Over artisanal pizza and unsweetened ice tea, a lawyer from Preti Flaherty chatted with a young entrepreneurial farmer while a software developer from Silicon Valley gabbed with a tax attorney.

They were just a few of the people sampling Collision Lunches, one of the new events at the second annual Maine Startup and Create Week – a celebration of entrepreneurship that kicked off Monday and runs through Sunday. The lunches are a tip of the cap to Maine’s foodie scene and reflect one of the three tracks of this year’s event: food innovation. The other tracks are small business and scaling growth.

At Monday’s Collision Lunch at Portland’s Slab, people laughed at not having conventional flatware and plates (diners eat family-style from communal serving boards piled high with salads, pizza and pastries.) But at the end of the lunch, business cards were exchanged and invitations issued – the conventional spark to business relationships.

“I thought the lunch was a perfect example of what this week can do for people active in Maine’s future,” said Nate Wildes of Harpswell, an entrepreneur working in ecommerce with Maine-made products. “There was a great cross section of people and a lot of sharing over a common denominator – good pizza.”

Networking opportunities were the order of the day, at keynote addresses, multiple panel discussions, workshops and presentations. Organized by Jess Knox, hub coordinator for startup incubator Blackstone Accelerates Growth, the event this year is expected to exceed last year’s 3,000 attendees. Ticket sales are strong, and Knox said the first day of the event “exceeded all of our expectations.”

The day started with panel discussions and workshops that ranged from growing food companies in Maine to arranging financing growth to how to build a prototype. Chris Avantaggio, associate creative director at The VIA Agency and founder of LiveME, an apparel company that celebrates the Maine lifestyle, spoke to attendees at a branding workshop. The thrust of the conversation was how to create a brand that defines how people see your company and how they engage with it.

LiveME’s line of T-shirts, which sport messages such as “HikeME,” “BurpME” and “BeerME,” were created for people who are proud to be from Maine or visit Maine. Customers have photographed themselves wearing their LiveME T-shirts in front of such iconic places as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Great Wall of China and the Sydney Opera House and sent them to the company.

“It’s really cool when people are proud of something you offer and want to share it with others,” Avantaggio told the audience. “It’s been very humbling.”


Leading into the keynote address of Donato J. Tramuto, founder of the Massachusetts-based company Physicians Interactive, was the annual Maine TechWalk, an exhibition by technology companies that have received funding from the Maine Technology Institute.

Nearly 50 companies and organizations vied for attention from attendees at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland. Some were early stage startups, such as CourseStorm, a company that offers parents one-stop registration for multiple kids with multiple classes and activities, to established companies such as Kennebec River Biosciences, an 18-year-old company in Richmond that tests the health of aquatic animals such as finfish and clams.

The TechWalk is the one time each year when all the MTI-funded companies are invited to showcase their innovations and network with like-minded entrepreneurs.

“It’s a great event,” said Don Gooding, executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, which offers an intensive entrepreneurial training program called Top Gun. “You never know who or what you’ll see.”