A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending the Roux Institute’s Venture Showcase. This first-of-its-kind, and soon to be annual, event featured business pitches from the nine startups graduating from the Roux’s 2022 Founder Residency, keynote speeches from high-profile entrepreneurs and local leaders, and updates from the Roux’s portfolio companies (Techstars and Founder Residency).
It was a wonderful event filled with entrepreneurial energy and boundless optimism. I enjoyed meeting the entrepreneurs, learning about the startups, and listening to the speeches. I was pleased to hear about the impactful role that MTI has played in the development of many of the ventures and was also gratified to hear how welcoming and helpful Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem has been to the founders. When asked what they found most surprising about Maine, several noted that the support system for entrepreneurs was unexpectedly robust and supportive.
MTI is largely thought of as a source of grant, loan and equity funding but a key part of our statutory mandate is to “ensure that a complementary system of support services, including, as needed and appropriate, incubators, business assistance, technology transfer, market research, patent research and similar services, is in place and available to companies and research laboratories receiving funds from the institute.”
We work to ensure that complementary system exists by providing funding and support to business mentoring and counseling entities like SCORE and the Small Business Development Centers, incubators like TechPlace, the Union River Center for Innovation, and UpStart Center, accelerator programs like TopGun and Dirigo Labs, pitch competitions like Greenlight Maine, and sponsorships of countless entrepreneurial and STEM-related events across Maine. We have a great network of partners and collaborators who all work together to assure that “the rising tide lifts all boats.”
On October 18th, MTI launched a new 5-million-dollar competitive program to further bolster the entrepreneurial support system. The Pandemic Recovery for an Innovative Maine Economy (PRIME) fund, which was financed by the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, is accepting proposals for its Ecosystem Program. The PRIME Ecosystem Fund is designed to spur the development of new programs that directly address negative economic impacts of the pandemic and support innovation in Maine’s technology sectors. Awards must be used for Maine-based programs that benefit entrepreneurs in Maine and serve as a catalyst for startup companies as they scale and grow in the state. The ideal applicant should have a demonstrated track record of success, supported by metrics. Additional consideration is given to applicants that strategically partner with other organizations to expand their strength and reach within sectors and across Maine. Organizations may submit only one application in which they are the lead applicant; however, they may participate on multiple applications where other organizations are the lead. Awards may be approved for multi-year programs.
The PRIME Ecosystem Fund is a competitive application process which requires matching co-investments on behalf of applicants. Awards will be made to a subset of eligible applicants that demonstrate satisfactory adherence to the program mission. Again, MTI has allocated a total of $5 million to this round of funding, and we anticipate individual awards will not exceed $750,000.
We look forward to seeing what types of proposals we receive to further complement the existing set of entrepreneurial services that are available to help grow promising startups in Maine. Awards are expected to be announced before the end of the year. So, stay tuned.
I hope you get a chance to get out to enjoy this glorious fall day. These 60-degree temperatures won’t last much longer!