January 25, 2020
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Investments in Maine startups are riding record-high waves

Courtesy of Defendify
Courtesy of Defendify
Andrew Rinaldi (left) and Rob Simopoulos, co-founders of Defendify, a cybersecurity company in Portland that focuses on protecting small businesses. The company in 2019 raised $1.4 million from investors.

PORTLAND, Maine — Venture capitalists continue to invest in Maine startups, which in turn are attracting much-needed skilled employees to the state as they grow their companies.

Two different reports on Tuesday showed that while investments by venture capitalists slowed slightly this year compared to 2019 both nationally and in Maine, a pattern of record-high money available for growing companies is continuing. And that’s good news for Maine startups that need to expand their businesses and attract talented employees.

“Nationwide the numbers are crazy strong,” said John Burns, managing director of the Maine Venture Fund in Newport. The fund invests in promising companies that are growing quickly.

“We haven’t seen the 2018-2019 levels of investment since the bubble in 2000,” he said, referring to the speculative funding of internet, or dot-com, companies in the United States.

Both PricewaterhouseCoopers/MoneyTree and PitchBook/National Venture Capital Association released venture investment numbers for the fourth quarter of 2019 yesterday. The way they compile their numbers differs, but overall they showed a similar trend of continuing strong investment in Maine.

PitchBook’s analysis by metropolitan statistical areas in Maine showed three companies in the Bangor area, which includes most of Penobscot County, and seven in the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford area raised money in the fourth quarter.

Mobile Price Card, a mobile app developer in Bangor, raised the most, $1 million. Orono Spectral Solutions, which makes a test device and method to quickly identify small amounts of chemicals or water in products, raised $260,000, and Cerahelix, an Orono company developing high-tech filters, attracted $140,000.

In the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford metropolitan area, Sweet Dirt topped the list by amount raised at $1.67 million. The Eliot-based company is a licensed state caregiver and raises medical cannabis. Maine Coast Hemp, also in Eliot, raised $1.66 million.

Defendify, a Portland cybersecurity company, raised $1.4 million. Maine Venture Fund has put money into that company, Burns said, and is pleased with the quality of people it is able to hire.

Burns said Maine startups are pulling more managerial and technology talent into the state, and that is making companies stronger.

“It’s as good as I’ve seen it in a while,” he said. “The quality of the [investment] opportunities we are finding is better.”

Other Portland-South Portland-Biddeford area companies cited by PitchBook as raising money in the fourth quarter of 2019 are R.E.D.D., a Portland energy bar company that raised $1.33 million. Nova Analytics Labs, a Portland cannabis testing lab, raised $900,000.

Fiveable, a South Portland education company, raised $670,000, and HighByte, a Portland-based analytics company, raised $200,000.

Burns expects venture capital investment to continue to be strong this year.

“The big question is ‘will this record-long recovery since the last recession continue?’” he said, referring to the 11 years of economic expansion that continues in the United States.


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