Entrepreneurial Road Show
To some, new tech and entrepreneurship can only be found –or at least financed – in the big startup hotbeds of Silicon Valley – or maybe New York, if you’re a New Yorker – or Kendall Square if you’re from MIT or Harvard. But that didn’t stop a music festival called South by South West from turning into an annual celebration of technology and art near Austin Texas
So, just maybe, entrepreneurship thrives in places where a community comes together to support it. Such is the theory of Steve Case who created a project called Rise of the Rest which came to Maine via Portland last month – the end stop of a nationwide tour showcasing exciting new – communities that incubate and celebrate entrepreneurial endeavors.
Steve should know, he was the founder of America On Line, yes AOL which when sold to Time Warner turned him into a billionaire on a mission. Maine got to showcase a few visits in and around Portland and the evening culminated in a pitch contest co-hosted by Jess Knox, current head of Maine Accelerates Growth & Olympico Strategies and a co-founder of Maine Startup and Create Week. His background includes working with Blackstone a Venture Capital Group and a stint as assistant Administrator of SBA Field Operations. He’s the right person to cheerlead this next generation of Maine Entrepreneurship.
The Revolution powered road show came into Maine with former Massachusetts Governor Duval Patrick and met up with US Senator Angus King and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree for the daytime business visits. These are all folks who make a difference and take real action. Senator King and I go back to his Plus One program as governor where every Maine business that added at least one employee got gubernatorial recognition.
Duval Patrick, as Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, actively participated in international trade missions to significant consumer and tech places like China, Israel and Denmark, growing Massachusetts footprint in BioPharma and mobile technology. Today he heads up Bain & Company’s Social Impact Investing initiative. Each of these folks have been regulars on the entrepreneurial and tech circuit. They always smile and take the time to say hello and more importantly to enquire and show real interest in the new businesses that they encounter.
The future of work and economic stability lies in the intersection of doing good while doing well financially. Seth Godin asks when did the community shift to chartering corporations who view their primary task as just making money for their investors? We might not have public libraries today were it not for Andrew Carnegie and his broader mission of adding community value.
The winning pitch was for a clean tech app leveraging the power of big data that is now available. My personal choice went to LobsteRx, a startup based out of the University of Maine, Orono. They were one of the few finalists that exhibited leadership-team diversity in both age and gender and presented a product direction mix that could help Maine with marketing visibility and a significant number of jobs. With focus from skincare to cancer, LobsteRx can have impact on major life areas. Their source product is Lobster, something the world fully identifies with Maine.
By focusing on re-use and conversion of some of the 20-30 million pounds of lobster processing waste, we get jobs, PR and a uniquely Maine identified mascot in the mix. Even though only a part of Maine is involved with the lobster industry, there are still some compelling economic facts associated with it, like upwards of $1.7 billion in total economic impact (2012 figures), 5 to 7 changes of hands from “caught to bought” as the Press Herald called it. Maine is responsible for more than 75% of the world’s lobster catch and the US and Canada see a combined f $4 billion in economic impact. Linda Bean figured it out. We’ve got a number of entrepreneurs who will also. Let’s support the local efforts, help fund them and amplify their messages.
You can find the original print edition of this article in THE CRYER ONLINE NOVEMBER 2015 page 8 The Boston and Maine Connection.