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Updated: May 28, 2024

Nexus Maine 'virtual coffee shop' draws 300 entrepreneurs, remote workers via Slack

Portraits of James Haight and George Matelich, with Nexus Maine logo in the middle. Photos and rendering / Courtesy of Nexus Maine Jimmy Haight, left, and George Matelich are the co-founders of the Nexus Maine space on Slack, with an AI-designed moose mascot named Baxter.

As part of Startup Maine Week, Nexus Maine hosted an early-morning coffee meetup at Cloudport Coworking at 63 Federal St. Portland that drew a bigger crowd than expected.

“We counted about 50 people, which is crazy — I didn’t think anyone was going to come,” Jimmy Haight, co-founder of the Nexus Maine Slack space with George Matelich, told Mainebiz. The message group consists of more than 300 members.

“We’re trying to be the virtual coffee shop everyone can connect with,” Haight said.

Haight, 34, and Matelich, 28, are both working remotely in Kennebunk. After connecting via a mutual acquaintance in San Francisco, they started Nexus Maine about eight weeks ago on Slack, the cloud-based team communication platform owned by Salesforce.

Matelich is director of product management for Hometap, a Boston-based real estate-focused financial technology company, while Haight is product marketing manager for Chainlink Labs, a cryptocurrency startup with an all-remote workforce.

Partly out of self-interest, the two launched Nexus Maine as a place for entrepreneurs and business professionals in Maine to meet and compare notes with like-minded individuals.

“I’m a serious extrovert so community is really important to me,” said Matelich. 

The word “nexus” popped up in a thesaurus search under “connection,” while the group’s moose mascot was designed using artificial intelligence and named Baxter after a member had suggested it.

'Room to grow'

After just eight weeks, Nexus Maine has grown to close to 320 members, who can use the platform to post messages on hash-tagged channels from “remote workers” to “virtual coffees” and “seeking advice.” They can also send direct messages to each other.

Members can also subscribe to the Nexus Maine newsletter and submit events to the curated Nexus Maine calendar. 

As for what’s next, Haight said that the duo may look into doing a podcast or ticketed events.

“There’s room to grow,” he said. “We want to be a pillar of the Maine ecosystem and be a great resource for people who live in Maine and want to build Maine’s future.”

Haight also noted that Nexus Maine does not aim to compete with Startup Maine, the nonprofit led by Katie Shorey that hosts regular in-person social meetups. Instead, Nexus Maine aims to be a virtual “third pillar” for members of the business community.

Eventually, if the group gets too big, Matelich said there may be a point at which membership will be capped and newcomers will be required to apply, "not because we need to, but when these communities get too big, the quality degrades," he said.

"I’ve been part of 15,000-member Slack groups, and they don’t work because nobody knows anybody, and there’s just a bunch of noise."

Reflecting on the new friends and professional contacts he has found via Nexus Maine, Matelich said, "I like being surrounded by people that make me push myself."

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