Start ME Up! Relaunching Startup Maine – Katie Shorey

Katie Shorey shares what’s new with Startup Maine, June 19th – 21st.

Yury Nabokov: Welcome to the podcast. Today, we have a very special guest. She is the president and the chairwoman of Startup Maine, an organization that serves as a convener, educator, and accelerator of the Maine starter up community. For her day job, she works for People’s United Bank where she focuses on community and business development. Prior to joining the bank, she worked in Washington DC and San Francisco California in various consulting roles. She is active in economic development initiatives to help foster innovation and entrepreneurship. She serves on the advisory board of Maine, accelerates growth, and sits on the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce advocacy committee. She attended St. Lawrence University and Fryeburg Academy and now resides in Westbrook. Welcome to the Fast Forward Maine podcast, Katie Shorey.

Katie Shorey: Yay!

Rich Brooks: We’re really glad to have you here Katie and Yury is just so proud of himself for getting through that whole thing; he was a little nervous.

Katie Shorey: I’m proud of you too.

Yury Nabokov: I really was. Thank you guys. You made it really easy on me.

Rich Brooks: All right it’s been a great show. Thanks so much Katie for coming by. No.

Rich Brooks: So, Katie, let’s talk a little bit about Startup Maine and just start with the basics. What is Startup Maine?

Katie Shorey: So Startup Maine is an organization, a 501c3 based in Maine. And, as you just said, we see ourselves as a convener, an educator, and accelerator of the startup community. We have an annual conference every year where we bring in founders and service providers and people doing really cool things and feature them at the conference and have networking events and a bunch of other programs to really connect people. And then we also have other events throughout the year where we try to showcase some of the great things going on in Maine and really help educate and inspire people that are interested in entrepreneurship.

Yury Nabokov: That’s fantastic. Katie, follow up to it, what is the current number of startup members or maybe graduates of Maine Startup?

Katie Shorey: That’s actually a really great question. We are trying to collect data on that now to be able to say what has Startup Maine and how has Startup Maine helped you. Did you meet a co-founder there? Did you find your first investor there? So, I actually don’t have stats on that. I know that over the years we’ve had thousands of people attend the conference but they’re not all necessarily entrepreneurs. We have folks that are what we call the startup curious people that might just be interested in what it’s like working for a startup or what does this whole mentality look like. And then we have a lot of the service providers and the entrepreneurial support organizations that attend as well.

Rich Brooks: So I know that you guys just kind of went through a rebranding. Can you talk to me a little bit about what’s changed since you rebranded to Startup Maine?

Katie Shorey: Sure, so we went through a little bit of a change last year when we were thinking about, okay we’ve been around for five years and we know who want to serve and we know what we want to do but do we need to exist?

Rich Brooks: That’s a very existential question right there.

Katie Shorey: Absolutely. Do we need to exist? There are a lot of organizations in the ecosystem that are serving entrepreneurs but we wanted to figure out what our purpose was and so we realized, well first thing, we wanted to change our name. It was a little bit of a mouthful. We used to be called Maine Startup and Create Week. And now we just decided to go with straight Startup Maine. And we have changed the conference from a week long format to now being a two, two and a half day conference. And then we have other events throughout the year because we realized we were kind of going dark and being kind of quiet the rest of the year. So we were like no, we want to make sure that we have a presence throughout the year and so, in addition to the two and a half day conference, we’re partnering with other groups throughout the year just to offer programming.

Yury Nabokov: It sounds like there’s a lot going on but my question is, how did you get involved with Startup Maine and how did we get so lucky to have you in our wonderful state?

Katie Shorey: Well, actually I have a really good story. I kind of see myself as like the poster child for startup. So, backup a little bit to 2015. I was home. I was a remote worker at the time and so I could kind of be anywhere and I was trying to figure out, do I go back to DC? Should I try Boston? And I was home over the summer and I saw on TV that there was this startup conference. And I was like, I didn’t know Maine had a startup conference or even startups. I guess I was just not even aware.

Katie Shorey: And I reached out to the group and asked if I could volunteer. So I showed up and ended up volunteering in 2015 for the conference. And I was just so moved by everything that was going on in this state. I had no idea the companies that were here. The initiatives that were going on. And it was rather impulsive but I actually signed a lease in the East End at the end of the conference week and I moved to Portland right then and there. And I just dove head first into the community and I ended up automatically signing up to be a volunteer and an organizer of the conference moving forward. And my role was to be the fundraiser and to engage the sponsors and all the donor relations.

Katie Shorey: And so I did that for a few years and then, when we decided to up our game and become a 501c3 last year, I was asked by the group if I would step in as president. And so I was nominated for that role and that’s how I came to be in the position.

Rich Brooks: Very cool. So you mentioned that you guys are now more of a year round organization. But I do know that you’ve got this big tent pole event, usually put on during the summer. Can you tell us more about the big event this year? Tell me, I’m curious to know what’s new. What have you brought back from last year and what do expect out of this year’s event?

Katie Shorey: Absolutely. And if I could just touch on really quick an example of something that we’re doing around other times of the year and then I’ll jump into the conference. For example, a few weeks ago, we had an event with Grove Collaborative. It’s a new company that set up shop in Portland. Their headquarters are based in San Francisco and they are hiring like crazy. And we invited the CEO of Grove Collaborative to come to Portland and had an event that we called Insights from a Founder. And we featured him. His name is Stew Lansburg. And we had him talk about why they picked Maine. Why they’re excited about being here. And, specifically their focus on hiring here and jumping into the community.

Katie Shorey: And then, last week, we were a partner for the New England Ocean Cluster. They had an event on, they’re calling it the Blue Economy. So that’s like ocean entrepreneurship initiatives. And we had an event at Maine Craft Distilling focused on why seaweed matters. So that’s the first in their new ocean entrepreneurship series. So we’re just helping lift up some of these other groups and letting people know in our listeners or in our followers, what are some really cool entrepreneurship things going on in the state.

Katie Shorey: So, that said, the big conference, which this year is June 19th through the 21st, we partner on our kickoff event. This is always exciting. We did this last year and it was a success so we decided to do it again this year. We are partnering with the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce. They have an event series called Kegs and Issues where they feature a speaker, they host it at Aura, feature some really good local Maine craft brews. And we this year will be picking the speakers for that event. So we have Hannah Pingree from the Office of the Future and Innovation from the state of Maine. And she will share the stage with Jennifer Pahlka, the CEO of Code for America, who was also Obama’s former Deputy Chief Technology Officer and she helped set up the US Digital Service. So the work that she’s doing at Code for America is really related and connected to what Hannah has been charged doing so it will be really cool having them on the stage.

Katie Shorey: And then something that we started doing about two years ago from a program perspective is we did an open call for applications. Rather than us come up with all the content, we said, hey we’ll crowd source this and see if people have things that they want to put forth for the event. So we got almost 100 applications this year for 25 spots. So the program team has been hard at work on identifying and widdling down what we’re going to pick. And then we have some of our own curated events, sorry, curated programs as well. We’re going to have some things focused on aquaculture and founder success stories.

Katie Shorey: And then we have a bunch of networking events that we have throughout the event. We have some really fun social events. We like to have what we call intentional collisions. So people really have time during the event to meet and talk with each other and learn about what everyone’s doing. We have this one event called a Mixpo. It’s a mixer expo, which is kind of fun. We have different organizations, companies that exhibit and the theme this year is money, mentors, and jobs.

Katie Shorey: So that’s just a few examples of what we have going on.

Yury Nabokov: Katie, you mentioned that you had 100 applications for the 25 spots. Can you elaborate a little bit on those applications? Are they all local applicant? Do we have any interests from out of state? And, if you can, identify, maybe top three, or maybe top five categories that people are interested on presenting. And what you guys interested as an organization. I would be delighted to learn about a little bit more.

Katie Shorey: Yeah, so we have a theme this year. It’s startups, innovators, and policy makers because we really wanted to make sure that we’re capturing, not only some of the–well the policy makers sometimes just aren’t always at the table with the entrepreneurs and what they have going on but there are so many things when it comes to regulations and potential impacts on policy that we really want to make sure that that’s included this year.

Katie Shorey: So, when we did our call for applications this year, we wanted to make sure that those topics were incorporated. We had a handful that were focused on marketing techniques and marketing and doing PR on a shoestring budget because a lot of these entrepreneurs, when you’re getting off the ground, I mean, you’re just trying to get your name and brand and products out there but you might not necessarily have the budget yet to have a full marketing campaign. So how do you do that on a low budget?

Katie Shorey: And we had a bunch of applications also on employee benefits. So, what is it that you can incorporate at your company, in addition to potentially equity and job perks, how can you really set up a good employee package. Because, sometimes, when people are starting companies, the salaries might not be able to be as high as some may like, so how can you sweeten the deal?

Katie Shorey: We had a bunch of applications focused on what funding opportunities are out there. There are grants, there are loans. How do you navigate getting in front of some of the resources to be able to get some funding for your company? So we’re going to definitely dive into that too because there are so many resources in Maine from Maine Technology Institute to Maine Venture Fund and Maine Angels. And then we have groups like Finance Authority of Maine, Department of Economic and Community Development. And so these organizations are there to help kind of give a leg up to some of these startups and entrepreneurs. So it’s important that they know about tax incentives or grants or loans.

Katie Shorey: And so we also had some applications focused on culture and brainstorming techniques. So I can’t give away who we’re picking yet because it’s not live but we will have that, probably mid-April. So, depending on when this goes live, we could have a whole program set up.

Yury Nabokov: Well that sounds like there’s going to be a lot of very valuable content. So for those who are listening to this show, can you tell us when, where, and how much, and how can the communities get involved with this event?

Katie Shorey: Absolutely. So there’s a few ways. One, we have a lot of great sponsors and sponsorship opportunities to get your name and brand in front of these different people and organizations. And so we still have some sponsorship opportunities available. And a big shout out and thank you to our presenting sponsors which is WEX and Maine Technology Institute. So those are our two presenting sponsors. We have volunteer opportunities as well throughout the year. The goal is on May 6th to have a volunteer recruitment, but also just a social event. So more to come on that.

Katie Shorey: And the conference–and this is something I’m very proud of. We have decided to keep the cost very low. So for the two and a half day event, the tickets are only $48. Those are on sale now. And that gets you into everything from the Kegs and Issues event at Aura with Chamber of Commerce. It gets you into the closing party that we’re going to have at Food Fork Lab on Friday night. And then all of the programming on Thursday and Friday. And you can buy tickets at www.startupmaine.org. And those are just some of the ways to get involved and to, hopefully, be able to show up and take part in all the fun.

Yury Nabokov: Perfect. And we’ll make sure to include the right destinations in our show notes and I’m sure we’ll syndicate this information through our E-News. So, those of you who are listening right now, please make sure to subscribe and check out the show notes.

Rich Brooks: So, Katie, there’s a lot of stuff going on here in Portland. Obviously, Startup Maine’s event is going on here in Portland. What can be done to improve the startup environment outside of greater Portland? There’s a lot of places that need help further north or down east in the state.

Katie Shorey: Absolutely. So I sit on this group called Maine Accelerates Growth. And essentially it’s a coalition and a consortium of sorts of all of the economic development initiatives and entrepreneurial support organizations across the state. So that’s groups like the Scratchpad Accelerator in Bangor. Mount Desert Island has a new group called MDI 365. There’s Our Katahdin up in the Katahdin region trying to help revitalize that area as well.

Katie Shorey: And something to note, the focus this year from Maine community foundation, is their rural entrepreneurship focus. They are going to be diving into some of the ways to help spread the web of support and resources to other parts of the state. And I grew up in Western Maine in the Bridgton, Fryeburg area. And I know that there are amazing people who are so creative and hardworking. But I have to say that I think that sometimes, and I’m guilty of this as well, of being very Portland focused and living in my bubble. But we need to make sure that other rural parts of the state are aware of some of the incentives and resources that are out there.

Katie Shorey: And I know that the Department of Economic and Community development, they are looking for and hiring for a position for a Director of Business Development in Innovation. So they are essentially going to have somebody that’s really just making their way across the state and showcasing and trying to get the news in front of different companies and startups alike to say these are resources that are available in the state, how can we help you? And Maine Technology Institute does a great job with that as well.

Rich Brooks: And you mentioned that you’re a part of Maine Accelerates Growth, which is also pulling all of these things together. Is there a resource on the Maine Accelerates Growth website where if people are listening in and they’re in a specific region of the state that they can find resources that might be available to them?

Katie Shorey: I think the best place to start would be either SPA or DECD. And also Maine Technology Institute because MXG sits under Maine Technology Institute. So I think those would be the best starting spots. But I also need to give a plug to Score. Score has, not only, a great, great chapter in Portland that’s actually getting the best small chapter award nationally, but there are other chapters across the state. And they’re a great starting point for people that are starting a business or looking to grow a business. It’s free. They have workshops and you can get connected to a mentor. They’re such a great resource. They’ll know, okay, should you go talk to CEI, should you go talk to Maine New Ventures, which are other support organizations that are in other parts of the state. So Score is a great place to start as well because they can really be the front lines and then set someone free.

Yury Nabokov: Fantastic. Well this is not the first time we hear great praises and words of recognition for the work that the Scores chapters do. So, who is involved with Scores, thank you very much for contributing to successes of our small businesses across the state.

Yury Nabokov: Katie, if you could change one thing in Maine business ecosystem, what would it be?

Katie Shorey: So I was thinking about this and I have two things. One, I think would be the cost of healthcare or the accessibility of healthcare. It’s a huge financial burden but also just a stress for companies that are scaling and growing and trying to get their people covered. But the cost can be very prohibitive. So that’s a national issue, of course, but I know that if there was something that we could do in Maine, that would be amazing.

Katie Shorey: And, also, I’ve heard this over and over again. I think that the salaries need to really be bumped up. I know a bunch of people that work remotely here in the state and they love being here, they love working in Maine but they chose to be remote workers just because the salaries really can’t compare with what they’re making elsewhere. So I think that that’s something that could definitely help. That could help from a recruitment standpoint and also just from a retention standpoint as well.

Rich Brooks: Awesome. Now, I’m sure a lot of people want to check out Startup Maine and also learn more about you. Where can we send them online?

Katie Shorey: Absolutely. So for Startup Maine, our website is www.startupmaine.org. We have a very active Facebook and Instagram and Twitter. So Facebook is @startupmaine. And, for me personally, you can find me on LinkedIn, my end handle is @KatelynShorey, K-A-T-E-L-Y-N Shorey. And my Startup Maine email is katie@startupmaine.org.

Rich Brooks: Awesome. Katie, this has been great. I really appreciate you coming on the show and sharing all the exciting stuff that’s going on with Startup Maine and also Maine Accelerates Growth.

Katie Shorey: Absolutely, thank you so much for having me. A really appreciate you featuring me in Startup Maine.

Yury Nabokov: Katie, it’s been really great. Thank you for your work.

Katie Shorey: Thank you guys.