Corky Ellis guest-writes our newsletter this month. Corky is an active member in the Maine technology community, was founder and CEO of Kepware Technologies until its acquisition by PTC, and recently served as MVF’s Chair of the Board.
Below, Corky relates his perspective on growing a technology company in Maine, and how the recently announced Roux Institute will benefit the State.
Corky Ellis on tech in Maine and the Roux Institute
I moved to Maine in 1993 with my family, intent on starting a software business. We struggled in the early years, primarily in our effort to find great software programmers and quality control technicians. We reached out to the University of Maine in Orono, granted scholarships, hired interns, and even donated funds for a computer lab. This worked, but these were the early years of tech in Maine. Since then the demand for technical talent has dramatically increased.
Today, Maine’s tech industry has exploded. Brilliant, intense entrepreneurs are creating exciting new software products. Social media and the internet allow small groups of engineers to create a product and push it into the markets, both domestic and international, at low cost. Their first problem: scaling up the business while needing great technical talent. Their second problem: attracting capital. Recently, a Boston VC asked me, “Is there really any programming talent in Maine? I thought it was only about tourism.”
The recently announced Roux Institute is the most exciting economic development event since I’ve come to Maine. The many benefits include:
- Creating a leading edge, well-funded, world-recognized computer science and life sciences graduate school in Portland;
- Attracting top students from Maine and out of state to earn their Masters and PhD’s here, who will then go on to start and meaningfully contribute to businesses all over the State;
- Attracting leading scholars to teach technology here;
- Attracting outside capital to fund the inevitable startups that will come from the school.
All this is compounded by firmly connecting a large, deeply resourced national university to Maine.
Maine “gets it” on economic development. Maine Venture Fund, CEI/Coastal Ventures, and Maine Technology Institute focus on helping small companies past the difficult early period. The Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit Program, managed by FAME, encourages local businesspeople, high net worth individuals, and experienced venture capital funds located anywhere to invest further in Maine companies. But the availability of technical talent is our biggest hurdle, and this initiative will bring a tech vibrancy to the state that has been lacking and is now emerging.
This is a shockingly exciting development.