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December 12, 2017

Top Gun expands to include aquaculture startups

Photo / Courtesy of Maine Center For Entrepreneurial Development
Photo / Courtesy of Maine Center For Entrepreneurial Development
Thomas Rainey, executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, announced that MCED and its partners decided to include aquaculture startups in the Brunswick class of the 2018 Top Gun program.

About Top Gun

Top Gun fast-tracks the progress of Maine's most promising early stage, high-growth potential companies through a combination of mentoring, learning sessions and networking.

About Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development

MCED is an independent nonprofit organization based in Portland that helps the most promising Maine companies launch and grow through mentoring, training and connections. MCED is a founding organizational partner of Maine Accelerates Growth. It is supported by FocusMaine, the Maine Technology Institute, the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Camden National Bank and the Upstart Center for Entrepreneurship. Other corporate sponsors, local businesses, partner organizations, program advisors and mentors also contribute to the success of the program.

The Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development and its partners are expanding next year's Top Gun entrepreneurship program to include companies in the aquaculture sector.

MCED announced Monday that applications are now being accepted for Top Gun 2018, an entrepreneurship acceleration program that has helped more than 175 startups since 2009.

Partnering with the University of Maine, Gulf of Maine Research Institute, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center and Lewiston/Auburn Economic Growth Council, MCED stated in a news release that the 2018 program will accept about 40 companies in total, about 10 companies in each of the 2018 locations: Portland, Bangor, Lewiston/Auburn and Brunswick.

MCED stated that due to the support of Gulf of Maine Research Institute, the Brunswick class will be focused on companies in the aquaculture sector, including shellfish and seaweed producers, processors and businesses that provide support services.

"GMRI is delighted to be working with MCED to develop an aquaculture-focused program," Chris Vonderweidt, aquaculture program manager at GMRI, said in a news release. "With so many aquaculture businesses in the startup phase, it's an exciting time to offer a program tailored to the needs of the industry."

How the Top Gun competition works

In addition to submitting a short online application, prospective companies will be required to submit a pitch deck and present a live pitch to the interview committee in the location they wish to join. Optional "preflight workshops" will be offered in all locations prior to the January deadline to assist applicants in preparing pitch decks and polishing their live pitch.

The program will conclude with regional pitch-off events, in which the top two finishers in each region will move on to compete for a $10,000 cash prize sponsored by the Maine Technology Institute. Additionally, thanks to a sponsorship from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Maine Aquaculture Association, there will be two additional $5,000 cash prizes to the top two aquaculture-based companies.

Top Gun graduate companies include: Garbage to Garden, a Greenlight Maine winner; Bixby & Co., a Gorham Savings Bank LaunchPad winner; Rapport, the Steve Case Rise of the Rest winner; and Thrivant Health, last year's Top Gun Showcase winner. Several other Top Gun companies have competed in the CleanTech Open and MassChallenge. Many others have received funding from the Maine Technology Institute, Maine Angels, and various venture capital firms. Two companies, Liquid Wireless and Buoy Local, were also acquired.

Program information and applications are available on MCED's website. Applications are due Jan. 10 and the program begins Feb. 7 and runs through June 2018.

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