Six companies in Maine received venture capital funding during the first quarter of 2015, representing the most VC deals closed in Maine in any single quarter since 1998, according to a national report.

The six deals poured nearly $17.8 million into Maine companies in the software, information technology and telecommunications industries, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. The report is prepared using self-reported data collected by Thomson Reuters.

That many deals in a single quarter hasn’t happened since the fourth quarter of 1998, when seven deals closed, but for a total of $7 million.

The Maine company receiving the largest share of the first-quarter funding was CashStar Inc., which received $9.5 million from undisclosed firms. CashStar, founded in Portland in 2007, works with retailers to provide digital gift cards. The investment was part of a larger $22.5 million offering, according to the company’s recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The others are:

Direct Vet Marketing, a Portland-based company, which received $5.2 million in March from HLM Venture Partners and Polaris Venture Partners, each of which has offices in both Boston and San Francisco. It was this company’s second round of funding as it continues to improve on its online pharmacy platform for veterinarians.

Tilson Technology Management, a company that manages the build-out of telecom networks, which received roughly $2 million from CEI Ventures Inc., a venture capital organization under the umbrella of Wiscasset-based Coastal Enterprises Inc., and Rand Capital Corp., an investment company in Buffalo, New York.


Chimani Inc., the Portland-based mobile app developer, which received $500,000 from the Maine Venture Fund and undisclosed firms.

Wentworth Technology Inc. in Saco, which received $430,000 from Maine Venture Fund and undisclosed firms.

Bar Harbor Biotechnology Inc., which received $180,000 from Maine Venture Fund as part of a total offering of $300,000.

Deals worth $17 million represent a good quarter for Maine, according to Tim Agnew, a principal at the VC firm Masthead Venture Partners, which has offices in Portland and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In fact, the $17.8 million received this year represents the highest dollar amount in a single quarter since the third quarter of 2011, when only two deals closed representing $21.3 million in investment.

Agnew said the number and diversity of deal sizes are good signs.


“We’re not just seeing big companies getting big chunks of cash,” he said. “We’re seeing a variety of different stages and different sizes of companies being able to raise capital. The fact more companies are raising money, that’s significant.”


Overall, venture capital funds invested $13.4 billion in 1,020 deals in the first quarter of 2015, according to the MoneyTree report. The first quarter is the fifth consecutive quarter that included more than $10 billion of venture capital invested in a single quarter, according to the report.

On a regional basis, companies in New England received roughly $1.4 billion in venture capital, 96 percent of which was received by companies in Massachusetts, in 115 deals. Maine, with its $17.8 million in investment, came in second in the region, followed closely by New Hampshire with $17.1 million. Connecticut companies received $11.6 million; a single deal in Vermont represented that state’s total $5 million in venture capital funding for the quarter; and two deals in Rhode Island equaled $3.9 million in venture capital funding.

In the past, Agnew has warned about reading too much into quarterly venture capital data, which can be notoriously volatile in a small state like Maine. But after the last few quarters he’s begun to acknowledge a trend may be emerging.

As supporting evidence, he offers the increase in interest in startups and entrepreneurship in Maine, from the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s expanding Top Gun program to the momentum behind Maine Startup and Create Week, which kicks off next week.


“I think a trend is likely to happen, ” Agnew said. ” … It used to be that venture capital investors looked for deals within a two-hour drive. I think that’s changed now. Venture capital funds are looking for interesting deals wherever they can find them. I think that’s an opportunity for Maine, that we can start to pull some deals from the Boston area.”

But applying context to the recent activity is tricky, according to John Burns, managing director of Maine Venture Fund.

Because the MoneyTree Report is compiled with self-reported data, Burns believes the number of deals in Maine is likely underreported. For example, the Maine Venture Fund, which was previously known as the Small Enterprise Growth Fund, didn’t begin reporting its data to Thomson Reuters until a year and a half ago, Burns said.

“It sounds like spurious data … because I think there’s been inconsistency at best in reporting,” he said. “It’s the rule of small numbers. With (a sample size) of six, it’s hard to draw any statistically significant conclusions.”

That said, Burns does believe the data suggest a positive trend.

The Maine Venture Fund was involved in three of the six deals in the first quarter. It involved small follow-on investments in Bar Harbor Biotechnology and Wentworth Technology, and invested for the first time in Chimani.

“Companies are actively raising capital and there are investors out looking for good opportunities,” Burns said.


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