WATERVILLE, ME (September 28, 2021) Three outdoor recreation startups based in Maine have received funding from Maine Technology Institute to advance product development projects totaling $76,000 in scope. Each startup is a graduate of the Waterville-based Tortoise Labs product design course, which begins a new session on October 14th.
With its focus on early-stage idea generation and validation, Tortoise Labs occupies a unique niche in Maine’s entrepreneurship development ecosystem. “Our course is positioned at the top of the funnel that feeds into the many great incubators, founder programs, and funding sources that already exist in Maine,” explains Nick Rimsa, owner of Tortoise Labs. “In order to be successful in these programs, entrepreneurs in every industry need to take the same first steps toward building a business, which are all about understanding customers and what they want to achieve. If we can guide first-time founders through the foundational steps to become profitable and fundable, they will get so much more out of the next-tier programs and our efforts will be compounded.”
Three recent Tortoise Labs course graduates reached that next level, receiving significant funding from Maine Technology Institute and competing successfully in the Greenlight Maine pitch competition. SledTRX, an online snowmobile trip planning platform, received funding toward a $16,000 app development project and won the 2021 Greenlight Maine Collegiate pitch competition; Tree Free Fire, a manufacturer of all-natural, portable campfires, received funding from Maine Technology Institute toward a new $20,000 development project and competed as a finalist in the Greenlight Maine Collegiate competition; and Tidal-Bore received funding for a $40,000 product development project for its bicycle tail-light which harnesses AI to detect hazardous drivers and warn the motorist and cyclist of one another to reduce the risk of collision.
Each of the three startups represents innovation in Maine’s outdoor recreation industry, and their success reflects the unique economic advantages of the state. As outdoor activities and tourism are core to Maine’s identity, the startup founders were easily able to gain a strong understanding of their customer, and in turn customers and funders are acutely aware of and willing to support Maine outdoor brands.
“With the pandemic bringing increased demand for outdoor activities, there’s no better time to start an outdoor company, and there’s no better place to do it than in Maine,” says Jenny Kordick, executive director of Maine Outdoor Brands. “Maine’s strong outdoor heritage and culture of innovation, coupled with a growing and collaborative community of outdoor entrepreneurs, make it an ideal place to start and grow an outdoor brand.”
ABOUT TORTOISE LABS:
Tortoise Labs is Maine’s rural product design studio, helping ambitious entrepreneurs validate their business ideas, connect with customers, build software prototypes, and bring products to market. By partnering with entrepreneurship development organizations including the CEI Women’s Business Center, Machias Valley Center for Entrepreneurship, Thomas College, Bricks Coworking & Innovation Center, and the Bill & Joan Alfond Foundation, Tortoise Labs helps Mainers take the first steps to start their business.
For entrepreneurs and aspiring founders interested in taking the first steps toward starting businesses, Tortoise Labs’ next course begins on October 14th. The free online course runs for six weeks from 6:00-8:00pm. Sign up or find additional information at tortoiselabs.com/class.