Why aren’t there more scalable entrepreneurs in Maine?

Here’s my question. MassChallenge, the renowned accelerator for start-ups in Boston recently announced its 2012 class of entrepreneurs – 125 companies selected from an applicant pool of 1237 from 35 counties and 36 state. Now, I know that they have a $1 million prize, so that obviously brings out a lot of folks, but 90 of the finalists are from Massachusetts. That means that our neighbor to the south has produced 90 really decent start-ups this year, out of a population of 6.5 million. I figured out that if Maine created start-ups at this same rate, we would have 18 great start-ups this year. But we don’t. Not of this caliber. In fact, we’re lucky to get one Maine company a year that can operate in this environment – we’ve had two Maine companies be selected for MassChallenge in the four years of its existence. Anyone have any ideas why not? Or, more importantly, what can/should we do about it?

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4 Responses to Why aren’t there more scalable entrepreneurs in Maine?

  1. Cathy, I wonder what happened with those two Maine companies that led them to be selected. What did they do, what were the circumstances, how did they use their resources, who helped them, what was the timing, etc.? Are there reasons for their success that other companies can learn from and replicate? Susan

  2. steve cole says:

    With essentially a single graduate degree-granting institution, Maine cannot attract a critical mass of researchers, grad. students, R&D and science entreprenurial types. We need more science-based graduate programs here. My solution? Interest one or more of Maine’s elite undergraduate colleges in establishing graduate programs of strategic value to the state and match the program start-up costs. This might have been possible during the King or Baldacci years and with luck, will be again sometime.

  3. Hi Cathy,

    I like your question. As a person involved at the cusp of this problem (an engineer specializing in new product development, including design, improvement, patent applications, safety, quality control) the one thing I have found dismally missing is a meaningful forum for folks with these needs to get what they need to get over the first hump — some financial help in getting the idea off the ground and out where the world can decide how worthy it is.

    I’ve had good assistance from DECD and SCORE, and even some support from MTI, but frankly what seems hard to find is a ‘gathering’ — similar to Jake Ward’s inventors forum of some years back. (I’ve seen no sign of it in years.)

    In short, finding funding seems like hunting for good luck.

    Maine is a huge geography, with expensive time-consuming travel needs, so that poses a major obstacle to physically getting together. As a member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, I know how it feels to decide where to hold a monthly meeting such that folks in New Brunswick, southern New Hampshire and northern Maine can attend, and more importantly, get to know one another.

    With today’s ubiquitous data networking, it would seem possible (as with your blog) to gather around the woodstove (let’s call it “the Internet”) and share stories and individual competencies. Yes, there are security (confidentiality) issues here, but once one has their patent on file ($150), it’s time to screech the tires and get moving . . . not to spend two or three years trying to find funds to then write a grant request that will be misunderstood and likely turned down, for a second or third energy-sapping go-round.

    Here in Maine, we are working HARD to inspire our youngsters to invest their talents into engineering, where their native ingenuity will lead to all sorts of great (and not so great) ideas. We have about five or ten organizations (MEPC, SCORE, MTI, DECD, MPP, MEP, Pioneers, UMS, SME, MCED . . . ) that are engaged in the project of inspiring new ventures, and Chuck Lawton is planning on writing his Sunday Telegram column this week on the “social entrepreneur and the hybrid organization.”

    Perhaps some way, we can pull all this effort together and increase our success rate. Of course, there will always be risk, and our Governor is sharply pointing out that we have precious little money in the coffers, so this will mostly need to run on rampant enthusiasm — which we have aplenty. 🙂

  4. Scott robinett says:

    I think Pete hit it on the head.

    “In short, finding funding seems like hunting for good luck.”

    You left out Maine SBDC…..

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