The words Top Gun always evoke memories of the blockbuster Hollywood movie of the 1980s. It also makes me think of a quote I once heard which aptly notes, and I am paraphrasing, that our society is made up of both optimists and pessimists. The optimist invented the airplane, and the pessimist invented the parachute.
I would contend that both the airplane and parachute are clever and opportunistic solutions developed by visionary entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs generally identify problems and propose solutions. They use their imaginations and ingenuity to innovate and iterate. They dare to dream big and sometimes achieve extraordinary things. And, occasionally, they fail in their pursuits, but they very rarely ever give up.
The participants in Maine’s Top Gun program embody those same amazing characteristics. Top Gun, administered by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs (MCE), is a 15-week virtual business accelerator program that provides education and training, and matches entrepreneurs with experienced mentors. You know, the Top Gun program has been around since 2009 and its establishment was supported with funds from MTI. The program has continued to provide great value to entrepreneurs and MTI has been happy to help it grow and expand its reach. We continue to be impressed with its remarkable evolution and impact.
One key aspect of the program includes the development of effective pitches, and the ability to deliver them in a commanding and impactful manner. There are four different regional cohorts of Top Gun participants. Those cohorts take place in Portland, Lewiston/Auburn, Bangor, and Waterville. Once the individual pitches have been refined, the entrepreneurs face off in regional pitch-offs. Two from each region eventually advance to the Top Gun Showcase with a chance to win $25,000, courtesy of MTI.
The eight finalists this year include: Coexist, Community Staffing Partners, DenVantage Small Business, DuraBike, LLC, Halo Med, LLC, Stay FnB, The Cubby, and The Good Crust. Tonight’s Showcase begins at 5:30P and runs until 7:30P. You can register here to watch the competition.
Finally, it is important to note that the Top Gun Final Showcase is the culmination of many months of planning and effort by MCE’s exceptional staff and board. I deeply appreciate the dedicated and tireless commitment of all those involved with Top Gun and I want to utilize this opportunity to specifically commend MCE Board Chair Andrea Suter, Executive Director Tom Rainey, Top Gun Coordinator Laurie Johnson, and the entire MCE team for their ongoing efforts to grow the innovation ecosystem in Maine.
Tune in tonight to watch the amazing entrepreneurs as they strive to reach new heights. Their jubilant optimism will inspire and influence you. And, you can leave the parachutes at home.
I hope you have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.