Bangor’s growing Startup & Innovation Community: The BigGig

On Tuesday, I spent the day in Bangor and Orono as part of my work with Blackstone Accelerates Growth (BxG).  In the evening, I attended the BigGig Event in Bangor. Instead of just hearing from me, I asked Jennifer Hooper, the Bangor Innovation Hub Manager for the BxG program to give me a guest post. Jennifer works at the Foster Center for Innovation at the University of Maine in Orono (which is an awesome place).  Here’s her report from the BigGig:

Four entrepreneurs mingled around the room on standby, each ready to be in the spotlight when it was his or her turn. Each one had a story to tell, and each one had an “ask.”

It was the night of the Big Gig, a pitch contest organized through a collaborative effort among the University of Maine, Husson University, and the towns of Orono and Old Town. The purpose of the Big Gig is to develop a network of innovators and entrepreneurs in Orono, Old Town, Bangor and beyond. The pitch contest serves as an ideal setting for building that network.  

The room at Husson University’s Dyke Center for Family Business was packed. Roughly 75-80 audience members–municipal leaders, U.S. congressional office delegates, business owners, community members, and students–were eager to hear the stories of the entrepreneurs and vote for their favorite.  

Each entrepreneur, business idea, and “ask” were as varied as the people in the room:

  • Chuck Carter (co-designer of the game Myst), Creative Director and Producer at a new startup called Eagre Interactive Inc., in Bangor, is presently creating the company’s first fully immersive, non-violent game called “Curio.”  His “ask” was for business assistance and funding.

  • Bruce and Cathy Chamberlain, owners of Stone Fox Farm Creamery in Monroe, have turned their “retirement project” making ice cream into a thriving business. Their ice cream uses fresh ingredients from locally sourced farms. Their “ask” was support for their Kickstarter campaign, which will help them outfit a second mobile unit for fairs and festivals.

  • Jessica Jewell, co-founder of Twenty 2 Vodka (America’s most awarded vodka) asked for help promoting the company’s new product called “Create Twenty 2,” a 150-proof vodka specifically designed to create “make-your-own” infusions.  

  • Tim Lowe promoted a new business called “Plow Now,” an online and mobile phone app for on-demand snow plowing and removal. His “ask” was for help finding key personnel to help him get the business off the ground. His plan is to test and refine the concept locally before growing it to a national level.

Pitches aside, it was the “serendipitous connections” around around the room that made made Jess Knox happy. Knox is the statewide hub coordinator for the Blackstone Accelerates Growth (BxG) innovation hubs.  “We’re excited to help create intentional communities among innovators and entrepreneurs around the state” Knox said.  “The Big Gig is a good example for launching that community in the Bangor region.  People here are sharing ideas, making introductions, and beginning new collaborations.”  BxG is a sponsor of the Big Gig.  

The winner of the night was Jessica Jewell, who won a $100 cash prize and the opportunity to compete for $1,000 at the final pitch contest, which take place at 5:30 pm on April 8 at the Foster Center for Student Innovation at the University of Maine.

The Big Gig is also sponsored by the University Credit Union, providing the cash prizes for this year’s four pitch events.

It is true — it was a great event and I cannot wait for the April event.  There are some amazing folks in the Bangor-Orono area and events like the BigGig are really helping to strengthen that community. See some pictures from the event below:

Attendees networking

Attendees networking

Jessica Jewell from 22 Vodka celebrates her win

Jessica Jewell from 22 Vodka celebrates her win

Networking_3

Big Wigs listening the to the pitches.

Big Wigs listening the to the pitches.

Jess Knox

About Jess Knox

Jess Knox is a former political consultant and high-ranking SBA official who is passionate about entrepreneurship and Maine. These days he helps companies manage growth through his firm Olympico Strategies.