Entrepreneurial showdown: Top Gun trainees pitch their businesses

The entrepreneurial juices will be flowing Wednesday night at the annual Top Gun Showcase Event, being held at the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

Roughly 260 people are expected to attend the event, which will feature entrepreneurs from 17 Maine startups who are all recent graduates of the Top Gun program. The entrepreneurs will pitch their business plans to an impressive group of successful entrepreneurs, angel investors and venture capitalists.

If you’re not familiar with the Top Gun program, it’s a 16-week course that helps mentor entrepreneurs and give them the skills, knowledge and connections necessary to launch and grow a successful business. It began at USM’s Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, but this is the second year it’s expanded statewide through collaborations with the University of Maine’s Target Technology Center and the Foster Center for Student Innovation.

On Wednesday, entrepreneurs will pitch the panel as if they were pitching to investors.

“Not everyone is looking for money, some are early-stage and some are looking for people to join their team,” Susan Ruhlin of MCED wrote in an email. “For many participants the event is about exposure and practice for the eventual VC meeting.”

The 17 participating companies are based throughout the state, from York to Isle au Haut, but they are split into two classes: Bangor and Portland.

“Maine is experiencing a resurgence in entrepreneurship,” Don Gooding, MCED’s executive director, said in a statement. “Maine’s new breed of innovators are high-growth entrepreneurs who continually demonstrate excellence in their commitment to building world-class companies across the state.”

Here’s the list of the companies that will be participating on Wednesday night:

The Bangor Class

  • Double Blue Sports Analytics – Dan Kerluke
  • Black Dinah Chocolates – Steve Shaffer
  • The Armaid Company – Terry Cross
  • Activas Diagnostics, LLC – Dr. Marie Hayes
  • Flourometrics – Jim Killarney & John Ahern

The Portland Class

  • Black Lobster Academy – James Mahoney
  • Chimani – Kerry Gallivan
  • Cloud 9 – Gordon Monk
  • FlowFold – Charles Friedman
  • LifeKite – Jasa Porciello
  • Tide Creative – J Sandifer
  • Maine Mead Works – Ben Alexander
  • MiFILTER.com – Khristopher Lalemand
  • Mobile Magic – Rocco Sbardella
  • My Medical Best Friend – Kathy Fries
  • PJ Coeur – Pamela Saunders
  • Rohrer Technologies – John Rohrer

The panel these entrepreneurs will be pitching to is equally impressive. It includes Ralph Harding, director of private equity at Spinnaker Trust, an investment firm in Portland; Emily Reycroft, managing director of Blackstone’s hedge fund solutions group; Terry Waters, CEO of Boston-based Yankee 451 Group LLC; Chris Emmons, CEO of Gorham Savings Bank; and Bill Williamson, Maine state president for Bank of America.

The Top Gun program is supported by the Blackstone Accelerates Growth initiative, the Maine Technology Institute and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.

The Top Gun Showcase Event begin at 5 p.m. on Wed., May 22, at USM’s Hannaford Hall.


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Whit Richardson

About Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.