Maine Venture Fund hosted its annual portfolio company recognition dinner in late September at the Harraseeket Inn in Freeport. The evening’s event was a great way to gather together portfolio company management teams, investors, and board members to socialize, to recognize the companies that have had outstanding years, and to enjoy a delicious meal.
The night’s highlight was a speech from our keynote speaker, Jean Hoffman. Ms. Hoffman currently is a private investor who sits on the Board of Directors of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts, as well as on the Board of a Portland company, MedRythms Inc. She is a successful entrepreneur, having built two companies in Maine, leading them both to sale. The first, Newport Strategies, was sold to Thomson Reuters in 2004. She then went on to start Putney in Portland, in 2006. In 2016 Putney sold for $200 million.
Ms. Hoffman is an inspiring person who thrives on challenges and change and rises to meet business obstacles thrown her way. She also keeps a wonderful work-life balance, citing family as something incredibly important to her.
In her speech, Ms. Hoffman discussed some of the key tenets of her professional philosophy. She posited that being disagreeable is an affirmative trait in a leader, and discussed how to effectively wield power and what form that power should take. She also highlighted the importance of relationships, both professionally and personally. Ms. Hoffman made a point that the single most important thing we can do to foster a strong business environment in Maine is to invest in our local schools. Great schools attract talented professionals to Maine to work for its companies.
The speech, by one of the state’s preeminent entrepreneurs, was informative and inspiring. (Read the full speech here.)
Each year at this event, the Fund honors three companies that had notable years. The awards presented are designed to reflect MVF’s focus on growing quality companies that are well managed and make a positive contribution to the prosperity of Maine — the Achievement Award, the Management Team of the Year Award, and the Public Benefit Award.
This year’s Achievement Award went to R.E.D.D, Inc., a company that produces superfood energy bars. The company executed three successful capital raises, began national distribution, and gained recognition in a crowded market. They have taken a very proactive approach toward product improvement and have a strong social media brand-building program in place.
CourseStorm, Inc., a company that provides cloud-based software to informal education programs, took home this year’s Management Team of the Year Award. CourseStorm had a very successful year, more than doubling sales from 2017 to 2018, all while being ahead of budget for 2018.  The company created transparent reporting for financials, key performance indicators and milestone achievements, and challenges, which fostered effective engagement between all the company’s stakeholders.
Our final award for the evening, the Public Benefit Award, went to Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Inc. Hyperlite designs and manufactures premium, durable, outdoor products for a range of adventures. This company is one of the largest employers in the MVF portfolio with plans for continued employment growth above 25 percent per year. Hyperlite was also deserving of this award for their commitment to actively foster a collaborative employee driven work environment.
At the end of the night, three portfolio companies left with awards, and our guests left feeling fulfilled from an evening of community building, relationship strengthening, stimulating discussion, and a well-delivered and thought-provoking speech.

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