A few months ago, a friend of mine was working on writing a piece for Maine Magazine about the startups here in the Portland area. It was published a couple of days ago and highlights a few companies, including my startup, Friday. I thought it would be fun to compile a big list of startups and technology companies here in town to try to give them a bit more exposure.
I want to be clear – Portland’s startup scene is not nearly as big as another major city like Boston, but it’s growing and there’s a lot of good stuff happening below the radar. I’d like to see this community grow, so the rest of this post highlights some of the companies in town.
A few quick notes:
- This is not an exhaustive list – if I missed one, I’d be happy to add it (feel free to reach out)
- This list is primarily focused on software and/or tech-enabled companies. Quite frankly, the local press does a great job covering the food/drink scene, but not so great covering tech.
- I tried to keep the list somewhat geographically constrained to the Portland area (+/- 20 minutes of downtown). I hope to do a bigger list in the future when I’m not doing dad stuff with my 12-month old energetic son.
- If you want to see regular updates about the community, subscribe to Whit Richardson’s blog – Maine Startups Insider.
I’ve done my best to categorize them into a few buckets – early-stage, established, scaling, and #big companies. Full disclosure – I know quite a few of the founders of these companies. I also really like how many of them are going after big problems.
Early Stage Startups
First up, the early-stage companies. If I’ve missed some, feel free to reach out.
Unstack is a low-code website builder that makes it easy to set up a marketing “engine” for your company. I’m a paying customer and find that it’s a super simple way to be able to iterate on your website without requiring engineering resources. Half the team is based in Boston, with the other half here in Portland.
They’ve raised $750k from a variety of Boston-based investors. I put them first on this big list because I think they are one to watch closely.
MedRhythms is a digital therapeutics company that uses sensors, music, and AI to build evidence-based, neurologic interventions to measure and improve walking (pulled from their website).
Here’s my take – MedRythmns helps stroke victims recover faster via music therapy. Here’s a video to help provide a bit more context:
They have about twenty employees and raised a $5m Series A round. I’m classifying them as an early-stage company because they are going through FDA approval, which means it’s still in the early days.
HighByte is on a mission to solve the data architecture and security problems faced by industrial companies. They are building the first DataOps solution purpose-built to meet the unique requirements of industrial assets, products, and processes (pulled from their website).
HighByte was founded by former executives at Kepware, which sold to PTC a few years ago for $100m+. I’m looking forward to watching this company grow.
KinoTek’s mission is to change the way motion capture analysis is approached and applied; designing intuitive and immersive biomechanics and physiological visualization for rapid psychomotor feedback and kinesthetic learning. With an intuitive visualization of muscle firing patterns, and direct actionable feedback, users can rapidly learn to self-correct and optimize movement patterns; enhancing safety and performance using complex biomechanics principles presented in a personalized, simplistic manner (pulled from LinkedIn bio).
You can see how it works in the video below.
Have you ever read news stories about someone with Alzheimer’s disappearing from a senior living facility? That’s why upBed exists. upBed is a silent bed exit detector that provides early warning of a bed exit and notifies staff through your nurse call system (pulled from website). This product reminds me a bit of other wearable products like LifeAlert.
You can read a bit more about the founding story here.
Wallit is a comprehensive, easy-to-use, next-generation digital wallet designed to help parents and teens better manage money. All tools are integrated with your bank or credit union and easily accessible through our app or online experience (pulled from website).
I really like this idea, especially as they help families manage things like setting an allowance. Managing money is a collaborative experience, especially when you are part of a family.
Wallit raised $2.6m in their seed round of funding and according to LinkedIn, their office is in Westbrook.
Forager is simplifying the local food sourcing process so we can all benefit from local food. Consumers are increasingly demanding fresh, local food. Yet grocers, distributors, and institutions find it challenging to source locally. Forager is seeking to change all of this so we can make local food more widely available for everyone (pulled from website).
I come from a family of farmers (on both sides), so I really like this idea. Many farmers want to farm, not manage distribution, selling, and the business of it.
Forager is founded by David Stone, the former CEO of Cashstar (another Portland company which we will mention later) which sold to Blackhawk Network a few years ago for $175m. I’m not sure how much they’ve raised in funding.
8. DAVO Technologies
Another interesting company tackling a big problem is DAVO. DAVO’s patented technology is trusted by thousands of brick and mortar merchants to automate their sales tax from start to finish. Through our partnerships with leading POS providers such as Square, Clover, Revel, Poynt and others, our goal is to completely remove sales tax from merchant’s to-do lists forever through automated daily cash management and seamless return filing (pulled from website).
In other words, they make sales tax automated for small businesses. It looks like they’ve raised $5m so far.
Strimo is a business-performance platform that helps cannabis operators go “beyond seed to sale”, offering solutions to improve data collection, streamline efficiencies, and manage growth. Strimo integrates cultivation, manufacturing, accounting, and dispensary management for the legal cannabis and hemp industry (pulled from LinkedIn)
As you probably already know, cannabis is now legal in many parts of the country (including Maine), which means there’s a need to build software to manage the process in a way that’s compliant with new laws. I know they have raised funding, but am unsure what the dollar amount is.
This is my company, so I won’t talk about it much, but the long story short is that Friday is trying to make remote work better by creating structure and process to the way that you communicate. A major cause of workplace pain is poor communication, we are trying to make things a bit better.
We recently raised our first round of funding, which we will announce at some point in the future 🙂
Next up on the list, Nearpeer. According to LinkedIn, Nearpeer connects the world’s college students for peer-supported success.
With less time on campus, more time working to make ends meet, and a decline in social skills, college students are more isolated than ever. With Nearpeer, college students are more successful and less isolated. Nearpeer recently raised $400k in funding as well.
According to its website, Reconnect’s mission is to revolutionize the criminal justice industry by providing technology to allow courts to monitor their participants with less manpower at a lower cost. We believe that we can help solve the incarceration crisis and help break the cycle of revolving door prisons by applying modern technology to this industry.
Reconnect is also a public benefit corporation, which is rare in early stage tech. I have a feeling we will see a lot more from this company in the future as they are tackling a massive problem.
In this next group, I’ve tried to classify the companies with a steady uptick in headcount. For those interested in moving to Portland and finding a job, you might want to check out these companies on a regular basis.
MyHealthMath harnesses the power of people acting in their own best interest to save money for both employers and employees. By guiding employees towards making better health plan choices, they are able to help employers, brokers, and consultants gain unprecedented clarity into how to control benefit costs (pulled from website).
This is another interesting company tackling a big problem. For years, my wife and I paid for a health insurance plan that was not ideal. If we swapped to something else, we could have saved a ton. It looks like they’ve raised approximately $400k so far and are on track to hit $1m in sales. They have 15+ employees with plans to grow.
Guideline makes it easy for small businesses to set up a 401(k). They are the only provider that doesn’t charge participants any fees on investments, regardless of the value of their assets or retirement account balance (pulled from website).
While they are technically based out of San Mateo, California – they have 50+ employees here in Portland with plans to grow. They’ve raised $60m so far, including a $35m Series B round that they announced in late 2018.
Quite frankly, I think Guideline is the best tech company to ever operate out of Maine.
Defendify is an all-in-one cybersecurity platform for small businesses. By powering next-generation IT providers, we help small and midsize organizations navigate the cybersecurity landscape and defend against the increasing number of threats they’re up against every day (pulled from LinkedIn).
They recently raised another round of funding, have 20+ employees and are starting to scale quickly.
“We are a data consultation and services company specializing in data quality, visualization, and management, as well as customized enterprise-level solutions. We work with companies big and small to help solve their data challenges and reveal how they can leverage their data in brand new ways.”
According to LinkedIn, they have ~35 employees have have quite a few jobs they are trying to hire for on their website.
5. Grove Collaborative
Grove is an e-commerce/software company that sells natural home products on a subscription. If you want Method or Mrs. Meyer’s products delivered on a regular basis, you might shop here.
Grove is based out of SF, but has a growing presence here in Portland. The majority of staff are “Grove Guides”, which is essentially a fancy name for Customer Support, but I’ve seen that they are hiring for other operations related roles (I assume to try to hire these people out in California would be next to impossible).
Grove has raised over $200m and was recently valued at over $1b according to Crunchbase. I believe that have 100+ employees here in town and want to keep growing that number.
6. Blackhawk Networks
Formerly CashStar, (which was acquired for $175m), Blackhawk Networks is essentially a holding company that owns a bunch of HR/Payment technology related companies. It doesn’t appear that post-acquisition, this Blackhawk is growing quickly, but they typically have jobs open for engineering, DevOps, & product roles.
According to LinkedIn, Certify is a leading cloud-based travel and expense management solution for organizations of all sizes, and is the only solution in the expense management industry to offer truly automated expense reporting. If you’ve ever used Concur or Expensify before, Certify is another expense reporting option.
Certify is relocating to the old Auto Europe office building right off Commercial Street and is hiring for many positions.
8. Vetro FiberMap
Vetro FiberMap is another local company that’s starting to scale up. According to LinkedIn, “VETRO FiberMap® is an innovative new FTTx network mapping platform designed specifically to meet the needs of small and mid-sized ISPs and community fiber networks. Now you can access and manage all of your critical data in one place. Secure, scalable, affordable, and easy to use.”
Essentially, they help Internet Service Providers (the people who you buy internet access from), figure out how to manage the logistics around installing/managing fiber. Right now, they have 20+ employees with several positions available on their website.
Formerly known as Kepware, PTC is still hiring in the area (although I’m not 100% sure how fast they are growing post-acquisition).
According to LinkedIn, “Kepware is a software development business of PTC Inc. located in Portland, Maine. Kepware provides a portfolio of software solutions to help businesses connect diverse automation devices and software applications and enable the Industrial Internet of Things. “
Finally, I’ll call out the bigger employers in the area. These are clearly not startups anymore, but some of them may have interesting opportunities that might be worth exploring.
Covetrus was formerly known as Vets First Choice before they merged with Henry Schein animal health and went public. Their stock price has dropped significantly since the IPO, but they continue to hire for roles here in Portland (although I’m sure that’s slowed some with the stock price).
According to LinkedIn, “Covetrus is a global animal-health technology and services company dedicated to empowering veterinary practice partners to drive improved health and financial outcomes. We’re bringing together products, services, and technology into a single platform that connects our customers to the solutions and insights they need to work best.”
If you’re looking for a quick overview of what they do, Covetrus provides software and logistical help for veterinarians. It’s expensive and complex to manage your own inventory while also managing a practice, so they try to make this easier.
They are currently building a new HQ in downtown Portland.
Idexx is located in Westbrook but is close enough to Portland proper for me to include them on this list. Idexx is a big employer in the area, with a market cap of $25b.
According to their website, “IDEXX is an American multinational corporation engaged in the development, manufacture, and distribution of products and services for the companion animal veterinary, livestock and poultry, water testing, and dairy markets.”
Sound a bit familiar to Covetrus? Well, it should. The founder of Idexx’s son started Covetrus. Most of Idexx is not a classical “tech company”, but they are building their own software, so I included them.
Wex is another public company with a new shiny office in downtown Portland. Similar to Idexx, this is not a pure software/tech company, but they have many technical roles. They have a market cap of $9 billion, so not exactly a tiny company.
According to their website, “WEX is a global leader in financial technology solutions. We simplify the complexities of payment systems across continents and industries—including Fleet, Corporate Payments, and Health.”
I’m sure I’ve missed some companies. If you’d like to be added to the list, feel free to reach out. I’d be happy to include you as long as the company is tech/software related and sells a product vs. being a consultancy.
Overall, for a smaller city, there’s quite a bit of activity. I’d like to see more, which is why I put this list together. Hopefully, in a few years, this list will be much bigger!