The Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Image credit: Arlene Waller / Shutterstock.com
Maine is well known for its natural beauty, lighthouses, lobster, and, of course, Stephen King, but that isn’t all that The Pine Tree State has to offer. The state is home to a growing startup culture that has been influenced by the state’s unique geography and economy.
While it isn’t the capital, Portland is the state’s largest city, economic hub, and home to a thriving startup community. The city’s proximity to universities gives businesses access to high-quality, tech-savvy talent and serves as the first stop for many young entrepreneurs looking to start their own ventures out of school.
In conversation with Maine. The Magazine., University of Maine graduate and startup founder Justin Hafner said, “Unlike other locations, Portland, and Maine in general, provides a stress-free environment with an extensive support system for start-up companies and entrepreneurs.”
The city’s reputation as a tech community has only grown stronger as Portland was selected in January 2020 as the location of a new research institute, led by Northeastern University, focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Outside of the lively Portland area, the state’s other population centers have become home to exciting tech ventures in their own right. In no particular order, let’s meet ten of the most exciting tech startups brewing in Maine.
Headquartered in Portland, Maine, HighByte is an industrial software development company that is solving data architecture and integration challenges created by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Founded in 2018 by Tony Paine, John Harrington, and Torey Penrod-Cambra, the company has developed the first DataOps solution that is purpose-built to meet the unique requirements of industrial assets, products, processes & systems at the Edge. The company locked up $875K in pre-seed financing in March 2020 and released the latest version of its industrial DataOps solution for smart manufacturing earlier this year.
Co-founded by a seasoned team of technology veterans with deep aquaculture experience, OysterTracker is a thoroughly Maine idea. The company’s goal is to create the simplest shellfish aquaculture management platform, allowing farmers to easily understand their sites and better predict their harvest times. Additionally in March 2020, the company launched a solution to streamline the painstaking process of writing out shellfish tags by hand. Every shellfish tag OysterTracker prints includes a QR code that links customers to more information about the product and the farm it’s from. This solution, though launched just as oyster farms closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, has helped the company add 41 new clients in less than 6 months.
MedRhythms is a digital therapeutics startup that uses sensors, music, and software to build evidence-based, neurologic interventions to measure and improve walking. The Portland-based company has an active pipeline of digital therapeutics targeting rehabilitation and prevention across a range of neurologic injuries and diseases. In late 2020, the company announced a partnership with Northeastern University’s Roux Institute focused on fostering talent for the life science and artificial intelligence industries, starting with co-op placements and joint research projects in 2021.
Given the presence of Acadia National Park, it should be no surprise that the outdoors and the tech industry have collided to create this next entry. Chimani is a leading national park mobile app. Free to download, the app works with or without WiFi and draws on the power of GPS-enabled interactive mapping technology to provide users with descriptions of points of interest, trails, amenities, and more.
Established by Justin Hafner and David Holomakoff, KinoTek offers a cutting edge 3D visualization movement analysis technology for kinesiology. The founders, who are former collegiate athletes who suffered career-ending injuries, aim to provide low-cost solutions that enable fast, accurate screenings, objective data, and visual aids that help patients to finish their treatments. The company began alpha testing in December 2020 and plans to scale in the coming year as it launches and provides its software to clinicians and patients around the world.
6. Farmhand Automation
Based in Biddeford, Maine, Farmhand Automation is on a mission to increase the amount of food we get from small farms by way of automation. The venture has raised at least $350,000 in funding (60% of the money was raised from Maine-based investors) including a grant from the Maine Technology Institute. The company, led by Founder and CEO Alexander Jones, has already created a prototype that can automate tedious tasks like bed preparation, planting and weeding. This isn't Jones' first agricultural tech venture in the state as he previously founded an IoT company in Portland that built an device that monitored bee hives.
Wallit is a benefits and cashback platform that syncs with an employee’s debit card and automatically validates and reimburses purchases and eliminates the employer’s administrative burden. attempts to make work-life balance simpler, more productive, and more rewarding. Founded and led by CEO Mike Vein, Wallit’s three-sided marketplace connects employers, merchants, and consumers with automatic cash-back for reimbursement of employee expenses for grocery, dining, health and fitness, learning and development and other related wellness purchases.
Friday, a Portland-based workplace communication startup, has raised $2.5 million in total funding as of November 2020. The company builds email and Slack-based team communication tools that help reduce the amount of time employees spend in meetings, improve team clarity, and help managers be more effective. Founded by Luke Thomas, the company’s offering has made it a perfect option for switch to remote work which is likely to linger long after COVID-19.
Cybersecurity isn’t just important for tech giants and Defendify is bridging the gap between security and small business. Founded in 2017 by Rob Simopoulos and Andrew Rinaldi, the company wanted to bring an affordable solution to small businesses after they experienced the trouble of finding an enterprise cybersecurity tool that fit their small businesses. With cyberattacks on the rise, especially attacks targeted at remote employees, Defendify’s platform is as important now as ever.
10. Novo Biosciences
With $4 million in funding Ellsworth-based Novo Biosciences is working to make regeneration a part of the human skillset via a molecule called MSI-1436 that has demonstrated regenerative properties. The company is a for-profit spinoff of MDI Biological Laboratory and as of July 2020, the startup has just two employees, CEO Kevin Strange and his co-founder, Viravuth Yin. In an interview with Maine Startups Insider, Strange said the company’s $4 million funding will help it take steps toward human trials with the molecule it has discovered as it prepares an Investigational New Drug application for the FDA.
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