September 3, 2013

Maine Angels succeed when startups get their wings

The group is adding investors and expecting a return soon on the millions in aid to businesses.

By Jessica Hall jhall@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Ben Polito, president of Pika Energy in Westbrook, holds one of three blades on a personal-size wind turbine. Polito said he appreciates the mentoring he gets from investors.

John Patriquin/2013 file photo

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Gelato Fiasco co-founder Josh Davis, shown at the company’s flagship shop on Maine Street in Brunswick, has received assistance from Maine Angels investors.

John Ewing/2013 file photo

One change this year that has made investing in Maine companies less compelling than in the past is the expiration of the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit Program. As of January, the statutory limit of $30 million had been reached. Since the creation of the program, 128 Maine companies have received funding through various investment groups or individuals.

The Finance Authority of Maine administers the program, which allows qualified investors who invest no more than $500,000 in certain Maine-based business to get tax credits equal to 60 percent of the investment. A tax credit directly reduces a person's tax liability.

State Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, this year introduced a bill, L.R. 1377, to extend the program.

The Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit Program "made Maine investments very attractive," Stone said, noting that seven of the eight Maine investments made by Maine Angels last year were part of the seed capital program.

 CHALLENGE ATTRACTING WOMEN

Stone's biggest surprise in chairing Maine Angels has been the difficulty in attracting female investors. Adding more women will not just bring in more potential money, but also a different perspective in business styles, Stone said.

"It's a male-dominated space -- even among entrepreneurs," she said.

Stone also has instituted a spousal membership to increase female participation. The spouse gets to join for the same $1,000 application fee and $300 annual dues, but is expected to make an additional $25,000 investment in addition to their partner's investment.

"It makes sense -- so many couples do their financial planning together and this is just another type of investing," Stone said.

Stone's leadership and efforts to expand Maine Angels' membership and activity has been noticed. The group was recognized by the Angel Resource Institute, Silicon Valley Bank and CB Insights last year in a ranking of national angel group investing activity. Maine Angels ranked No. 10 in the nation.

"Maine Angels reputation has really grown. Boston funds will now follow and back a deal they are involved with," said Susan MacKay, founder and chief executive of Cerahelix in Orono.

Cerahelix, which received $55,000 from Maine Angels last year, uses DNA to make ceramic-coated membranes for water filtration systems. The money from Maine Angels, and other investors, helped the company build a pilot test system that allowed it to get a prototype ready.

"Spreading money around and helping the startups, getting more members involved, helped us build a broader network and helped build momentum in terms of investing in Maine," MacKay said.

Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at:

jhall@pressherald.com

 

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