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Updated: February 29, 2024

Waterville business accelerator Dirigo Labs looks to develop investment arm

boats on jackstands and person under one boat Courtesy / Finsulate Dirigo Labs’ 2024 cohort includes Finsulate, a Dutch company expanding to the U.S. market. The company makes a recyclable, nontoxic adhesive wrap for vessels and floating equipment.

Dirigo Labs, a Waterville-based business accelerator, is looking to establish an investment arm that would provide access to capital for Maine startups and entrepreneurs.

The goal is to stimulate entrepreneurial activity in Waterville and beyond, while connecting Maine businesses with prospective funding partners and investors, according to a news release. 

The nonprofit, which operates under the Central Maine Growth Council, will host an Economic Recovery Corps fellow who will research and develop an investment model for the spin-off. 

The corps is part of the International Economic Development Council, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit membership organization serving economic developers, and was funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration. 

aerial of big brick buildingn with river and bridge
courtesy / Dirigo Labs
Dirigo Labs is located in the Bricks Coworking and Innovation Space at the Hathaway Creative Center in downtown Waterville.

The corps is tasked with promoting projects that help underserved communities through knowledge-sharing among urban, rural and tribal areas across the U.S. 

Over the course of a 30-month contract period, corps fellow Erika Haskins will develop a model for Dirigo Labs' investment arm. The project will focus on the issue of access to capital for startups and entrepreneurs in Maine.

Haskins will lead a strategy that includes analyzing investment models and evaluation criteria, while engaging with the local entrepreneurs, prospective investors and funding partners.

person with long hair and sleeveless shirt
Courtesy / Economic Recovery Corps
Erika Haskins

Haskins has over 15 years of leadership experience within mission-driven and professional service organizations. She recently held the position of head of partnerships and revenue operations for Make Startups, a national entrepreneurship support and advocacy organization. She's also worked as CEO of 3 Day Startup, a nonprofit that provides entrepreneurship education to young people in 42 countries.

“At Dirigo Labs, we have long prioritized the establishment of a robust investment arm to further support and nurture the endeavors of talented entrepreneurs,” said Susan Ruhlin, Dirigo Labs’s managing director and a 2023 Mainebiz Women to Watch honoree.

“The valuable partnership between Dirigo Labs, the International Economic Development Council and the Economic Development Administration signifies a convergence of expertise, resources and a shared commitment to fostering economic growth in underserved communities,” said Garvan Donegan, Central Maine Growth Council’s director of planning, innovation and economic development and a 2021 Mainebiz Next List honoree.

The amount of funding needed to create the investment arm is still to be determined, Ruhlin told Mainebiz.

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