Startup Maine, an annual training and networking event for entrepreneurs in Portland, is adding an industry to its lineup this year with speakers and workshops focused on the ocean-reliant “blue economy.”

Keynote speakers at the event, which starts Wednesday and continues through Friday, will include Berta Danielsdottir, CEO of the Iceland Ocean Cluster, a Reykjavik-based organization focused on maritime-related businesses.

Berta Danielsdottir, CEO of the Iceland Ocean Cluster, a Reykjavik-based organization focused on maritime-related businesses.  Courtesy of Startup Maine

Workshops geared toward maritime entrepreneurs will include a session on the business of aquaculture, and another focused on exporting local products from Maine and New England.

Startup Maine President Katie Shorey said event organizers decided to add an industry focus this year to address the distinct needs of maritime startups, which tend to require high up-front costs and relatively long incubation periods.

“We have received feedback from multiple organizations in Maine’s startup ecosystem, from the Maine Technology Institute, numbers of the Maine Angels (investor group), other conversations that we had with some high-profile entrepreneurs and investors within the state, who are curious about this area,” said Startup Maine co-organizer Helen Sterling Coburn, a shareholder at Portland law firm Bernstein Shur.

“It’s clearly a hot topic,” Shorey added.


The event’s technology-related content also has been expanded this year in an effort to attract more attendees with technical skills such as engineering and programming. Topics will include cybersecurity, blockchain technology, artificial intelligence and enabling innovation through technology.

Absent from this year’s program are workshops and speakers focused on agriculture and another hot topic in Maine entrepreneurial circles, recreational cannabis. Sterling Coburn said the organizers did not receive any specific requests to cover those industries.

Still, she said most of the conference’s speakers, panels and workshops will cover topics that would be useful to entrepreneurs and people in general from any industry, including agriculture and legal cannabis. Such topics will include investing and finance, government policy and entrepreneurship, and hiring and corporate culture.

“We’re not just for … the entrepreneurs or for people that are in startups,” Shorey said. “This is a great networking and a big-thinking conference, as well.”

Startup Maine will kick off at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Aura, a nightclub and entertainment venue at 121 Center St. in Portland. The conference will continue Thursday and Friday at its primary location, the Maine College of Art, at 522 Congress St. in Portland.

Shorey said about 300 all-access passes to the event already have been sold, with another 100 passes expected to be purchased at the door. A pass costs $48. For more information, visit

Comments are no longer available on this story