July 16, 2024
MTI BIF

MTI Business Innovation Funding Webpage

In the past few years, I helped a Portland-based startup raise over $50,000 across three funding stages through Maine Technology Institute’s Business Innovation Funding (MTI BIF).

I have put together this free guide for any aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in Maine who would benefit from this grant opportunity, sharing my experience, mistakes that can be avoided, and hacks to help you successfully get a grant from MTI.

If you have an idea and are just getting started, MTI is one of the few entities that invests in innovative ideas at a pre-seed stage. (Don’t get me wrong, it does come with certain quirks of its own, but for the most part, you won’t find anything that even comes near to MTI regarding pre-seed support for startup ideas).

About MTI

MTI-logo

Founded in 1999, Maine Technology Institute, or MTI, is a federally funded entity in the state of Maine providing various forms of financial assistance, including grants, loans, and equity investments, along with services to foster new ideas, products, and methods that have the potential to grow and diversify Maine’s economy.

MTI Business Innovation Funding

This program is specifically designed to fund early-stage ventures that fit in one of seven of MTI’s designated focus areas for economic growth in Maine.

These targeted technology sectors are as follows:

  1. Biotechnology
  2. Composites and Advanced Materials
  3. Environmental Technologies
  4. Forest Products and Agriculture
  5. Information Technology
  6. Marine Technology and Agriculture
  7. Precision Manufacturing

These areas are intentionally left as vague as possible to encourage a wider cluster of ideas that MTI can fund.

Funding Amount

Grants in this category range between $10,000 – $250,000

Please note that a match is required. Please use our MTI Grant Budget Calculator to help you plan the appropriate use of funds.

Funding Eligibility

To be eligible to apply, one must:

  • Have a registered business (LLC, C-Corp, S-Corp, etc) in Maine (If you are looking to register a business in Maine, take a look at our guide on ‘LLC filings in Maine.’)
  • Fit in one or more of MTI’s seven targeted technology sectors
  • Have an innovative idea, whether it is a product, service, or method.
  • Have a solid connection with how the business will create an economic impact in Maine.
  • Have some form of social proof to validate the idea through market research and/or customer discovery.
  • Have access to a 1:1 match in funding (more on this later).

The Application Process in Detail

The general application process follows a format as outlined below.

  1. Register your interest by signing up on MTI’s grants portal.
  2. Wait to hear back from MTI (this usually takes between 5-10 business days, but could be faster).
  3. Get matched to an investment officer from MTI.
  4. Take in the VIRAL assessment test sent by your investment officer.
  5. Have a 60-minute meeting with the investment officer.
  6. Depending on how number 4. goes, you will be invited to fill out the grant application.
  7. Fill out and submit the grant application (which is online, in the same place where you registered your interest).
  8. Fill out a scope of work outlining the activities, measurable outcomes, and timelines.
  9. Fill out a Gantt chart showing a timeline with the activities mentioned in the Scope of Work.
  10. Fill out an MTI budget form outlining the areas where the money will be spent and where the matching funds will be coming from.
  11. Depending on the amount of money requested from MTI, your investment advisor might need to conduct a financial, business systems, and/ or technology review. These reviews are conducted by MTI E-Residents at times and can be a valuable experience to help inform the direction where the use of funds might be the most effective.
  12. After any applicable reviews, your application will be sent to an investment committee, where the final decision will be made.

Note on VIRAL Assessment

MTI uses a form of investment assessment called VIRAL to determine whether the business is a good fit to receive MTI funding. Depending on the test results, MTI can then determine what form of funding you are eligible for.

For instance, if your business already has its first customers and is post revenue, you are likely to be invited to apply for a Range 3 grant where you can request larger amounts of funding, but if you are still in the ideation phase, you are likely to score low on the assessment and instead be eligible for smaller amounts of grant funding from MTI.

Here is an image showing the rubric for VIRAL

VIRAL-Assessment-MTI-Grant-Funding
VIRAL Assessment Rubric

Closing Thoughts

The entire process for applying to Business Innovation Funding with MTI usually takes 4-5 weeks, but is dependent on the investment advisor you get matched with and how fast they are when getting back to you. Our client fortunately got matched with one that was very proactive, and we were able to close the first round of grant funding in 4 weeks.

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