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Updated: March 5, 2024

NH-based 'impact investor' is bullish on Maine life sciences, software sectors

Portrait of a man
Photo / Courtesy of Advantage Capital
Joe Henderson

Joe Henderson, based in Hanover, N.H., is vice president of Advantage Capital, a self-described impact investment firm headquartered in New Orleans that has invested $4.1 billion in more than 900 companies since 1992.

Mainebiz connected with him to get his investment outlook and his take on Maine’s emerging life sciences industry.

Mainebiz: What sectors in Maine pose the greatest interest and why?
Joe Henderson: Tech clusters with lots of promise are appearing — from animal health in Portland to advanced composites out at the University of Maine.

These innovations supported by some of the larger success stories across the state over the last 15 to 20 years have cultivated a compelling talent pool, helping to mitigate a significant issue Maine faces, which is the out-migration of younger populations to surrounding states in search of work. Additionally, Portland’s growing software industry is especially interesting due to its robust pool of skilled software engineers. There’s an entrepreneurial ecosystem growing within the area that we are eager — and well-experienced — to support.

Along with tech, life sciences and other emerging industries, we see a lot of promise in entrepreneurial activities that leverage Maine’s unique resources — the ocean and the forest. The idea of utilizing existing infrastructure and existing skills across the state to create 21st-century products and services is exciting. These industries and areas don’t always get appropriate attention from investors, but we’re proud to play our part in changing that mentality.
MB: What if any investments have you made in Maine so far?
JH: Our current investments include medical devices and software solutions for the wireless industry. Companies like MedRythms, which is using technology to pioneer a new path forward in treating those who suffer from neurological impairments. Its innovative product leverages sensors, music and software to build evidence-based neurological interventions to improve the ability to function after neurological injury or disease. Our $4 million investment helped them expand the team and key corporate functions to commercialize its flagship product for chronic stroke survivors.

Historically, our investments have run the gamut from grocery fixtures, to shoes, to animal health. The thematic thread is the aim for positive economic impact in historically underserved areas. There are amazing entrepreneurs in Maine that simply need increased access to flexible financing.

Additionally, programs such as the Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program have been instrumental in our ability to support these businesses. Since 2012, our participation in the program has helped to foster business growth, create jobs and deepen impact in underserved Maine communities.
MB: Does Maine's emerging life sciences sector pose any interest to you — and any companies that have caught your attention so far?
JH: Yes, we are always interested in emerging sectors that can serve as economic anchors within communities to create jobs and increase economic opportunity. And there is a lot of that in Maine. A lot of growth opportunities. Our investments have effectively supported innovation and impact in the state. The previously mentioned MedRythms is a perfect example of a successful life sciences investment with a tangible, positive impact.
MB: When you look at companies to add to your portfolio, what criteria are the most important?
JH: While every company is different, our key criteria usually include ensuring there is a community-based economic development opportunity; proven traction with customers and a path to scale, as our goal is always growth; a large addressable market and shared commitment to high-wage job growth; and a focused entrepreneur and strong, passionate management team.

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