Neuright and Sticky Sweet win 2019 Top Gun Entrepreneurship Award and Shaw Prize
by David E Shaw
Last night, more than 200 people – founders, aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors – packed USM’s Hannaford Hall to recognize the next generation of great Maine-based companies. I was a keynote speaker at the event, extending my congratulations to all participants in the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs (MCE) 2019 Top Gun Showcase, with special recognition for the winners of the MTI and Shaw awards.
As announced earlier this year, I was pleased to sponsor a new prize for one of two winners of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurs (MCE) 2019 Top Gun Showcase held on May 23rd at the University of Southern Maine. The award was established to support local entrepreneurship, and to coincide with the recent public offering for Covetrus as well as the 35th anniversary of the founding of IDEXX Laboratories.
The Top Gun Showcase is the capstone event for MCE’s annual entrepreneurial training program. Launched in 2009 with just a dozen Portland-based entrepreneurs, Top Gun served 47 startups from across Maine this year and has supported more than 200 entrepreneurs to date. 10 finalists, two from each of five regional cohorts, were selected to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges. From a gourmet waffle food truck to an emergency notification software business, the Top Gun finalists ranged widely in size, stage, industry, and experience.
Scored on the quality of their pitches and the scalability, innovation, and viability of their business plans, two winners earned the top prizes. Neuright, a biotech spinoff from the University of Maine is developing a medical device to more sensitively diagnose neuropathy in its earlier stages. Sticky Sweet, is Portland’s first plant-based ice cream shop with delicious frozen products that are made without dairy, eggs, gluten, cane sugar, refined sugars, or anything artificial.
I was pleased to join MCE Executive Director Tom Rainey in presenting the Shaw Prize (and some homemade Shaw apple “grappa”) to Neuright founder and UMaine doctoral candidate Magdalena Blaszkiewicz.
More than 20 million Americans are affected by neuropathy, the dying-back of nerve fibers, which often goes undiagnosed and can result in amputation. According to the company, “current methods to diagnose neuropathy are painful or inaccurate and often are performed too late, thereby limiting options for treatment.” Blaszkiewicz cofounded Neuright with Kristy Townsend, UMaine assistant professor of neurobiology, and has partnered with renowned faculty from across the university to commercialize the idea born out of her dissertation on neuropathy of subcutaneous adipose tissue.
Congratulations to the Neuright and Sticky Sweet teams and to all of the participants in 2019 Top Gun Showcase. I encourage you to continue challenging convention, addressing game-changing opportunities, and discovering and understanding “what great looks like” for every worthy endeavor.