Processing Your Payment

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

Updated: June 2, 2021

Portland software startup out to win 'tech talent war' takes home $50K LaunchPad prize

Grand finale and check presentation at LaunchPad 2021 Screen shot During Tuesday's LaunchPad competition grand finale, HighByte co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer Torey Penrod-Cambra was visibly moved when HighByte was crowned the winner. She is joined by the other four finalists and, from left, Gorham Savings Bank President and CEO Steve deCastro and judge Catherine Cloudman.

HighByte, a fast-growing Portland industrial software startup aiming to win what one of its founders calls a war for tech talent, won the $50,000 grand prize in Gorham Savings Bank's 2021 LaunchPad competition on Tuesday.

"I'm actually at a loss for words, for once," Torey Penrod-Cambra, HighByte's co-founder and chief marketing officer, said from the stage when her company was announced as the winner.

This year's edition, live-streamed from AV Technik studios in Scarborough, was the first virtual version of the annual pitch contest in a relaunch after last year's cancellation during the pandemic.

Besides HighByte, finalists were: Brave Foods, of Portland; Erin Flett/Studio e Flett, of Gorham, whose founder was honored as a 2020 Mainebiz Woman to Watch; Huga Heat, of Southport, a maker of battery-powered seat cushions; and Freeport-based potato-chip maker Vintage Maine Kitchen, a returning LaunchPad finalist from 2019.

While Studio e Flett was voted the audience favorite, HighByte won over the the three-judge panel. During her pitch, Penrod-Cambra said her company would use its winnings to offer competitive salaries for strategic new hires "and stop losing tech talent to Boston and New York."

In response to questioning from judges, Penrod-Cambra said that hiring has become even more competitive with more people relocating to Maine during the pandemic and expecting similar salaries to bigger markets, saying, "It's a tech talent war right now." 

On Wednesday, she told Mainebiz that the prize money will enable HighByte to provide competitive salary offers to new graduates and experienced developers, effective immediately, and grow its team from nine currently to 16 by the end of this year.

Longer term, the plan is to create 29 jobs by the end of 2022 and 58 jobs by the end of 2024, she said.

Penrod-Cambra also said she thinks the grant has meaning for the Maine software startup community as a whole and strengthens the state's entrepreneurial ecosystem. "I met some incredible fellow finalists yesterday that I hope will evolve into long-term connections," she said.

This year's finalists were selected from 150 applicants, whom organizers previously said showed that Maine is fertile ground for innovation, particularly among startups focused on sustainability and technology.

Other winners

From a group of five additional five finalists, the Emerging Business Award went to C. Love Cookie Project, a mission-driven bakery in Portland that employs immigrant women and donates 21% of its sales to the city's immigrant community.

The company's prize consisted of a $10,000 grant from Gorham Savings Bank, topped by a $1,000 anonymous donation; and $10,000 worth of in-kind marketing, business development, and public relations services from Creative Imaging Group, Grove Marketing, iBec Creative, Philbrook PR and pro-voke.

Surprise winning check delivery at C. Love Cookie Project
Screen shot
Steve deCastro, president and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank. delivers the check for the Emerging Business Award to C. Love Cookie Project founder Katherine Slevin.

And this year only, a special $10,000 Business Agility Award for outstanding perseverance and response to the pandemic went to Zootility, a design studio reimagining everyday products so they can be made locally and sustainably using futuristic manufacturing. 

“We saw a fantastic group of small businesses present at LaunchPad this year, and we were inspired by their creativity, determination, and vision," said Steve deCastro, president and CEO of Gorham Savings Bank, in a news release after the ceremony. “Today’s event gives me even greater confidence that Maine’s innovators will lead our state toward a more diverse and prosperous economy.”


For those who missed watching live, a recording of the 2021 LaunchPad event can be viewed here.

Sign up for Enews

Related Content


June 4, 2021

Consistent with prior years, food and tech startups rule the day. And using the prize just to give themselves a pay increase is such a waste. What does "Launchpad" actually stand for? The best
marketing proposal seems to be what wins each year.

Order a PDF