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Startups in Maine – The MTI Tech Walk in Bangor

At the Maine Technology Institute Tech Walk:  Victor Hwang of T2 Venture Capital and author of The Rainforest was the keynoter.

It was definitely a day of biotech, genetics research and, laboratory management software.  Quite remarkable, really.  First I spoke to Janet Yancey-Wrona of Bar Harbor Biotechnologies.  Janet was the founding director and president of MTI from 1999-2005, during the time I was founding CorrectDeck.  So it was good to see her.

Then I tech-walked over to see Kat Taylor of Genotyping Center of America.  A year ago when I met GTCA in Top Gun, these guys were all working their day jobs and getting this startup off the ground.   A year late, they’ve made remarkable progress.

I also ran into Jeff Marks of E2 Tech, which stands for Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine, e2tech.org.  I plan to attend their recycling forum Oct. 16.

Then I rock stepped over to re-record Abigail Ames, Director of Technology at Rock Step Solutions, maker of lab management software that works across multiple devices.



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Susan MacKay: Give me a cutting edge technology and a risky market

…if the idea is innovative enough, risky enough, novel enough, and has the potential to impact an entire market, then Dr. Susan MacKay of Cerahelix is ready to take it on!

Susan is founder and CEO of Cerahelix Corp. of Orono, Maine.  The company has developed and commercialized a ceramic membrane technology that provides high purity filtration under harsh conditions.

Sounds like a typical Maine high-tech business to me.  Making holes in ceramic with DNA.  Not.  But this isn’t even Susan’s first ‘big bet’ in high tech materials, and she and her team have the technical background to make this happen.

Susan was previously CEO of Zeomatrix, another materials-based startup. She has more than 20 years’ experience in materials research and characterization, including 6 years in corporate R&D at 3M Corporation. She was a member of the inaugural MCED “Top Gun” class in 2009, and a Mass Challenge finalist in 2011. Susan holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill and was named a “Woman to Watch” by Mass High Tech in 2011.


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#25: Amber Lambke of Maine Grains

Amber Lambke of Maine Grains

Amber is president of Somerset Grains LLC and its Maine Grains label, carried by specialty food stores and used by fine restaurants and bakeries throughout the Northeast. She is also executive director of the Maine Grain Alliance. A driving force behind Maine’s sustainable foods movement, Amber has worked with local business leaders and community members to successfully bring the cultivation and processing of heritage grains back to Skowhegan, Maine. Her efforts through the Maine Grain Alliance have generated a broader understanding and appreciation of the nutritional and economic value of heritage grains and oats, as well as their exceptional flavor. The alliance’s Kneading Conference, co-founded by Amber, now draws thousands of attendees from throughout North America each year.

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A Live Recording of Gorham Savings Bank’s $30,000 #GSBLaunchpad Pitch Contest

#GSBLaunchpad Contestants

This week I have something really different – a live, unedited recording of Gorham Savings Bank’s Launchpad event that took place on April 10th.  Five entrepreneurs, chosen from 130 submissions, 7 minutes to pitch, no slides, win or go home, $30,000 on the line.  Talk about excitement!

If you want your own piece of the entrepreneurial action, be sure to get involved with Maine Startup and Create Week, coming June 12-20 in venues all around Portland.

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#20: Mike St. Pierre of Hyperlite Mountain Gear discusses Maine Business

Mike St Pierre Hyperlite Mtn Gear and Marty Grohman Discuss Maine Business

This week I am pleased to be joined by Mike St. Pierre of Hyperlite Mountain Gear, a Biddeford-based manufacturer of ultra-high performance backcountry gear.  We discuss Mike’s background on tour with The Eagles and at Thomas Keller’s per se, and how it informs the company’s Lean Manufacturing process.  I also get to explore the concept of Minimum Viable Product (which I don’t like), and learn how Hyperlite has adapted it for their product development process (in a way I *do* like). Plus, we tour the shop live and include the recording in the cast, something I’ve never done before; and learn a really killer grilled lobster recipe.

If you’re intrigued, at about halfway through the cast there’s a discount code for 10% off your purchase at Hyperlite Mountain Gear.

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#17: Key Insights from Pete Vigue of Cianbro

I had a great interview with Pete and he was very generous with his time so I split it into two sections – this is the second half.  We sat down at Cianbro HQ in Pittsfield, Maine.   Here are some quick insights that I took away – what are some of yours?

-Maine people don’t want anything more than an opportunity.  When I see the pain and suffering that exists in this state, I feel guilty for the success that I’ve had.  I want to allow our people to be part of the success.

-We do some crazy stuff. When you work together and create the right environment, anything’s possible. We’ve been identified as the healthiest and safest company in the country.  There is huge opportunity in the State,  it just takes a little hard work.

-Say you’re in a situation where nobody can get enough welders to bid on a key job.  You can complain about that.  But if you train 250 welders, you’ll have 250 welders.  The other guy won’t.  The companies that have the people get the work.

-We can’t recreate the past.  In Maine, we build things.  If we look at the effect of the pulp and paper industry, 70-80% of our business was pulp and paper, now it’s 6%.  We’ve had to reinvent ourselves.   That’s how we can build components for oil fields in Brewer.

-There will be tremendous demand for well-educated and skilled people.  This is a North American and European problem.  It isn’t a Maine problem.  We have good quality of life.  We have good availability of people and resources.   Our people can do anything you put in front of them.   So we spend hugely in training, and we export our knowledge and our skill.

Lastly: Cianbro outfitted the leading search engine company’s oblong cargo vessel.  Pete is not at liberty to talk about it.  But do you wanna be invited to the party, when they finally let on what they’re doing with it?  Like the show on Facebook – it’s as good of a chance as any.

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#16: Pete Vigue of Cianbro

Pete Vigue is one of Maine’s most remarkable CEOs.  He’s led Cianbro Corporation, an employee – owned heavy construction firm

Pete Vigue 2013 - head shot

based in Pittsfield, Maine, through a period of remarkable growth, and he’s done it in an unexpected way.  In the lingo of these times, Cianbro has pivoted.

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#15: David Stone co-founder of CashStar speaks at Envision Maine

This is a recording of David Stone’s talk at the Envision Maine series, originally recorded on 1/8/14.  Register for the next Envision Maine talk at www.envisionmaine.org and use the discount code GrowMaine for 20% off!

David Stone is one of David D Stone Payments 207Maine’s most remarkable entrepreneurs.  As co-founder of CashStar, his sixth startup, he put Maine’s tech startup community on the map.  The company has grown quickly and in fact was recently ranked the 6th fastest growing tech startup in the country, handling hundreds of millions of dollars of online gift card sales.

David’s talk is an engaging review of his five previous startups (including one with guest #3 Les Otten) and how they led to the phenomenal success of CashStar.

David has since moved on to another venture but remains a wonderful supporter of Portland’s tech community, and can be reached via his website www.payments-207.com.

PS:  Thanks to Mick Dunn of the podcast Risking Failure for making this recording.

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Mick Dunn of Shift Energy LLC

Mick Dunn of Shift Energy LLC

Mick Dunn is one of Maine’s most remarkable entrepreneurs.  OK, well, he’s one of Australia’s most remarkable entrepreneurs, but he’s here in Maine.  (Don’t you just love these Maine businesses that are national and international leaders?).Mick Dunn of Shift Energy LLC

Mick’s got a background in commercial construction, and a multimillion dollar renewable energy business in a niche I’m guessing you don’t even think is legit, solar air heating.  But if it’s done right, solar air heating can easily heat a gymnasium, and that’s what Mick’s company Shift Energy does.

So listen in as we get to hear some good Australian business expressions like ‘even the keel out’, and international perspective on doing business in Maine, including that it can be an insular market, and why that’s a good thing; as well as an introduction to Mick’s podcast, Risking Failure.

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