David Roux, founder of Silver Lake Partners, a private equity firm with over $24 billion invested, knows a thing or two about entrepreneurship. As a Lewiston native, he also knows a thing or two about Maine.

Roux keynoted the annual meeting of the Maine Venture Fund on Monday, sharing with attendees his personal observations about successful entrepreneurs (socially awkward, impatient, relentless, “risk-seeking missiles”) and Silicon Valley where he worked for 20 years (”it’s hard to overstate the degree of conceit and arrogance in the valley”). But it’s that single-mindedness that causes passionate entrepreneurs to take on huge, established companies and create seismic shifts in the market. Complacency is the shackle that binds big companies. It’s why IBM missed the PC revolution, USPS missed express delivery, ExxonMobil and other oil companies missed renewables and Ford, GM and Chrysler were late to the party for electric vehicles, he said.

Roux shared the top three industries that have caught his eye and in which he is investing personally. Some have obvious Maine connections.

The first is quality food (”a hugely under-invested category for entrepreneurs”). Roux said industrial food is at the end of its shelf life and there is no obvious replacement.

“Artisanal anything with a high degree of integrity will be fantastic,” he said.

The second is ubiquitous computing. Roux predicts that all computing needs will soon be met the same way people get water or electricity – through a communal portal that will deliver whatever you want to whatever device you have. “Big data analysis around that will be terrific.”

And finally, life sciences, or functional genomics, the science that uses molecular biology to unlock and use gene functions and interactions to prevent diseases and in other health care applications.

“Everything we do today is like attaching leeches,” said Roux. “All (conventional medicine) will change in the next 20 years.”

The agenda at the MVF annual meeting wasn’t all forward looking. The organization, which in the last 16 years has directed $18.2 million in state money to promising Maine startups, recognized three companies for achievement. Gelato Fiasco was honored for its community commitment, by using Maine milk and locally sourced ingredients for its gelato, and for its charitable giving. Pika Energy was recognized for raising significant capital to grow its renewable energy business, and for launching a new, patented energy storage system called REBus.

Coast of Maine Organics was cited for its leadership and management team, which produced increasing profits for the organic food company. Coast of Maine Organics exited the Maine Venture Fund portfolio this year, as did as Look’s Gourmet, which drew significant investment from Maryland-based Sea Watch International, the largest, fully integrated producer of clams in the world.


Concrete was the dominant material for most of the 20th century’s commercial construction and now a British architect with a growing international reputation says the world is ready for the next best building material: wood.

Anthony Thistleton, a partner with the London firm of Waugh and Thistleton, is headlining Maine’s Wood Innovators Conference next month.

Thistleton lives in a seven-story, timber apartment building he designed; his firm is working on others throughout England. The wood product used in these increasingly tall buildings is CLT, or cross-laminated timber, which is engineered to be stronger than traditional timber and more resistant to the elements. It also has about half the carbon footprint of concrete.

Thistleton told Lee Burnett, one of the conference organizers, that recognition of wood’s ability to store carbon absorbed from the atmosphere by trees is helping to fuel interest in CLT buildings. They have sprouted up in England, Norway, Australia and France and Portland,Oregon, has several timber projects five stories or taller under construction now, according to The New York Times.

As an added bonus, contractors using CLT can build much faster because most of the components are prefabricated off site and then assembled at the building’s location.

“It’s the simplicity and speed,” Thistleton told Burnett of CLT’s advantage. “It’s a better way to build – fast, quiet, accurate and clean.”

Burnett said there’s real potential for Maine and its 17 million acres of forest to become a CLT manufacturing center, an idea that is being explored at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

The daylong conference, set for Oct. 22 at Hiram Works in Hiram, is presenting innovations in wood-pellet heat, engineered lumber, forestry, new wood-fiber based products and policy initiatives. To register, go to tearcapworkshops.org

Business Editor Carol Coultas can be contacted at 7921-6460 or at:

[email protected]

This story was changed to correct Thistleton’s current projects.