And then there were eight.
After a series of regional pitch events held this week, eight companies that participated in the Top Gun startup accelerator emerged as finalists and will compete June 7 for a $10,000 cash prize.
Top Gun, the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s five-month startup accelerator program, included 32 companies this year spread across four regional cohorts: Portland, Bangor, Lewiston and Rockland. (MSI reported in January that the cohort had 38 companies, but six dropped out over the course of the program.)
An event was held this week in each location to select two finalists from each cohort. Only 29 companies chose to pitch (10 in Portland, seven in Rockland, seven in Bangor, and five in Lewiston). Each entrepreneur presented a five-minute pitch to a panel of judges followed by a brief question-and-answer period.
The winners are:
- Branding Compass, a web-based, DIY application that helps entrepreneurs and companies develop their own unique brands. It is the brainchild of Emily Brackett, who runs Portland-based branding and web development agency, Visible Logic.
- Thrivant Health, a pet health company founded by Michael Royals that has developed a humane and non-invasive method of animal birth control that can help control feral and street dog populations.
- cityLIFE nature kits, an Orono-based company that creates nature-inspired educational activity kits for children. Deanna Fahey and Mary Ellen McAlester are the co-founders.
- GirlZone Fitness, founded by Melissa Ann Smith and based in Bangor, is a company that offers girls-only fitness and self-esteem classes that encourage physical fitness while cultivating a healthy self-image for young and teen girls.
- Grojo, based in Turner, has developed a Internet-connected device that helps indoor growers control and monitor their grow rooms. The founders are CEO Aaron Hasting, COO Jared Pinkham, and CTO Brandon Bergman.
- SofiaFima, a luxury leather handbag designer founded by Dianna Pozdniakov.
- Tempest in a Teapot, a tea company in Stonington founded by Tammy Smith.
- Herbal Revolution Farm and Apothecary, which produces hand-crafted herbal teas, tonics and elixirs. Founded by Katheryn Langelier.
Top Gun’s 2017 class was the largest in the accelerator program’s eight-year history. That was due largely to the addition of Lewiston/Auburn as its fourth regional cohort. When Top Gun began in 2009, it was based solely in Portland, which limited the accessibility for entrepreneurs in other parts of the state. Since then the program has added locations in Bangor and in Rockland. This was the first year a cohort convened in Lewiston/Auburn.
The final Top Gun Showcase event will be held at the University of Southern Maine’s Abromson Center in Portland. The $10,000 cash prize awarded to the winner is sponsored by the Maine Technology Institute.