Maine’s Top Gun Program . . . Highway to the Growth Zone

May 25, 2017 | President’s blog

The past two days, entrepreneurs from four different regions of Maine assembled to participate in pitch competitions for the right to advance and contend for a $10,000 cash prize. The pitches by the entrepreneurs served as the culmination of an intensive four-month program delivered by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development (MCED). The program, operated since 2009, is titled Top Gun.

Recalling the blockbuster movie of the same name which starred Tom Cruise and came out when I was in college – – umm, back in 1986 for those who were trying to figure out just how old I am – – I turned to the internet movie database IMDB to see if I could draw any similarities between the movie and MCED’s Top Gun program. IMDB describes the movie in the following manner, “As students at the United States Navy’s elite fighter weapons school compete to be best in the class, one daring young pilot learns a few things from a civilian instructor that are not taught in the classroom.”

Much like the movie description, Top Gun delivers entrepreneurs with vital advice, training and connections that cannot necessarily be gained in business school.  The genius of Top Gun is that it utilizes experienced coaches and mentors who have started and grown companies, developed products, penetrated markets, raised capital, and learned valuable lessons from their past successes and failures. These real-world experiences allow the mentors to impart valuable instruction and guidance to the promising entrepreneurs to help them avoid common pitfalls and position them for success.  And, much like the iconic line from the movie, “I feel the need, the need for speed,” MCED’s Top Gun program helps talented entrepreneurs accelerate the growth of their ventures.

The Maine Technology Institute has been delighted to play a small role in helping to fund the establishment and expansion of the Top Gun program in Maine and we continue to marvel at its remarkable growth and impact – – having now graduated over 140 entrepreneurs from the program, and having significantly grown employment and revenue in these companies.  Additionally, MTI has a long and rewarding history of investments in Maine companies before, during and after participation in Top Gun.

Over the past two evenings, I had the opportunity to attend the regional pitch-off competition in Bangor on Tuesday, as well as the Lewiston event last night, and was impressed with the budding companies, impressive founders, and skillfully-delivered pitches.  Competitions were also held last evening in Portland and Rockland but, regrettably, I could not be in three places at once.  Each of the four regions selected two entrepreneurs to advance to the Top Gun Final Showcase in Portland on June 7th.

MTI is proud to sponsor the $10,000 Top Gun prize and I look forward to attending the Showcase. I hope you will consider joining me in celebrating the inspiring entrepreneurs and companies that will be competing on June 7th and catching a glimpse of some of Maine’s rising stars and companies.


Brian Whitney