Don Gooding singing Sinatra at the 2015 Top Gun Showcase event. (Photo/MCED)
Don Gooding singing Sinatra at the 2015 Top Gun Showcase event. (Photo/MCED)

Don Gooding, who’s giving up the top job at the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development (a fact Maine Startups Insider revealed on Tuesday), won’t be straying far from Maine’s startup community.

But he will stray a little bit, at least at first. Gooding, who will step down in mid-June, said he’s considering “a menu of options” for his post-MCED pursuits.

“The first thing is to spend a bit more time living rather than working,” he said, noting that he and his wife are already discussing taking some time to travel to Africa and go on safari.

He also plans to pursue a passion for singing. An item on his list of 60 things to do before turning 60 (he’s currently 57) is to sing Sinatra regularly and have 200 songs in his repertoire. Anyone who’s attended MCED’s Top Gun Showcase event has been witness to Gooding’s Sinatra-esque alter ego (see photo above).

“I’ve been talking about doing regular Sinatra singing for way too long,” Gooding said. “And now I’m going to do it by God without having to worry about having to go to Top Gun or go to this meeting or that meeting.”

He added: “I’ve actually been taking some voice lessons, as well.”

But working with startup founders will remain one of his primary activities. It’s actually a desire to do more of that which led to his decision to leave MCED. He wants to focus on what he enjoys — working directly with startup founders — and less on the challenge of leading a nonprofit, including the requisite fundraising duties.

“I’m excited about it. A bit sad, but these things do happen,” Gooding said when I asked how he felt now that the news was out.

Gooding plans to work more closely with a select few startups on a cash or equity basis. He’s already an accredited investor and member of Maine Angels, so he’ll probably first direct his attention to companies he’s already invested in or interacted with at MCED. He has some in mind, but the only one he would name is Introspective Systems, the Portland-based software company working on Big Data applications. Gooding is a lead investor in the company.

He also plans to canvas some local universities in search of an opportunity to work with student entrepreneurs.

“I don’t want to run an entrepreneurship program, but spending a day a week to help students go through an entrepreneurial program would be my idea of a good time,” he said.

He’ll also remain involved with MCED programming as a consultant or advisor to the extent the board and whoever his successor is welcomes the idea. While he is leaving because he doesn’t like fundraising, he is still committed to the organization’s mission of fostering startups.

Asked what he’s most proud of during his time leading MCED, Gooding cited the rise of the city’s startup community.

“Today people think of Portland and Maine as a thriving hub of entrepreneurial activity and that sure wasn’t the case six years ago,” he said. “I’m certainly not the only one responsible for that, but it feels good to be part of it all.”

Gooding said his successor needs to be somebody who has tons of experience in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, either in Maine or elsewhere, and can articulate a good vision of where the organization ought to be going.

“No rocket science there,” he said.

He has a list in his mind of five or six people he thinks would be well suited for the job, but he declined to name names. MCED’s board plans to begin the executive-director-search process immediately.

“I do firmly believe the organization will thrive in the future,” Gooding said.