On a balmy September evening this week, Maine Venture Fund portfolio companies and participants from the broader Maine investment community gathered for the annual MVF Recognition Event. This is an opportunity for the fund to recognize those portfolio companies with outstanding impact over the last year – combining social mixer, CEO roundtable, dinner, presentation and awards into one action-filled event.
During the course of the evening, portfolio CEOs discussed the unique challenges and opportunities in growing Maine companies, facilitated by the evening’s keynote speaker Nate Fick and prior MVF board chair and board member Corky Ellis. Nate went on to deliver an inspiring keynote address to the wider audience, touching on his leadership experiences in combat as a US Marine, in the non-profit sector, and in his most recent role as CEO of cyber security firm Endgame.
Ultimately, the purpose of the evening was to welcome new portfolio companies and shed light on particularly celebratory stories within the portfolio. All 25 companies are worthy of recognition in their own right, but a subset was selected by the fund to receive three annual awards for public benefit, achievement and management.
Pika Energy – Public Benefit Award
Pika Energy earned the 2019 Public Benefit award by creating 30 high impact jobs over the course of time and navigating a successful acquisition in 2019 to global power generator brand Generac. Pika designs and builds smart battery systems and was a natural fit that enabled Generac to expand into cleaner power solutions. Pika’s employees will remain in Maine where Generac plans to invest and accelerate further growth in the economy. Through Generac, Pika has access to a much larger distribution network, greatly expanding the reach of their innovative and climate-friendly technology. Additionally, Pika played a significant role in the hurricane relief effort in Puerto Rico, demonstrating the company’s humanitarian philosophy.
BlueTarp Financial – Public Benefit Award
BlueTarp shared the 2019 Public Benefit Award with Pika Energy, having also delivered a successful exit to shareholders via an acquisition by Capital One. Maine Venture Fund invested in BlueTarp in 2003 when the company consisted of eight employees and an innovative early business model that solved a real problem: credit services for building supply companies. In the 16 years since, BlueTarp has expanded into a variety of credit management programs and now employs over 160 people. BlueTarp is consistently rated a Best Place to Work in the state, and offers a broad range of employee benefits. Like Pika, BlueTarp’s acquisition will allow them to access an even broader range of customers and grow their sizable employee base in downtown Portland.
Atlantic Sea Farms – Achievement Award
The 2019 Achievement Award winner had clear consensus: Atlantic Sea Farms. Formerly known as Ocean Approved, this kelp harvester, processor and wholesaler rebranded shortly after new CEO Briana Warner, formerly of the Island Institute in Rockland, took the helm in early 2019. Briana engineered a highly successful capital raise (including a follow-on investment from Maine Venture Fund) and in a matter of months executed a full pivot with new packaging and products. The company is growing quickly, with an expanding legion of skilled lobstermen who cultivate kelp primarily in the lobster off-season. Thanks to Atlantic Sea Farms’ leadership, kelp production is growing rapidly to serve markets across the US in step with a surging demand for the nutritious and low-impact food, while providing sustainable economic opportunity to a critical marine workforce in Maine.
Vetro FiberMap – Management Team of the Year
The final award of the evening recognized the 2019 Management Team of the Year at Vetro FiberMap, a software platform for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that helps broaden access to the web, especially in smaller markets where internet connectivity is lowest. The board and executive team at Vetro FiberMap exemplify the tremendous value that strong leadership provides, especially at growing companies with aggressive targets and high expectations. This group has an excellent structure for measuring and reporting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that help move the business towards meaningful, purposeful goals. The leadership has been successful in attracting new talent to Maine with a culture that respects and utilizes input from everyone, modeled by the active and highly communicative Board.
Congratulations to our winners, and thank you to our entire portfolio and those in the community who also support these hard-working companies. It was a proud evening of reflection and recognition for Maine Venture Fund.