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June 12, 2014

IDEXX workers using Portland Startup Weekend as training tool

Portland's third Startup Weekend begins this Friday, and it's just not for aspiring entrepreneurs looking to get their feet wet. It can also be a training tool for established companies seeking to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit in their employees.

That's why IDEXX Laboratories is expected to send at least 10 of its employees to participate in this weekend's event, which is helping kick off the inaugural Maine Startup and Create Week, a week-long conference celebrating the state's budding startup culture.

Todd Paige, a marketing manager at IDEXX, told Mainebiz that his company is supportive of any training opportunities that will help its employees hone their entrepreneurial skills, which is why he sees Portland Startup Weekend as a good fit.

"You can learn about ways to bring ideas to market in a more efficient way," he said. "If that's happening within IDEXX, that ultimately helps them do their job better."

The forthcoming Portland Startup Weekend, which will be held at Peloton Labs on Congress Street, is expected to attract around 50-60 participants seeking to learn what it takes to transform an idea into a functional business plan — in just 48 hours. The event is is among more than 1,500 startup weekends that have been held across the world.

After participants engage in a lightning round of pitches and form teams around the ideas that stick on Friday, they will spend the next two days researching, fine-tuning and developing their ideas for potential, new startups, organizer Liz Trice told Mainebiz. The weekend will end with the teams making four-minute pitches to judges on Sunday night at the Portland Public Library.

"What I like is that it encourages creativity and teamwork," said Trice, owner of Peloton Labs, where most of the events will be held. "It removes a lot of the barriers for pursuing a business idea because you're not distracted by self-doubt and other distractions in your life. What's exciting is how far you can get when you remove those questions and doubts."

The city's first-ever Startup Weekend, which was held in March 2013, helped sprout at least three actual startups, including bizzieMe and Buoy Local, whose founder will speak on Friday.

But it's also attracting employees from at least one established company seeking to use Startup Weekend as a training opportunity.

Alice Ruvain, a copywriter in IDEXX's marketing and communications department, told Mainebiz she approached her manager with the idea of her participating in Portland Startup Weekend for exactly that reason. She said her employer is covering the event's registration costs because the company's core values include innovation and entrepreneurship.

"The idea of putting an idea out on a table and working with a team of people with different skill sets would be a good way to reinforce the creative aspect of the work that I do and the collaborative approach to working the company is trying to foster," she said, noting that her company encourages collaboration among different departments. She added, "The hope is we'll be able to find the people we need to work with and work with them directly, breaking down the barriers to progress."

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