The winner of Startup South Portland’s second pitch contest was James LaPlante, who pitched his concept for a new co-working and shared-studio space he plans to open in South Portland.

The second-place finisher at the event, which took place on Wednesday evening at Southern Maine Community College, was Amanda Farrington, who is preparing to open Latte Meow, a cat cafe. Other contestants were a company called Chid Kala LLC that makes skin care products and a nonprofit, Action Based Care, which plans to help prevent depression and dementia.

LaPante and Farrington won $750 and $250, respectively, and both secured spots to compete for a grand prize in the final event on Oct. 4.

SoPo co-working space to focus on tech, media and design

LaPlante, who runs his own Emmy-award-winning animation studio, told Maine Startups Insider he’s currently working on financing, but hopes to open the space in early 2018.

The space, which he’s dubbed SoPoCo.Works, will be located on Broadway near Cash Corner. It will offer the usual co-working amenities—shared and private office space, communal kitchen, printer, conference room, etc.—but it will also stand out from the existing co-working spaces in the Greater Portland area. LaPlante also plans to create a small production studio for members who want to create YouTube content, a Kickstarter video, or product photos. He also plans to provide members with access to virtual reality development equipment.

“We’re just completing financing and hope to start the build out on our building in November,” he said. “We hope to create a collaborative working community with a technology, media and design focus.”

The media and design focus is a result of LaPlante’s focus. SoPoCo.Works will be anchored by LaPlante’s own studio, Sputnik Animation, which has produced work for clients such as National Geographic, PBS NOVA, The Discovery Channel and MIT.

SoPoCo.Works has a website, but it’s currently just a placeholder as LaPlante develops content for the launch.

Startup South Portland finals on Oct. 4

Startup South Portland initially planned to host three semi-final events, followed by a final event that would see the top two finishers from each event compete for a grand prize.

The organizers got off to a late start, however, so have truncated this initial contest and decided that the Oct. 4 event will be the final pitch event. It will feature LaPlante and Farrington, along with the top two finishers from the first pitch contest held on Sept. 13—Allegra McNeally from Blynk Technologies, the smart shopping cart startup, and Luke Thomas, founder of Friday Feedback.

The location of the Oct. 4 event has yet to be determined, but will likely be at either City Hall or a hotel near the Maine Mall, according to Adam Nyhan, an attorney at Opticliff Law and one of the event’s organizers.

The panel of judges at the final event will be Martha Bentley from the Maine Technology Institute; Kerem Durdag, COO of GWI; Sam Fratoni, chair of Maine Angels; plus yet-to-determined representatives from two of the major sponsors, Opticliff Law and People’s United Bank.

The winner will receive $1,500, while the runner-up will receive $750. The top two finishers will also receive a package of trademark law services from Opticliff Law.

Besides Opticliff Law and People’s United Bank, the other sponsors are the City of South Portland, the South Portland Economic Development Committee, and Southern Maine Community College.