By guest authors Irina Patterson and Candice Arnold
This is the fifty-second interview in our series on financing for entrepreneurs. We are talking to Joe Migliaccio, manager of Innovative Programs at Maine Technology Institute (MTI), an industry-led non-profit corporation that offers early-stage capital and commercialization assistance in the form of competitive grants, loans, and equity investment for tech entrepreneurs in Maine.
Irina: Hi, Joe. Why don’t you briefly start with your background and how you arrived at this point?
Joe: I joined MTI in 2000, just after leaving Idexx Laboratories (NASDAQ:IDXX), which is a veterinary diagnostics company.
I was there for ten years in assay development and as a project leader in veterinary R&D. I worked in global technical product support for some time, which got me around the world and exposed me to a number of ways that products and services are bought and sold across the globe.
I left Idexx as a product manager of a multimillion dollar line of diagnostic tests and equipment, where I had responsibility for product line strategy, customer satisfaction, and revenue goals.
Throughout my life, I’ve been involved with family-owned small businesses, some of which were primarily in service, retail, and product development. I’m still involved with those, so they give me a little exposure to both business ownership and to corporate product development.
I attended the University of Maine in Orono with a focus on engineering. I ultimately graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a biology degree, and I have a master’s degree in business administration from Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, New Hampshire.
I came to Idexx as employee 112 or 120, and when I left, we had about 2,000 employees worldwide. We had gone public during that time, and growing in a company like that gave me a real opportunity to see what it takes to get from a few scientists and businesspeople in a room all the way up to a global company that accesses public capital markets.
So, when I left Idexx, I was looking at various places in Chicago and pharmaceutical companies in New Jersey. After assessing the what the landscape was to pick up my family and move it out of state, we ultimately decided that the state of Maine, given the lifestyle and [its reputation as] a great place to raise a family and kids and start a career, was the place for us. I found the opportunity at MTI through a former colleague and, at the time, president of the newly started institute.
Irina: So, what is Maine Technology Institute?
Joe: Maine Technology Institute is an industry-led, non-profit corporation, with an emphasis on industry led. We are also a private corporation. We offer early-stage capital and commercialization assistance and mentoring in the form of competitive grants, loans, and equity investments in research and development.
We focus on seven technology sectors in the state of Maine. MTI was established by the Maine legislature in 1999. We made our first funding awards in 2000, and at that time, we had primary funding – 100% – of about $6.2 million a year from the state of Maine.
We work off of an annual appropriation that Maine invests in us as a private corporation. We have also made an attempt to diversify our revenue a bit by trying to pull in federal, public, and private grants to fund ourselves. At this point, primarily, new revenues are coming in from the state of Maine.
We also are not purely a granting organization. We have loans and equity. That revenue or repayment each year helps to fund our ongoing operations. The primary unique feature of MTI is that we are under a 7% administrative cap, which forces us to be pretty lean, mean, and collaborative and get our mission accomplished.
The primary goal here is not to spend all of the money on overhead and administration, but to get this money on the street, working to create jobs and have an economic impact in the state of Maine.
Irina: Do you have any other revenue-generating activities?
Joe: We do bill out for some grants and administration. From time to time the state of Maine will issue bonds for research and development infrastructure. When they ask MTI to administrate those bonds and investments, we do get some administrative support. Primarily, the support comes from the state of Maine, a small portion from external grants and administration and then, as I said, we do get some returns on our investments.