Last week, Mainebiz featured a story highlighting the twelve Maine companies that made Inc. magazine’s 2021 annual list of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States. To make the list, businesses must have had revenue of at least $2 million in the most recent year, and be privately held, independent companies.
While it’s exciting that, despite the pandemic, twelve Maine organizations made the prestigious list, I am particularly pleased to note that half of them – – Origin in Farmington; SaviLinx and STARC Systems of Brunswick; and Tilson Technology, Sea Bags, and MuniciPAY of Portland – – are MTI portfolio companies. What exactly do I mean when I refer to them as MTI portfolio companies? Being a portfolio company signifies that the entity has received some level of funding or assistance from MTI over the course of their business journey.
These organizations and their respective leaders and teams are not only success stories, but they are also examples of the vibrant startup ecosystem that exists in Maine. In this month’s blog, I will profile just a handful.
STARC Systems, for example, is one that I like to highlight as a prototypical MTI success story. MTI has been part of the STARC Systems story from the beginning. In fact, the company’s two founders met at an MTI networking event. STARC started out in the manufacturing space at the MTI-supported TechPlace incubator at Brunswick Landing. They originally approached MTI about their innovative new wall containment product and sought some early funding to conduct market research. Satisfied that there was a market for the product, they received some additional MTI funding to develop a prototype. They improved the prototype and added key features requested by companies, and ultimately received MTI funding to accelerate the growth of the company. Now in a high-growth phase, STARC has hired more employees, increased the quality of its highly competitive benefits package and is bringing Maine-made building products to the national and international stage. Appearing on the Inc. 5000 list for the third straight year, they now employ almost 90 people and recently appeared as a finalist in the MTI-supported pitch competition Greenlight Maine.
SaviLinx has now appeared on the Inc. 5000 list for the fifth straight year. It is led by the indefatigable Heather Blease and is Maine’s largest woman-owned business, with over 1,000 employees between Maine and Massachusetts. In addition to MTI, SaviLinx has benefited from the support and assistance of ecosystem partners like the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, the Midcoast Council of Governments, and the Maine Rural Development Authority. Heather Blease was recently named as one of Mainebiz’s Women to Watch. And, if you haven’t read the story about her remarkable entrepreneurial journey, I encourage you to do so. It’s truly an extraordinary chronicle of perseverance, resilience, and resolve.
Tilson has now made the Inc. 5000 list for eleven straight years. Its CEO, Josh Broder, was recently named Entrepreneur Of The Year® by Ernst & Young’s competitive award program for entrepreneurs and leaders of high-growth companies. CEI Ventures, a subsidiary of Coastal Enterprises in Brunswick, was the first outside investor in Tilson. Under Josh Broder’s leadership, Tilson has grown from 10 to 550 employees. Somehow, while leading this fast-growing enterprise during a global health crisis, Josh also found time to give back to his state as co-chair of Maine’s Economic Recovery Committee (ERC). The ERC, made up of 37 Maine leaders appointed by the Governor, spent seven months in 2020 working to develop recommendations to help Maine’s economy rebound from the pandemic. Its report provided eight essential recommendations to help position Maine’s economy for future prosperity and growth.
Sea Bags is led by its award-winning CEO and President Don Oakes and COO Beth Shissler, another of Mainebiz’s Women to Watch in 2011. Both Oakes and Shissler were recognized in 2018 as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Maine Small Business Persons of the Year. Appearing on the Inc. 5000 list for the third straight year, Sea Bags is expanding at an impressive and aggressive rate. In addition to MTI, they have received investments from the Maine Venture Fund and now employ over 200 people in a legacy Maine industry, textiles, and are creating useful and creative works of art out of used and discarded sails. While recycling the sails to make high-end handbags and related gifts, they have also saved over 700 tons of materials from going into landfills.
Again, MTI, along with some critical innovation ecosystem partners, is proud to have played a small role in helping six of Maine’s twelve fastest growing companies succeed but, without a doubt, the impressive leaders and teams at the firms are the driving forces behind the achievements. We commend them on their remarkable revenue and employment growth and wish them well as they continue to scale and grow in Maine.