Maine attracts top investors, entrepreneurs for weeklong startup conference

Posted March 27, 2014, at 6:32 p.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — Franck Nouyrigat, well-known in entrepreneurial circles as the co-founder of a network of crash collaborative events, will be one of the headlining speakers at the inaugural Maine Startup & Create Week in June.

Jess Knox, head of Olympico Strategies LLC and lead organizer of the eight-day event, announced on Thursday that Nouyrigat will speak at the “Think Big” Gala on June 15.

The high-profile scheduling helps add momentum for an upcoming conference that organizers hope will put Maine’s burgeoning technology and entrepreneurial scene on a more global map.

Knox, who also writes about business and innovation on his BDN blog Disruptive Growth, also announced on Thursday that a local arm of the private investment firm Blackstone has agreed to serve as one of Maine Startup & Create Week’s sponsors.

Blackstone Accelerates Growth, a $3 million program launched in Maine by the Blackstone Charitable Foundation in 2012, joins the likes of Southwest Airlines as a backer of the conference.

“This is a huge vote of confidence for our effort. It’s about building credibility,” Knox said of the Blackstone Accelerates Growth sponsorship. “And having Franck as a speaker at an event where we really want people to ‘think big’ about the future … it’s just another positive step in the direction we’re trying to go.”

The conference will take place in Portland, which last year was named one of Techie.com’s “ 10 Most Unexpected Cities for High-Tech Innovation.”

While the week’s schedule is being finalized — Knox said he’ll be announcing more speakers and sponsors during the next few weeks — Maine Startup & Create Week is being promoted as including more than 30 different events, such as speaking engagements, panel discussions, social mixers, a career and internship fair and “a startup bazaar.”

The annual entreverge Awards, doled out by the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s PROPEL group, will also be on the schedule.

Topics to be discussed will include building innovative communities and emerging funding models for new businesses, as well as specialized focus sessions on technology innovation in sports, health care and food systems, among other things.

An event announcement touted the week as “a frenzy of business model creation, food, coding, designing and innovation.”

Nouyrigat is the co-founder of Startup Weekend, a Google- and Coca-Cola-backed group that organizes 54-hour events around the world for aspiring business and technology leaders to network and collaborate.

He has written as a guest mentor for startups for the Wall Street Journal and has authored a book about the topic.

Other speakers include: Tom Davidson, CEO of education technology company EverFi; Brad Field, co-founder of the venture capital firm Foundry Group; and top officials from international startup incubators like UP Global and Koltai & Co.

Maine Startup & Create Week is organized in part by the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, Creative Portland, Maine Center for Creativity, Startup Portland, PelotonLabs and Southern Maine Community College’s Entrepreneurship Center, among others.

 

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