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May 27, 2022

Dutch cleantech cleans up in Top Gun business-pitch contest

People holding an oversized $25,000 check Photo / Kevin Fahrman From left, Laurie Johnson and Tom Rainey of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs present the $25,000 Top Gun prize to Bernard Hidier of Finsulate at Thursday's ceremony.

Days after a Dutch startup announced plans to establish its U.S. headquarters in Portland, the company was crowned the winner of the 2022 Top Gun Showcase business-pitch competition and of a $25,000 prize.

The annual event was back in person this year, with a live event in which finalists had five minutes to share their story in front of judges and a live audience at the University of Southern Maine in Portland. 

This year's winner, represented by Bernard Hidier, is the maker of an antifouling technology for vessels and floating marine equipment. Hidier will lead the company's operations in the U.S., and told Mainebiz earlier this week he plans to maintain and grow the company's presence in Portland.

In the final round, Finsulate competed against Bijou Build, a Waterville developer of collapsible outdoor play structures with interchangeable panels; Portland social enterprise Rugged Seas; Seaweed Evolution, a Bangor company that fuses Maine-grown seaweed to reduce methane gas in livestock; and Teach 2 Move, a Lewiston-Auburn startup seeking to help schools, coaches and administrators address athletes' social and emotional needs.

"We return to this Top Gun Showcase event changed by our individual and collective experiences of the pandemic, racial injustice, volatile national politics and now a war in Europe. We are living in turbulent times and for that reason, I am especially impressed by the resilience of Maine’s entrepreneurs and encouraged by their creativity, optimism, and positive energy.  We should all be proud of them,” said Tom Rainey, executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs.

The Top Gun Showcase is the culmination of a 15-week program for competitively selected entrepreneurs that combines mentoring with high-impact weekly gatherings held across the state. Since 2009, the Maine Center for Entrepreneur’s Top Gun program has helped over 300 entrepreneurs accelerate their businesses.

The $25,000 prize is sponsored by the Maine Technology Institute. The event was sponsored by the University of Maine Graduate and Professional Center and the Top Gun statewide sponsor is Bangor Savings Bank.

Other awards were given at the Top Gun Showcase. Lew Leathersich of Seaweed Evolution received the Michael Sheehan Memorial Award from Preti Flaherty. The award is given annually to a selected member of MCE’s Top Gun class.

The Victoria Hilliard Donovan Award was given to Katie Weiler of Viable Gear. The award, created by Michael Donovan and Deborah Curtis in memory of their daughter who died in 1988, recognizes women in entrepreneurship with a focus around science or engineering.

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May 28, 2022

Wow, I’m disappointed the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs didn’t select a Maine Company.

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