throughout his life, and then he acts and supports. And then he's just a true 50/50 partner in every sense of the word.”
Mary and Steve Grove are also co-founders of the nonprofit Silicon North Stars, which helps young Minnesotans from underserved communities pursue careers in tech. It started as a passion project to reconnect with their midwestern roots while living in Silicon Valley.
“Fast forward to 2018 when Steve and I moved here, we continued the program as it had been running. And we realized there's a thriving, growing emerging tech ecosystem here and wouldn't it be great if the students actually just built the relationships locally, and could be invited to the local events and could meet their mentors for breakfasts on a regular basis? So in 2019, we shifted gears to focus, same mission, same youth but really on touring the ecosystem here.”
The nonprofit is celebrating 10 years and has over 150 students now, Mary Grove said.
Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation and learn about this power pair’s current and past jobs, their love story, their leisure time and why they decided to put down roots in Minnesota.