Portland’s Startup Scene from the Perspective of CashStar’s First Hire

By David E.M. Wood, Creative Services and Website Manager

There’s no question ‒ Portland is a burgeoning hub of startups driving economic growth in the state of Maine.

As an early employee of CashStar, I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience first-hand this exciting transformation of an amazing city. Portland has consistently ranked among the best places to live year after year. Why? Of course, part of it is the scenery, the dining, the culture, but Portland is also known for its startups. With nearly 70 startups in Portland, opportunities for young entrepreneurs and tech engineers are quite abundant, with local companies having raised tens of millions of dollars in funding in recent years.

Organizations that offer funding and support like MTI (from which CashStar benefitted in the early days) and MCED are signs that technology is an important part of the economic development of Maine. Case in point (no pun intended), Steve Case, entrepreneur and founder of AOL, chose Portland as one of his stops on his Rise of the Rest tour, and was determined to invest $100,000 in a local startup before he left. And while CashStar may have outgrown its “startup” status, we like to think our footprint has left a lasting impression on the community.

It’s a testament to the City’s growth that events like Maine Startup and Create Week and Agents of Change are staged here in Portland. Attracting speakers not just from local companies, both events feature entrepreneurs from successful businesses across the country, who share their insights and learnings with the community, which inspires and spurs the growth here.

I can relate on a personal level, as my career at CashStar has been life-changing. With a background in small business and startups, I was lucky enough to have a connection to get me in the door early on – becoming CashStar’s first hire. I’ve moved from “jack of all trades” (administration, HR, AP, product development, sales support…the list goes on) into the marketing team, where I’m able to pursue my passion: design and branding, and now Web development. One of the great things about working at CashStar is the ability to choose one’s career path. Many departments at CashStar have benefited from part-time and temporary workers from risk and customer care moving into positions that let their talents shine.

I am thankful that my family and I are in the great city of Portland, close to my wife’s roots, and at a company that values its employees and the work that they do. Through CashStar’s journey from startup to high-growth company, I have been able to fulfill many of the goals I’ve set for myself and thrive in this vibrant tech community.

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