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March 14, 2024

Waterville startup accelerator Dirigo Labs gets repeat sponsor for $25K pitch prize

people holding check File Photo / Courtesy Dirigo Labs Rockland-based Croft, a maker of carbon-negative prefab buildings, won last year’s Dirigo Labs pitch competition.

Dirigo Labs, a startup business accelerator based in Waterville, has lined up Skowhegan Savings Bank as a return sponsor for Dirigo's annual pitch competition.

The bank will sponsor the $25,000 prize to the winner of this year’s contest in late May.

This year’s cohort of startups is participating in an extended, 16-week program hosted at Waterville's Hathaway Creative Center. The participants include entrepreneurs in sectors from outdoor recreation to clean technology and artificial intelligence.

Previous pitch contest winners were Brunswick-based rocket startup bluShift Aerospace in 2022 and Croft, a Rockland-based maker of carbon-negative prefab buildings, in 2023. Each won a $25,000 prize sponsored by Skowhegan Savings Bank.

BluShift used its prize money to hire a new staff member while Croft used its winnings to start an apprenticeship program, according to Emalee Hall, Dirigo Labs' program manager.

person in pink checked jacket
File photo / Fred Field
Susan Ruhlin

"With the continued support from Skowhegan Savings Bank, we can provide crucial backing to Maine's innovators,” said Susan Ruhlin, managing director of Dirigo Labs and a Mainebiz Woman to Watch honoree in 2023. “This partnership empowers us to facilitate the transformation of their ideas into reality, fostering economic growth and prosperity for our state's burgeoning startup community."

David Cyr, Skowhegan Savings' president and CEO, said the partnership with Dirigo Labs “embodies our dedication to providing entrepreneurs with the essential tools for success and fostering innovation that contributes to the prosperity of those communities.”

Skowhegan Savings Bank is ranked No. 17 among the largest Maine-based banks in the 2024 Mainebiz Book of Lists. Rankings are based on assets as of June 30, 2023.

The Dirigo Labs program, which kicked off in early February, guides startups through a targeted curriculum while helping founders with plans for specific projects. Each cohort company is matched with a curated board of local and national advisors.

Workshop topics include financial modeling, using public-private sector grants, customer acquisition strategies, capital planning and intellectual property evaluation. 

Judges for the pitch competition will evaluate startup presentations based on their communication, capital strategy, innovation, strength of the team and potential economic and social impact in Maine. 

Save the date

The Dirigo Labs business pitch contest is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22, from 5-8 p.m., at the Greene Block + Studios in downtown Waterville.

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