Processing Your Payment

Please do not leave this page until complete. This can take a few moments.

Updated: December 10, 2021

From fintech to baby-bottle tech, startups make their pitches at Portland accelerator's 'Demo Day'

Roux Institute event at Ocean Gateway - person speaking in front of audience Photo / Renee Cordes Kicking off Thursday's founder presentations, Roydon Jeffrey presented Listed B, a social booking app for beauty and wellness services in the Black community.

From a social booking app for beauty and wellness services in the Black community to a fintech that aims to reinvent how rent is paid, 10 tech-focused startups showcased their innovations Thursday in Portland.

Founders took the stage at the capstone "Demo Day" event of the Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator, pitching to a live audience of more than 300 people and close to 400 others watching remotely. The audience included around 50 investors at the Ocean Gateway in Portland, and an additional 80 who had registered for the livestream.

While ending their 13-week program, the inaugural Techstars are just at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, with at least three companies planning to relocate to Maine. Others say they're also considering it, as well as options for continued collaboration, such as a possible "Startup House" based here with shared living space.

Lars Perkins, a former Google executive who leads the accelerator as managing director, lauded the participants for taking on the "crazy life" of an entrepreneur while underscoring that the Roux Institute as a "world-class research institute that acts like a startup."

Noting the necessity of integrating academics with the real world, he added, "It's exciting to be a part of that, because that's exactly what the Roux Institute is doing." 

Northeastern University's Roux Institute, based in Portland, runs the accelerator program with Techstars, a Boulder, Colo.-based seed investment firm with similar programs worldwide. In his welcome remarks at Thursday's event, Perkins told attendees, "There have been hundreds of Techstars Demo Days all over the world, but this is the first one in Maine."

Fellow Google alum Rich Miner, the Boston-based founder of Android and a mentor in the Portland accelerator program, described Portland's startup vibe as similar to that of Seattle pre-Microsoft and pre-Amazon, saying, "It is fertile ground ... for startups."

Thursday's event was held nearly two years after an event at the same venue in January 2020, marking the launch of the Roux Institute with a $100 million donation from tech entrepreneur and Lewiston native David Roux and his wife, Barbara. Their goal was create an "innovation hub" focused on technology and life sciences. Later that year, Gov. Janet Mills welcomed the first incoming class of 76 graduate students in a virtual ceremony.

Janet Mills speaking at podium at Ocean Gateway
Photo / Renee Cordes
Gov. Janet Mills speaks at Thursday's event.

In her remarks at Thursday's Demo Day, Mills told the accelerator program graduates that Maine is ready to help those that choose to stay in any way it can from remote work arrangements to financing from organizations such as Maine Technology Institute.

Similarly, Roux Institute Chief Administrative Officer Chris Mallett told the group, "You're honorary Mainers  — whether you choose to relocate here or not — forever."

Mills also spoke of Maine's long history of innovation, referencing Chester Greenwood, the engineer and inventor known for inventing the earmuffs from Mills's hometown of Farmington.

Invoking a line from the 1997 film "As Good as it Gets," Mills told the accelerator program participants: "You make us want to be a better state. And we will, and we are, a better state." Later when asked by Mainebiz if she would invest in any of the companies, she said, "If I had the money I would."

During the main event on stage, founders gave short, lively presentations that were as entertaining as they were informative.

Products and services varied widely, from a tech-enabled baby bottle that heats formula and breast milk to the perfect temperature to a provider of data and analytics to e-sports organizations in what has become the world's largest spectator sport.

Noah King, founder and CEO of Attention Exchange Inc., one of the startups planning to relocate to Maine, shared how his company provides market research to small businesses at a low cost, with 15 customers so far including the Portland Sea Dogs.

He told Mainebiz that it was an honor to share the stage with his fellow cohort members, and each team had shared their pitches with 60 mentors to fine-tune their stories and then rehearsed for weeks and recorded their pitches with a professional television crew.

"This preparation helped make for a great event with confident and relaxed presentations from all companies," he said.

"I can't emphasize enough how important it is to learn the art of telling your business story. Lars Perkins is a master storyteller and brought in the mentor and guest speaker resources needed to help each company find their story and present it in a clear and authentic way."

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


Order a PDF