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June 4, 2015

Microsoft surprises 3 Top Gun finalists with $60K each in services; Rapport takes $10K prize

Photo / Courtesy of Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development Don Gooding, executive director of Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, left, with the winners of Microsoft's BizSpark program.

Sustainability software company Rapport took the $10,000 prize at the Top Gun Showcase Wednesday night at the University of Southern Maine.

What stole the show, however, was the extra $60,000 in in-kind software and services Microsoft Corp. offered each of the top three companies: Rapport, American Unagi and RockStep Solutions. The award is from Microsoft’s BizSpark program, which provides technology, support, visibility and community to promising startups and entrepreneurs.

American Unagi of Thomaston is growing locally harvested eels to market size in Maine, and RockStep Solutions of Bar Harbor develops advanced information management systems.

John Rooks, CEO of the Portland-based Rapport, and Justin Jaffe, COO, gave the winning five-minute pitch before a panel of judges, an audience of mostly other entrepreneurs and nine other Top Gun program finalists.

Mainebiz wrote about the 10 finalists in a story on June 3.

Rapport makes a platform that helps small- and medium-sized businesses manage their sustainability efforts so they can let customers know key metrics behind their conservation efforts, such as the amount of energy and water used and carbon equivalents.

“The easiest way for you to think of this is QuickBooks for sustainability,” Rooks said. The product starts at $99 per month per site.

He said the company is interested in sustainability efforts at large corporations as well as the 8 million smaller U.S. companies in their supply chain. “An increasing number of them are feeling the ripple effect of this new requirement to supply environmental and social metrics up to their largest competitors.”

The company is looking to raise $250,000 to use as the match for a Maine Technology Institute commercial development loan.

“I love the concept. I think you have a great niche,” Heather Blease, CEO of SaviLinx, a Brunswick-based call center company, told Rooks and Jaffe. Blease was among the 12 judges at the event. Following each pitch, a judge commented on a company’s pitch.

Some companies were looking for funding, while others sought marketing or other help.

The judges scored the pitches electronically using The five scoring criteria were scalability, counting for 30% of the total score; viability (20%); feasibility (20%); innovation (15%); and presentation during the pitch (15%).

Don Gooding, executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, which coordinates the Top Gun program, also gave the first Top Gun Compass Award to Jason Cianchette, the founder of Liquid Wireless. Cianchette graduated from the first Top Gun class in 2009, and Liquid Wireless had the largest revenue growth of any Top Gun company so far. He founded it in 2008 and sold it a few years later to Publishers Clearing House for an undisclosed amount. His current company is Huzzapp.

Gooding also said he hopes to start the fourth Top Gun location soon in Auburn.

Clarification: The story has been updated to clarify that Microsoft's award was for in-kind services.

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