AUGUSTA — The founder of Idexx Laboratories Inc. told attendees at the annual Mainebiz Momentum Convention to look to take exponential steps and find ways for their businesses to affect as many people’s lives as possible.

“We all want to have an impact in the world, and why not have as big of an impact as you can?” said David Shaw to a full room of attendees Thursday at the Augusta Civic Center.

During his keynote address, Shaw described how he had no interest in business until he discovered business is a great way to help the world.

Shaw founded the Westbrook-based biotechnology company in 1984 in Portland and has been involved since then in a variety of technology businesses and public-service and environmental groups.

Most recently, Shaw and the other executive committee members of the Sargasso Sea Alliance, an ocean conservation partnership including the government of Bermuda, scientists, conservation groups and private donors, received the International SeaKeepers Society’s with SeaKeeper Award for their work to protect the Sargasso Sea in the North Atlantic Ocean.

“Success is a choice,” Shaw told attendees. “Why choose anything but great?”

He pointed to one of his mentors, Maine native E. Robert Kinney, as an example of someone who started with little money but used innovative thinking to rise to the top. Kinney, who died in May at age 96, started a seafood canning business in Bar Harbor and later became the CEO of General Mills.

Shaw, who is married to actress Glenn Close, ran into challenges of his own recently. He told attendees that he was diagnosed two years ago with viral encephalitis, an infection of the brain, after scuba diving in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.

The illness robbed him of many cognitive functions, but he has recovered and said the experience taught him that it’s possible to retrain your brain to think big. “It’s a challenge to think big when the thing you do your thinking with is not working,” he said.

Paul Koenig can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

[email protected]

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