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August 20, 2019

Waterville startup Eariously awarded MTI grant

Courtesy / Central Maine Growth Council Eariously cofounder Nick Rimsa, with a presentation of the company's software, which turns text into audio. The Waterville startup was awarded an MTI grant for further development and expects the software to be sold publicly later this year.

Eariously, a software startup based in Waterville, has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the Maine Technology Institute, another boost to the growing technology industry in the city.

Eariously’s software turns digital text into audio. With the grant, Eariously plans to continue working with software design and development specialists and testing its software with listeners. The company intends to sell the software publicly later this year, according to a news release from the Central Maine Growth Council.

The Eariously team has capitalized on Waterville and Maine’s burgeoning startup ecosystem, said CEO and co-founder Nick Rimsa in the news release.

Rimsa came to Waterville in January to teach a product design course at Colby College, and he and the rest of the Eariously team decided to build the firm in central Maine because of the strong relationships he and his teammates had forged there, he said.

“We believe the most important part of making anything is doing it with the right people," Rimsa said. "We’ve found some exceptionally talented folks from around the world who we’re humbled to have the privilege of working together with."

In addition to MTI, which is based in Brunswick but opened a Waterville office last month, Eariously has also relied upon SCORE for mentorship and workshops, the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce and the Central Maine Growth Council for networking assistance and business development, Rimsa said. Students and faculty from Colby and Thomas colleges have also contributed.

“When we design, we start with the end first," he said. "What outcomes do we need to design for? Maine’s entrepreneurship leaders are ensuring that software startups see success by designing for our success. We’re very happy to be making Eariously here.”

Rimsa and and co-founder Brendan Barr were motivated to create the innovative software in 2018 because they were sharing so many articles with each other that they didn’t have time to read all of them, but had plenty of time to listen during commutes.

Over the past year, Eariously has not only worked with Colby and Thomas students, but with students at colleges around the country, including Northwest Missouri State University, researching by interacting with listeners as both designers and instructors.

“In order to design for the best possible outcomes, it’s essential to become an expert on the problems at hand,” said Kia Jones, a UX/UI designer from Missouri who has worked with Eariously. “Our team has tirelessly researched and tested both reading and listening habits in order to fully understand what we need to make." 

She said that "focus on learning through perpetual investigation is what will allow Eariously to become the ideal listening solution available.”

Thriving tech community

The startup is located in Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space at the Hathaway Creative Center, 10 Water St.

The partnership between Bricks and the tech startup is emblematic of downtown Waterville’s growing innovation and knowledge-based economy, Garvan Donegan, director of planning and economic development for Central Maine Growth Council, said in the news release.

“We are excited about the strength of the founders and the inventive software that is being developed by Eariously in our region. Businesses, and in particular tech startups, thrive where there is a community of capital, mentors, and innovation," Donegan said.

MTI is a nonprofit corporation that provides financial and business development support to assist innovative businesses. In 2018, it awarded more than $57 million, to generate $1.4 billion in economic impact and 5,350 jobs across Maine, according to a news release in July when the Waterville office opened.

MTI opened the Waterville office to amplify its profile in the region, said Brian Whitney, the organization's president. MTI-funded GenoTyping Center of America is also located at 10 Water St.

RJ Anzelc, owner of Bricks, said the Eariously team has also taken the lead on mentoring local students. "This grant is a testament to their hard work thus far, while also the tip of the iceberg for what we hope the region will bring in the coming years. Eariously is helping to lead the way.”

Rimsa said that as Eariously begins to sell subscriptions, it plans to continue growing in Waterville and formalizing partnerships with institutions in the city and throughout Maine.

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