Ten “techstar” entrepreneurs pitched start-up ideas ranging from a new approach to paying rent to an app that periodically reminds office workers to do breathing and other exercises, before a group of potential mentors and investors Thursday in Portland.

The event at Ocean Gateway was part of the Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator program, which provides 10 companies a year with seed funding and access to its network of investors and mentors. The pitches aim to attract investors and build on what the entrepreneurs have been working on, with mentors who have their own start-up experience available to help identify possible opportunities and pitfalls.

The program is run by Techstars, a Colorado-based investment firm that provides seed money to the 10 start-ups, and the Roux Institute, a Portland-based graduate school and research center of Northeastern University.

The Techstars program considers itself a co-founder of the companies, and therefore has a stake in their success, said Lars Perkins, managing director of the Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator. The entrepreneurs are given access to 75 mentors whose only goal is to help the start-ups succeed.

“It’s sort of a boot camp,” Perkins said, adding that the entrepreneurs can also turn to one another for help and support.

“They’re growing their businesses and trying to get traction,” he said. “It’s remarkable how they all come together and help each other out.”


Thursday’s presentations showcased a wide variety of ideas including Listed B, a web-based company that helps connect Black beauty and wellness professionals with customers, and helps members of the Black community find a hair salon or barbershop and book an appointment, said Roydon Jeffrey, chief executive officer of the start-up.

Illi and Olivia Eisner said they took the frustration of preparing a bottle for an infant’s middle-of-the-night feeding and turned it into Bubbe, an advanced bottle that can keep breast milk or formula chilled for hours and then warm it up in minutes when it’s needed.

Hannes Bend developed a browser extension, breathing ai, that provides workers with timely reminders to do breathing and other exercises that reduce stress to improve health and productivity.

Other start-ups presenting Thursday included a Maine-based company that collects data and provides coaching for e-sports players and teams, a company that provides low-cost market research for small companies, and another that provides simplified and timely medical bills to help patients and medical practices get a better handle on an often complex and stress-inducing aspect of medical care.


CORRECTION: This story was updated at 3:05 p.m. on Dec. 10, 2021, to correct the name of Olivia Eisner.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.