I live in Maine, it’s a great state for a lot of things, but running a business isn’t one of them. There are a number of reasons, but the major ones are usually high taxes, and a lack of skilled workers. Because of this, there aren’t that many new companies that come along, so I’m always on the lookout for companies that are doing cool things. I like to keep an eye on their progress and try and help them out however I can, so that they can succeed and hopefully inspire other people to start more businesses in Maine.
Recently I find myself talking about this to more and more people, and figured it would be a good blog post. I’m hoping that this blog post will introduce me to more great companies that I haven’t heard about yet. So if you know of a company I haven’t listed here, please let me know. (@KenCochrane on twitter)
How I find interesting companies in Maine
There are a few ways I find out about new companies, here are the most popular:
- Greenlight Maine
- Portland Press Herald, Bangor Daily News
- Maine Biz
- Friends and Family
- Local Meetups
5 Maine Companies to watch in 2017
There are a lot of cool companies, but I decided to narrow it down to the top five for this post. In the future I might expand the list, but for now, lets just focus on these five, in no particular order.
- Website: RedZoneWireless.com
- Twitter: @redzonewireless
- About: Redzone wireless is a new 4G wireless ISP based in Rockland Maine.
In Maine there isn’t that many options for broadband internet. You have a cable option (if you are lucky), a slower DSL option, satellite, or a slow dial up connection. Due to Maine’s large geographic area and small population, the broadband companies are not going to be deploying fiber gigabit connections to the home, anytime soon (if ever). This makes sense for business reasons, because the cost of running fiber to a house will never pay for it self over the lifetime of that connection. That leaves you with a few options. Stick with the existing wires that are already coming to your house (cable, phone, power), or use something that is wireless (cell phone or satellite).
The advantage of wireless connections is that you don’t need to run the wires to the house, so you can acquire customers a lot cheaper then wired companies. There is still overhead for these companies, you need to build your network (build towers, launch satellites, etc), but once you have your network in place, you can sign up customers quicker, since there is no need to run the cable to their house.
The current satellite options are not very good, there is usually a high lag between communication, which is ok for email, web browsing, but doesn’t work for video conferencing, or games. There is also usually a bandwidth limit, with crazy overage charges. The costs are also usually much higher because the satellite companies need to re-coop the cost of putting satellites in space, which isn’t a cheap undertaking. There are some promising new companies getting into the act, SpaceX being one of them, but they are still a few years away.
In a large part of Maine people have faster internet connections on their phones then on their home computers. You can tether off your phone to your computer, but the cell phone companies charge a lot for their data plans, and they usually have bandwidth limits, with large overage fees. If you had a company that could provide a wireless network using the same technology as the cell phone companies, but provided a reasonably priced plan with no bandwidth limits, you could reach a lot of people in Maine, for a lot cheaper then the other options.
This is where RedZone Wireless comes in, they are doing just that. They are building out a network a little at a time, and adding the customers along the way. They have recently signed a deal with the company that runs the Maine fiber network, so they can have a fast connection to most of Maine.
I really like what they are doing, and I think this is the future for getting more Mainers broadband connections in rural areas, and charge a reasonable rate. As the wireless technology improves they will be able to upgrade their towers and increase speeds over time. So the network, just keeps on getting faster. I will be keeping an eye on them, and wishing them luck. They are now available in my area, but unfortunately their speeds can’t match my current plan with Time Warner Cable (TWC). But, I’m hoping with time, they will be able to beat TWC, and I can switch over.
If there is anyone from RedZone wireless reading this, please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you out.
Garbage to Garden
- Website: https://garbagetogarden.org/
- twitter: @garbagetogarden
- About: Garbage to Garden offers a curb side compost pickup in the Portland area.
When we moved a few years ago to a new town, we moved to a town where you have to pay by the bag to throw away your garage. This is a good way to force people to reduce the amount of garbage they throw out, by increasing the amount they recycle and compost. We had already been recycling for years, but due to lack of space at our last house we never got around to composting. Our new house has lots of room to compost, so I started researching what I needed to get started, and realized it was more work then I originally thought. While researching composting, I came across Garbage to Garden. They give you a white bucket that you put your food scraps in during the week, and then you put the bucket on the curb with your garbage once a week. They come by on trash day, and they take your old bucket and leave a new clean one. You also have the option of getting 1 bag of compost dropped off at the time of pickup. This gets you the compost that you would have gotten from your own compost pile, with a lot less work.
I have been using their service for over a year now, and I can’t be happier. I get the benefit of paying less for my garbage, get a weekly delivery of compost, and I’m helping the environment at the same time. They are slowly expanding their service, if they don’t have coverage in your area, let them know you are interested, and they can let you know when they are available in your area. I’m hoping that one day, every town in Maine will offer composting as 3rd waste option (along with trash and recycling), and have it managed by Garbage to Garden.
I really like what they are doing, and I wish them the best of luck going forward. They have won a number of business contests, including Greenlight Maine, so it looks like, I’m not the only one that likes what they are doing.
- Website: https://www.clynk.com/
- Twitter: @thinkclynk
- About: Clynk provides an easy way to recycle your bottles and cans.
Clynk provides a service that makes it easy for you to return your bottles and cans and collect your deposits back. They have a deal with Hannaford supermarkets where they replace all of their bottle return departments. Instead of having to deal with counting your bottles, or putting them in a machine that counts and crushes them. Instead you buy some plastic bags that you bring home, fill up with your returnables, stick a Barcode sticker on the bag, and bring back to the store and scan your bar code. They collect the bags of bottles and bring them to their warehouse where they count, sort, and crush them via big machines, that can process bottles and cans much faster then any human. After they count the cans, they will deposit your money in your Clynk account which you can then withdraw from, and get your money. The whole process is so much cleaner and easier then before.
They have recently expanded outside of Maine and into New York, so it looks like things are going well. It looks like they have an exclusive deal with Hannaford, which is good to get going, but I wonder if that will limit their growth in the future once they have deployed to all of Hannford. Since Hannaford is pretty big, and part of a larger company, I’m sure it will be a while before that happens.
I would love to see their operation in action, I wonder if they have tours? I wish them luck, going forward, and I hope 2017 is a great year for them.
I am a big fan of solar power, and I would love to add solar panels to my house and start becoming more energy independent. I was already to do it last year, but then all of a sudden the rules for home solar were about to be revoked. The Maine PUC was looking to change the current net metering rules, and one of their proposals where not good for home owners. It would make it much more difficult to make your money back on your solar panels. Since this is still in flux, I decided to wait it out, until this gets more defined. I’m sure I’m not the only person doing this. The PUC wants to discourage the small home solar installations and encourage larger installations which are much more efficient and provide power cheaper.
There is another way to get the benefit of solar power, but also have less risk. You could join a solar garden, sometimes called a Community solar farm. Instead of putting the solar panels on your roof, you and a bunch of other people get together buy a bunch of solar panels, and put them together in another location. Since you have a large amount of solar panels, and you are deciding on a location, you can make sure you pick the right location, and you can get a better deal when selling your power. You can have the amount deducted from your power bill the same way as when the panels are on your house.
Maine has a few companies (Revision Energy, Assured Solar Energy, etc) that do solar installs for homes and businesses, and that isn’t what Ranger Solar does, they are more focused on the larger solar installations. They have one installation at the sanford airport, and they are working at other large scale installations.
I find this a really interesting market, and one that is getting bigger. We are seeing more and more towns looking at installing solar (Rockland, Portland, south portland, etc) on their property to offset their energy costs. I wish the PUC would allow both larger installations, and smaller home installations. It would spread the grid out a lot more, and if there is a major storm and wires go down, it would help limit the outages since each house has its own power source.
Since Ranger Solar is a new company, I’ll be keeping an eye on them going forward to see what they do next.
- Website: http://www.surgehydro.com/
- About: Surge Hydro is a hydro electric company
I have always loved dams, I grew up near a few dams that I drove by almost daily when I was a kid, and I loved the idea that you can use the river to create power. I even dreamed about owning a small one, one day, but didn’t think it was possible since all of current ones were probably owned by large corporations, and you don’t hear about people putting in new dams. In fact it is the opposite, you hear a lot about how dams are getting taken down to improve fish migrations. That is why I was surprised to hear about Surge Hydro a little while back. The company was founded by a couple of young guys who saved up their money and bought a dam. How cool is that! Best of all, unlike solar power, hydro power runs night and day so it is a more reliable source of power, assuming the rivers don’t dry up.
It is nice to see this sort of thing, it is great for the environment, and is reusing something that might have just been sitting there rotting. On their website they say that there are 80,000 dams in the US that don’t produce power, if we could convert just a fraction of those, we could create a lot more clean power, and wouldn’t need as many power plants. I hope Surge Hydro can help convert these dams so they can generate power, and I wish them the best of luck.
I wish all of these companies the best of luck in 2017, and if there is anything I can do to help any of them, please let me know. I have only listed 5 companies, but there are many more I haven’t listed. If you know about another company, please let me know, and I’ll try to list the best of them in a future blog post.