October 20, 2018
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Maine nonprofit that helped startups shuts down

Venture Hall/Maine Women's Network | BDN
Venture Hall/Maine Women's Network | BDN
File photo of Jess Knox, president of Venture Hall, a Portland-based nonprofit educational company that focused on growing new businesses.

Venture Hall, a Portland nonprofit focused on educating entrepreneurs and helping startup companies grow faster, has ceased operations.

The move comes less than two weeks after Venture Hall said it was one of six nationwide recipients of a grant from the Kauffman Foundation Entrepreneurs’ Policy Network. The grant, announced Jan. 11, was for $475,000.

Notice of the shutdown was posted briefly on Venture Hall’s website Monday evening, then quickly removed. The website subsequently showed an error message. On Tuesday morning, the site and message were back up.

The nonprofit, which was co-founded by its President Jess Knox and CEO Mike Sobol in July 2016, was funded by donations.

“One of our founding members has resigned for personal reasons. Venture Hall was largely driven by the spirit and drive of the two founders, but the CEO, Mike Sobol, and the board made the difficult decision to cease operations,” the website said.

“We are confident that our [entrepreneurial and innovation] ecosystem is deep and robust enough that another organization will emerge to continue this important work.”

It was not clear from the website whether Knox was the person who resigned. Knox and Venture Hall were not immediately available for comment.

Venture Hall will not comment further than the statement on its website, spokeswoman Christen Graham wrote in an email to the Bangor Daily News.

Knox, who also founded Maine Startup and Create Week, holds a law degree from the University of Maine and a master’s degree in public policy from the Muskie School of Public Service, a unit of the University of Southern Maine in Portland.

“Entrepreneurship and innovation are the opportunity to transform Maine’s economy,” Knox told the Bangor Daily News when the Kauffman grant was announced.

John Eddy, a spokesperson for the Kauffman Foundation, said Venture Hall was scheduled to receive the grant payment this week. The foundation learned of the closure late yesterday, he said, and “Kauffman canceled that planned payment based on this news.”

Venture Hall operated out of the Cloudport co-working space in Portland. Cloudport provided $30,000 for in-kind investment when Venture Hall started, according to Mainebiz.

Cloudport Manager Josh Corbeau would not comment on what will happen with the space Venture Hall occupies nor how much space it has in the co-working space.

“At Cloudport we look forward to future opportunities to support similar endeavors as we continue on our mission to help your business take off,” Cloudport wrote on its Facebook page.

The nonprofit offered training and held events to teach entrepreneurs how to run and grow their companies. Last summer, it brought in seven young companies from around the United States for an intensive, three-month accelerator program. One of them, health care information technology company Janus Choice of St. Louis, opened a Portland office after participating in the program.

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