Many high potential Maine entrepreneurs have benefitted from MCED’s Top Gun program, which has evolved considerably since it was first offered in fall 2009. At its core, the Top Gun Track is designed to accelerate entrepreneurial development through a combination of training, mentoring and community. There are now two connected programs that can lead to two other options for entrepreneurs:
Top Gun Prep is an intensive eight-week online course that teaches fundamentals of entrepreneurship, innovation, money and marketing. To date, 108 people have signed up for the first two classes (which were first offered in September 2012); the next class starts on September 18, 2013.
Top Gun is a five-month program that combines mentoring with high-impact bi-weekly gatherings. The application deadline is in November for the Jan-May program. To date, 60 companies have gone through Top Gun.
MCED began offering further assistance to Top Gun graduates in fall 2012. Some companies go on to the Accelerated Ventures program of Blackstone Accelerates Growth. Other Top Gun graduates have signed up for our Advanced Membership.
For information about Top Gun scholarships please visit this page.
Top Gun Prep is an eight-week online class with open enrollment for up to 100 participants. The course is delivered weekly through interactive online webinars via Adobe Connect’s e-learning platform, and recorded for later viewing by busy entrepreneurs unable to make all the live sessions.
Based on the curriculum used for the first three years of Top Gun, the course covers such topics as business models, Innovation Engineering, customer development (insights from Silicon Valley), entrepreneurial marketing, financials and financing. Don Gooding, the Director of MCED and vice chair of the Maine Angels (one of the top ten most active angel investment groups in the nation) leads the classes.
Outside the “classroom,” a LinkedIn group and Google Docs are used to enable participants to interact with each other and with mentors regarding homework and their own entrepreneurial issues. The course culminates with an optional Top Gun Prep Pitch Night for our entrepreneurs who want to practice their pitch in front of a panel of judges and a supportive audience.
Top Gun Prep runs twice a year and is a prerequisite for Top Gun. The fee is $300 per person, just 50% of actual costs, due to the generous support by the Blackstone Accelerates Growth program. In addition there is one required textbook for the course with is available new for about $30. Scholarships are available through partners, including Northern Maine Development Corp., Sunrise County Economic Council, Women Work and Community, Startup Weekend Portland, and Blackstone Accelerates Growth (for student interns).
Is Top Gun Prep right for you?
Previous participants have included college students exploring entrepreneurship, people with raw ideas that might become businesses, teams developing products, entrepreneurs with early market success, even businesses that have been around for years but want to grow through innovation.
App developers, vegetable farmers, online education developers, consultants, medical device companies, niche fashion designers, artisanal chocolate makers, rural small businesses, artists, and even a few government officials trying to understand entrepreneurship have all benefited from the class.
With two hours of class and another hour of homework a week (or more if you want), you need to be able to invest time in your entrepreneurial future.
The next Top Gun Prep class starts September 18, 2013. With each class being recorded, entrepreneurs can join up to three weeks into the course. To Register, please follow this link.
Here are some comments about Top Gun Prep from previous participants:
Rocco Sbardella, Mobile Magic
“Thanks for an amazing class! This idea of mine has progressed so much in the last two months and I don't think it would be as far along without your insights.”
Steve Shaffer, Black Dinah Chocolatiers
“Thanks for giving me a better language to talk about business.”
Terry Cross, Armaid
“Thank you for helping me to see business life differently.”
Charley Earley, EKLIPSE
“I learned a lot about valuable entrepreneurial prerequisites and parameters that I need to figure out and implement. p.s. Remind me to tell you about the new product idea I came up with while attending TGP!”
Pam Saunders, PJ Coeur
“What I learned in Top Gun Prep absolutely aided my ability to submit a successful [MTI TechStart] application - THANK YOU!!
Alexander Sargent, Roadcollect.com
“I just wanted to write and personally thank you for your level of professionalism and attention to detail in your Top Gun Prep course. I've just finished my first few classes for my MBA through WPI's cohort program and I have to say, you are both operating out of the same playbook!”
Meryem Rogan, Promise Pretzels of Maine
“You have actually made learning about business very interesting!”
Robert Keteyian, Interpersonal Communication Consulting
“The class, among other things, has helped me look more broadly and think about opportunities formerly off my radar. I’m frequently asking myself, how I can make contact with people in various places…”
Top Gun is an annual five-month program (Jan-May) for competitively selected entrepreneurs, that combines mentoring with high-impact bi-weekly gatherings held simultaneously in Portland and Bangor.
Entrepreneurs accelerate their progress by…
working closely with one to three mentors while connecting with many others who can help;
listening to successful entrepreneurs discuss vital topics then applying lessons learned to their own businesses;
sharing perspectives with others facing similar challenges; and
developing and practicing their pitches.
Top Gun identifies high potential entrepreneurs in Maine through a competitive application process in November and December. In January they are matched with mentors who help guide them as they continue to develop their innovative products, business models and companies. The classes of six to 12 entrepreneurs in each location convene about every other Wednesday night (plus an intensive Saturday) for networking and mentor meetings over dinner, pitch practice, brief presentations by experienced entrepreneurs, then lively discussions about the evening’s topic, ranging from Salesmanship to Bootstrapping, from Hiring and Firing to Legal Issues.
The program concludes by bringing together a statewide community of 300 to celebrate and encourage these high potential entrepreneurial teams at the Top Gun Showcase. Entrepreneurs give a five minute pitch in front of panelists, which may include potential investors, business leaders and the press, and those companies with tangible products get to promote them to an appreciative audience.
Is Top Gun right for you?
Previous participants have included technology companies (such as apps, cleantech and specialty materials), innovative food companies (such as mass market mead, artisanal chocolate and spelt bagels), as well as services companies with a unique twist. What binds them together are high aspirations to achieve growth through innovation.
Of the 60 companies that have been through Top Gun since 2009, 40% were already generating revenue, at an annual rate of up to $1 million. Most of the rest were in product and business model development, with a handful still in research or in the product and business model definition stage.
Top Gun teams have included twenty-somethings, AARP-demographic entrepreneurs and every age in between.
The fee for Top Gun is $500 per team, just 10% of actual costs, due to the generous support by the Blackstone Accelerates Growth program.
Top Gun applications will open next in late October 2013. Historically there have been two applicants for each team accepted into the program. The application link will be available on this web page in October.
Step 1 – Please read the instructions and complete the inquiry form here and select Top Gun from the Facility / Program drop-down menu.
Step 2 - Be sure to have you business plan including bios and supporting documents combined into one document ready for uploading.
Step 3 – Complete the online application
Step 4 – Submit the completed application form and upload the supporting documents.
The Top Gun advisory board will review applications through the end of November and if selected, we will contact you to schedule an interview by the first week of December.