In preparing for a recent vacation in New England, my wife and I scheduled meetings with long-time friends in New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. Other than these waypoints with loosely scheduled dinner or overnight dates, we were free to explore.
New England was new territory for us, so of course we travelled with a growing inventory of paper maps – maps that helped us see the overall picture, easily plot out interesting routes, and underwrite our confidence and inclinations to improvise and explore.
In my imagination, the vacation has generated several categories of blog material: noteworthy museums, swimming “holes” I experienced, and bootstrapping entrepreneurs in Maine. Now back in San Francisco for less than a week and coming off a good vacation, I feel somewhat deprived of business related intellectual nourishment. So this post and a couple more will discuss bootstrapping in Maine, leaving subjects with a less mercenary nature for later.
San Francisco is in the midst of an unprecedented period of wealth creation, venture capital investing, construction, and rising housing prices. (As the reader may be aware, this cycle has been in place for several years and shows no sign of slowing.) A continuing influx of young, educated, ambitious people is both the cause and effect of hundreds of small startup enterprises with ambitions to be the next Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc., or to be acquired by one of the aforementioned. (All are headquartered in the Bay Area and have numerous staff members working and/or living in San Francisco.). Firms including those mentioned have been recipients of billions of dollars of venture capital, while such an achievement has become, in an of itself, a badge of honor for many entrepreneurs.
I’ll save for another day expressing my thoughts & feelings on the mentality and wisdom of entrepreneurs seeking and raising venture capital with the logic of “I’ll take VC money IF I CAN GET IT.” For the time being I’ll just say I have serious doubts that it’s always the right thing to do.
Compared with the Bay Area and San Francisco, Maine is certainly a different animal. It has a relatively modest population which is pretty spread around. It has a history of harvesting from the land and sea, and continues to rely on the same. Consistent with its New England location, it has a conservative outlook and traditions are highly valued. It has limited educational offerings for hi-tech careers; the professional community is general purpose and doesn’t appear to have much depth in hi-tech verticals such as IP, IP litigation, VC investing, IPOs, etc.
Notwithstanding Maine’s modest resources for hi-tech business creation when compared with the Bay Area, Maine has many entrepreneurs. They are almost all boostrappers by necessity, often leveraging the unique attributes of their location, to build solid, profitable, growing businesses.
On holiday, we came in contact with many one-of-a kind, bootstrapped businesses, especially in Maine. They may not go public anytime soon, but they provide a good living to many, and offer a location and lifestyle that has significant appeal. I’ll briefly describe several in a future post(s).
One resource for bootstrappers: Maine’s Institute for Family-Owned Businesses