In 2023, the Gulf of Maine Ventures team at GMRI made significant strides towards achieving several major operating objectives. We successfully expanded our programmatic work by providing structured support to early-stage blue economy companies and building a robust network of ocean-focused investors. We have laid the foundation for a strong year ahead, in which we will launch our first formal accelerator program and continue to cultivate a broad network of investors, entrepreneurs, technical advisors, and funders to support our mission to build a resilient 21st-century marine economy. We also expect that our partnership with Bold Ocean Ventures will continue to augment our capacity as advisors will credential our business-building capacity with other “blue economy-curious" early-stage technical investors as a means to grow the capital stack and resources for entrepreneurs in the Gulf of Maine.
Gulf of Maine Ventures At a Glance
In 2023, our team leaned into supporting startups and investors.
We are the first point of contact for many early-stage entrepreneurs seeking a variety of support.
We committed to establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for investors in the emerging ocean climate marketplace.
We added structured programming to our informal, ad-hoc support this year by introducing the BlueTech Boost, a 10-week incubator program, tailored to assist early-stage companies with direct and milestone-based support. In the coming year, our core goal is to build on our services and programs, particularly with the launch of our first accelerator program, Blue w(AI)ve. Our focus will be on developing bespoke curriculum and tailored mentoring to move companies toward investment readiness, as well as attracting more companies to our region.
While we are zeroing in on more scalable programming to meet our market demand, we continue to enjoy meeting with companies to offer 1:1 advice on topics including product-market fit, industry connections, technical resources, revenue and market strategy, and investment structures.
In November, we co-hosted Maine's inaugural Blue Venture Investment Summit with Blue Venture Forum, a full day of panel discussions and company flash talks exploring blue economy investment trends, showcasing Maine's entrepreneurship ecosystem, and fostering conversations between investors and entrepreneurs. In the year ahead, we will collaborate with our innovation and economic development partners to formalize our investor programming and expand the New England innovation corridor to attract and educate a robust network of ocean-focused investors.
Building a New England Blue Economy Innovation Corridor
We believe the success of a blue economy innovation corridor hinges on the strength of our partnership network. In 2023, we expanded our partner base to amplify our impact by equipping companies and investors with the necessary resources and assets to grow Maine’s burgeoning blue economy ecosystem.
This past year we have collaborated with the Roux Institute of Northeastern University to develop the Blue w(AI)ve, a first-of-its-kind accelerator focused on companies leveraging artificial intelligence in ocean-based solutions. We have partnered with other entrepreneurship ecosystem builders, such as MassChallenge to explore the creation of new climate accelerators, the development of industry partnerships, and company support structures. We also work with regional research entities such as Downeast Institute, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, and UMaine Marine to support the commercialization endeavors stemming from their research.
We have built relationships with Maine International Trading Center, New England Ocean Cluster, Maine Maritime Academy, Blue Venture Forum, Maine Venture Fund, Coastal Enterprise Inc, and Maine Technology Institute to connect companies to industry stakeholders and increase investor knowledge of ocean-focused opportunities. All these partnerships play a pivotal role in constructing an innovation corridor to foster a prosperous and resilient 21st-century marine economy in the Gulf of Maine.
Our work is made possible through the generous support of our funders — the Economic Development Administration, Builder's Bridge, Maine Technology Institute, the Small Business Administration, and private donations. Their invaluable contributions are instrumental in propelling our mission forward, and we express our sincere gratitude for their ongoing support.
We successfully hosted two cohorts, eight companies in total, for our 10-week incubator program, the BlueTech Boost, which offers direct and milestone-based support to early-stage BlueTech companies. Participating companies receive micro-grant funding to support the achievement of their individual milestones. The program addresses a critical gap for early-stage companies by providing match funding and support to overcome specific hurdles with both mentorship and GMRI research staff serving as technical advisors. Each cohort concluded with an innovation showcase event, where founders introduced their companies to an audience of regional stakeholders and early-stage investors. We plan to host a third cohort in fall 2024.
Blue w(AI)ve Accelerator Program
In partnership with The Roux Institute, we are launching a 16-week program for seven early-stage companies focused on leveraging artificial intelligence for ocean-based technological solutions. The Blue w(AI)ve Accelerator launches in February 2024. Each company will be paired with a “Scientist-in-Residence” from GMRI or relevant partner institution to advance their technology, an “Investor-in-Residence” from Bold Ocean Ventures or Maine Venture Fund, and an “AI-in-Residence” from Roux Institute, which will be the equivalent of a $25,000 consulting project with their in-house AI experts. By surrounding founders with a suite of experts assigned to work with each company directly, we aim to enhance their connection to industry, validate their product road maps, and ultimately increase the odds of their business scalability.
Looking Forward to 2024
In addition to the upcoming launch of the Blue w(AI)ve Accelerator Program and the continuation of the BlueTech Boost, we are excited to increase our programmatic impact in the blue economy. Thanks to our recent success in securing the Economic Development Administration Build to Scale Capital Challenge grant, we are developing resources and events to build company investment readiness and increase investor knowledge of ocean-focused opportunities. We eagerly anticipate the opportunities this expansion will bring. As always, our commitment to personalized, one-on-one support for companies remains steadfast, and we encourage them to reach out for assistance.
Impact Through Investment: Bold Ocean Ventures
In 2022, we finalized a formal partnership with the impact venture fund, Bold Ocean Ventures, as part of our ongoing commitment to expanding the capital available for ocean-related companies. This collaboration serves as a vital extension of our dedication to the mission. Through Bold Ocean Ventures' inaugural fund, GMRI will actively participate in the selection of portfolio companies that align with our mission and impact criteria. Additionally, we will provide support to these companies as they scale.
In 2023, our partnership strengthened, as Bold Ocean Ventures refined its investment thesis, concentrating on early-stage companies across six primary investment areas: seafood supply chain, ocean products, ocean data, climate and ecosystems, blue energy, and shipping. They target entrepreneurs committed to building scalable businesses with a positive impact on ocean ecosystems or a sustainable seafood economy, directly or indirectly. By building an investment portfolio of these companies, Bold Ocean Ventures will have a catalytic effect, attracting more early-stage capital and entrepreneurs and fueling a regenerative cycle with more innovation, resources, and partnerships. Bold Ocean Ventures sets a target of attracting five new outside dollars for every dollar fund capital invested.
As part of this work, Bold Ocean Ventures hosted two MBA interns, Sam Sherman and Gillian Katz, during the summer. Their market research and taxonomy work significantly contributed to mapping out investment opportunities and refining the investment thesis. Learn more about their findings in their summary blog post.
In addition to the focus on investment thesis, Bold Ocean Ventures remains steadfast in prioritizing impact. In 2023, Bold Ocean Ventures joined 1000 Ocean Startups, a coalition of participants in the ocean innovation ecosystem. The coalition exists to unite incubators, accelerators, venture capital firms, and industry that are supporting startups for ocean impact. By becoming a member of 1000 Ocean Startups, Bold Ocean Ventures can directly participate in the future of ocean innovation and shape this nascent sector alongside other member organizations.
Understanding that many of the early-stage startups they invest in may lack the initial capacity and resources to collect and report impact data, the Bold Ocean Ventures team collaborates with founders to develop a realistic impact framework over time. This involves setting achievable metrics and creating an impact plan tailored to the company’s stage and reporting capabilities. They seek to align with co-investors to make impact reporting straightforward for companies.
Learn more about Bold Ocean Ventures’ investment thesis and impact strategy in this 2023 Tech Crunch article citing General Partner, Tim Agnew, and his insights on investing in the ocean economy.
Keep an eye out for exciting developments in 2024 as Bold Ocean Ventures commences its investments.
A vital workforce is central to a thriving blue economy. By equipping more people with the necessary skills to enter and succeed in that workforce, …
Our Gulf of Maine Ventures team developed a facilities resource map that will help startups find and connect with the R&D facilities or content area …
We want to keep you updated on our sustainable seafood team's progress, so we've developed a report showcasing some of their biggest achievements from 2023.
Read on to see some of the ways our education team made an impact across the state and beyond in the 2022 – 2023 school …