Maine Venture Fund makes three-year commitment to support startups at The Roux Institute

A silhouette of two men shacking hands against the background of windows facing the ocean.
Maine’s largest state-sponsored venture capital firm is allocating as much as $250,000 annually over the next three years to invest in the businesses coming out of The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator, an immersive entrepreneurship program that works with startups. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

The Roux Institute at Northeastern University has received a three-year commitment from Maine Venture Fund (MVF) to support startups that plan to grow in Maine.

MVF will evaluate companies that graduate from The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator, an immersive entrepreneurship program that helps startup founders build and scale their technology businesses. These startups develop products at the intersection of humans and machines by focusing on areas that will revolutionize how we live and work, including artificial intelligence, life sciences and health, and data and analytics.

As Maine’s largest state-sponsored venture capital firm, MVF is allocating up to $250,000 annually over the next three years to invest in Maine-based startups coming out of the accelerator as part of a deepening relationship with The Roux Institute. In addition to the capital allocation, MVF is co-locating its team at the institute’s Portland campus to help support top-tier startups while also connecting companies in the MVF portfolio to the institute’s cutting-edge research and classroom opportunities. The venture fund also expects to invest in companies that graduate from the institute’s other startup programs, including its Founders Residency Program.

“We see The Roux Institute as a catalyst for economic activity and job growth here in Maine,” says Joe Powers, managing director of Maine Venture Fund. “The Roux Institute Techstars Accelerator is really a boot camp that gives companies a much better chance at success. To the extent that Maine Venture Fund can be a part of helping those companies to get rooted here in Maine, and to grow their companies here, that’s super important to us, and it represents a big opportunity for the state.”

With more than $27 million invested in Maine companies since its formation in 1997, Maine Venture Fund is a mainstay of the state’s early-stage funding ecosystem. Its ongoing relationship with the institute has included workshops on venture capital and counseling to Techstars startups in Portland.

“We are excited to have Maine Venture Fund supporting the institute’s mission of growing the Maine economy and startup ecosystem,” says Chris Wolfel, director of entrepreneurship at The Roux Institute. “They join a growing list of supporters, including Maine Technology Institute, Bernstein Shur, and TDF Ventures who make our work possible.”

It’s exceedingly rare for an investment fund to commit to providing capital in advance, says Benjamin Chesler, the institute’s associate director of entrepreneurship, who helped create the partnership with MVF. 

“It signals a confidence in The Roux Institute and Techstars portfolio companies that MVF is willing to allocate money specifically for these startups,” says Chesler, who founded Imperfect Foods—a large online grocery store committed to reducing food waste—prior to joining The Roux Institute last year. “It’s a strong show of force that two Maine-based institutions are coming together to show how we can support the ecosystem and network to make these companies successful here in Maine. And it’s appealing to prospective companies to know that they’ll have a greater chance of getting funding if they apply to and are accepted into the accelerator program.” 

The institute’s Techstars Accelerator is accepting applications from startups around the world to join its second class, which will begin this fall at The Roux Institute’s Portland campus. The intensive 13-week program provides an opportunity for founders to take advantage of the networks and expertise of The Roux Institute and Techstars to build their businesses and talent pipeline. The initiative will culminate in a Demo Day, where the entrepreneurs will tell their stories and pitch their services to investors—much as the inaugural group of 10 startups did in December.

Among that original class, one startup was from Maine, and three others relocated to the state at the conclusion of the program.

More than $200 million has been invested in The Roux Institute since January 2020, when the university launched it with a $100 million investment from technology entrepreneur and Maine native David Roux and his wife, Barbara. They joined with Northeastern to enact their vision of a Portland-based hub to educate generations of talent for the digital and life sciences sectors, and create new ideas through research. In October 2020, the institute received an additional $100 million gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation, an investment that provides financial aid for graduate-level students, funding for postdoctoral research, and support for co-ops with Maine employers.

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