Top Gun Pilot
In 2009, MTI and the then Maine Center for Enterprise Development saw the need for entrepreneurial education in Maine. MTI saw that many of its portfolio companies needed more than MTI funding to get to the next level of growth. Through the Cluster Initiative Program, MTI funded a pilot project at MCED called Top Gun. The first Top Gun class of entrepreneurs took place in Portland and MTI and MCED realized they were on to something. With data gathered during the pilot, MTI, MCED and the University of Maine were able to form the collaboration that became Blackstone Accelerates Growth and leverage the lessons learned through the MTI award into a $3 million investment from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation in New York into Maine’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Top Gun is now an exclusive entrepreneurial development program focused on mentor assistance and higher level business development needs for a class of about 30 ventures annually who must apply for acceptance, with completion of Top Gun Prep as a prerequisite. Currently offered in the Portland, Bangor, and the Midcoast, with plans to expand to Lewiston Auburn, the program is tailored to the entrepreneurial ecosystem of each region and is refined annually based on the learnings from the previous year’s cohort. Top Gun uses an online application and a rigorous review process for selecting each class. Top Gun is coordinated by MCED with teams on the ground in Bangor and Rockland. Each location provides mentors and volunteer leaders and MTI provides participants and mentors. Top Gun’s once-a-week for five months curriculum culminates in a regional showcase pitch contest, the winners of which compete at the statewide showcase pitch contest and demo day, which historically draws more than 250 attendees.