WATERVILLE — Maine-based bluShift Aerospace successfully secured a $25,000 prize sponsored by Skowhegan Savings Bank. Based in Brunswick bluShift is reducing the environmental impact of the space industry by utilizing bio-derived fueled hybrid rockets. In 2021, bluShift launched the first commercial rocket in the world powered by non-toxic, carbon-neutral, bio-derived fuel.

“Being a member of the Dirigo Labs accelerator has been incredibly rewarding,” said Sascha Deri, founder and CEO of bluShift Aerospace. “With this $25,000 prize, bluShift can now move ahead with a series of critical milestones, including an FAA launch analysis and a rapid-fire sequence of exciting engine tests. We are incredibly grateful to the mentors and advisors at Dirigo who have been critical to our progress.”

Hosted at Colby College, twelve companies competed for the cash prize. The judging criteria included pitch delivery, capital strategy, and impact on entrepreneurship in Maine. The 12-week program guided startups through a targeted curriculum to execute their project plans, and each cohort company worked with a curated board of local and national mentors from various industries. Seminar topics included utilizing public-private sector grants and economic incentives, customer acquisition strategies, capital planning, and intellectual property evaluation.

“We are proud to support the first Dirigo Labs Accelerator pitch contest and partner with such an amazing group of local makers,” said Skowhegan Savings Bank SVP of Sales Dan Tilton. “Our mission at Skowhegan Savings is to ‘Make our communities a better place to live and work’. This group of incredible entrepreneurs are doing just that by bringing innovative products and services to market. I look forward to seeing them continue to flourish and drive economic growth throughout Maine and beyond.”

Receiving both the pitch competition prize and the ‘Audience Choice Award’, bluShift was provided with a 1-year dedicated desk membership to Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space in Waterville. In addition to bluShift’s dedicated desk, each company that participated in the cohort received a two-year floating desk membership to Bricks. Leveraging the coworking space and the organization’s launch space in Brunswick, bluShift will continue to expand its operations within central Maine and beyond.

“I started working with bluShift four years ago as a contractor creating all their videos with the talented team at Knack Factory. It is incredible to see the organization’s continued growth and success,” states Lindsay Becker, operations manager at bluShift Aerospace. “Having the opportunity to enter the company as a full-time employee, along with winning the pitch prize, has shown me that Maine-based tech companies have the ability to grow and prosper in Maine, and I look forward to seeing the company secure the talent it needs to succeed in both the short- and long term.”

For startups and potential mentors interested in learning more about Dirigo Labs, please visit http://www.dirigolabs.org.

Dirigo Labs is a regional startup accelerator based in Waterville, Maine. With a mission to grow the greater Waterville area’s digital economy by supporting entrepreneurs building innovation-based companies, the Dirigo Labs ecosystem brings together people, resources, and organizations to ensure the successful launch of new startups. Dirigo Labs operates under Central Maine Growth Council and is supported by several organizations, academic institutions, and investment firms. To learn more about Dirigo Labs, please visit http://www.dirigolabs.org.

Skowhegan Savings Bank has been dedicated to strengthening Maine’s families, businesses, and communities by providing personalized and competitive banking services to the regions they serve for 150 years. An independent mutual savings bank based in Skowhegan, our mission is to provide customers with exceptional service in an innovative banking environment that effectively and efficiently puts the financial needs of the customer first. Skowhegan Savings takes pride in not only being a great place to bank but also a great place to work. For more information about Skowhegan Savings, please visit Skowhegan.com or contact our Customer Service line at 800-303-9511.