Providing Maine entrepreneurs with tools and resources to accelerate their businesses
$25,000 Top Gun showcase award
start-up companies Top Gun helped accelerate the growth of
For over 25 years, the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs (MCE) has been on a mission to support the development and growth of the state’s most ambitious entrepreneurs. MCE offers a number of programs to support Maine entrepreneurs including Top Gun, and two food industry accelerators. While the food accelerators are designed to help established food, beverage, or agriculture companies, Top Gun is designed specifically to help startup founders accelerate their business.
In 2008, a partnership with MTI and the Maine Department of Community and Economic Development, enabled the development of Top Gun, MCE’s unique entrepreneurial training program. In addition to financial support, MTI also offers program assistance with client recruitment and guest speaker engagements.
The 15-week program matches founders of potentially high-growth businesses with experienced mentors who provide valuable industry insight and advice. Participants work closely with mentors while engaging in weekly workshops to develop business strategies and an action plan. They also have opportunities to practice developing effective pitches. From learning how to avoid common pitfalls when launching a new business to identifying strategies for raising early-stage funding, or increasing market share, participants learn practical and actionable business knowledge. Other key learning points include marketing strategies, non-debt financing, bootstrapping, and customer discovery. Learning sessions are designed to help participants learn how to make the right decisions at critical growth and development points.
At the end of the program, participants have an opportunity to pitch their business in front of more than 200 business leaders, including potential investors, at the annual Top Gun showcase event. Winners receive the highly-valued $25,000 cash prize provided by MTI. Currently, there are 33 startups participating in the 2023 Top Gun program. While the program started in Portland, it has since expanded throughout Maine and has been held in multiple locations including Portland, Lewiston Auburn, Waterville, Brunswick, Rockland, and Bangor.
With experienced full-time staff members, board members, and more than 250 volunteer mentors, the team at MCE is fully dedicated to helping motivated Maine-based entrepreneurs succeed. Through programs and workshops, MCE has helped accelerate the growth of more than 350 companies across the state. Program graduates have generated over $25 million in revenue. Additionally, the businesses have obtained $7.5 million in capital formation which produced more than 125 Maine-based jobs.
In 2020, a federal grant and MTI’s matching support enabled MCE to expand its program offerings to launch a pilot program supporting Maine’s bioscience business sector. To date, the program has benefitted more than 30 life science entrepreneurs and featured science venture events highlighting industry experts. With continued support from partners like MTI, MCE can continue to offer noteworthy programs as a highly valuable resource to help Maine entrepreneurs succeed.
“MCE is honored to be a leader in Maine’s entrepreneur community and we love the work we do. Our business support services are very symbiotic with Maine Technology Institute’s mission and business culture, in that we are both focused on advancing targeted industries in Maine that are of strategic importance and are creating jobs, and scaling businesses to nationally and globally recognized brands. We are also deeply committed to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion and expanding engagement with historically underserved people and communities.”
– Thomas Rainey, Executive Director