Susan Ruhlin 
Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development 


September 19, 2012 at 5:30 PM EDT
November 14, 2012 at 5:30 PM EDT

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Top Gun Prep Online Course

If you are a first-time entrepreneur with an innovative business idea, making progress can be slow and frustrating: who do you talk to? where do you begin trying to figure out if your idea is a good one? how do you learn all the new skills necessary to start and run a successful company? how do you get where you want to go fast?

Introducing Top Gun Prep, the first program enabling any Maine entrepreneur to learn how to dramatically increase speed and decrease risk building their startup. Here’s how it works.

Top Gun Prep teaches critical information from three sources: 1) the textbook of Silicon Valley’s top entrepreneurship educator Steve Blank, 2) the world class, Maine-grown techniques of Innovation Engineering®, and 3) carefully chosen selections from the very best free internet resources for entrepreneurs. A detailed course syllabus is available.

Several organizations are offering scholarships for Top Gun Prep, see information at the bottom of the page.

The materials are explained in eight interactive weekly webinars (recorded for later viewing). Most online classes are led by Don Gooding, an entrepreneur and angel investor who has assisted more than 50 Maine entrepreneurs over the last seven years, teaches Innovation Engineering® at the University of Southern Maine, and spent 11 years with the lead venture capital firm invested in Facebook. The University of Maine's Renee Kelly, who teaches Innovation Engineering®, coaches companies and leads important economic development programs, will also be teaching some Top Gun Prep online classes.

The online classes are highly interactive, as the Adobe Connect platform used to deliver them allow in-class polling, live Q&A, and breakout sessions. (Adobe Connect just requires a modern browser and can even work on most smartphones!). In addition, all Top Gun Prep participants will join a special, closed LinkedIn group where their short written assignments will receive feedback from, and their questions will be answered by, Top Gun mentors and up to 100 fellow entrepreneurs. Top Gun Prep will conclude with an online pitch session by up to 20 selected participants from around the state. Online interactions will be supplemented by several planned face-to-face networking events.

The course is particularly well suited for entrepreneurs building scalable innovation-based companies, but 75% of the Top Gun Prep curriculum is also helpful to entrepreneurs building small or micro-enterprises. The content will combine important basics with advanced concepts. College students contemplating entrepreneurship will get a great start, while more experienced entrepreneurs will be connected with some of the leading edge thinking on how to build large, successful, groundbreaking companies. 

We are confident this will make a huge difference for you.

• Steve Blank’s methods are taught in Silicon Valley’s top universities, and have been adopted by the National Science Foundation to accelerate technology commercialization. Here in Maine, GWI credits it with dramatically accelerating new product development, while Top Gun graduate RainStorm Consulting cut 10 months from their original product development plan by following Blank’s teachings.
• Innovation Engineering® has been developed and refined over 25 years, and documents increasing innovation speed by up to 6X and decreasing risk by up to 80%. It has been adopted by the national Manufacturing Extension Partnership to accelerate innovation by American manufacturers.
• The 30+ online videos, 120+ blog entries and 10+ slide show selections in Top Gun Prep are drawn from more than 40 sources and 10 “best of” lists. Hundreds of hours were spent compiling and annotating all of this vital information, so you don’t have to!

Top Gun Prep is only $300 for 9 weeks. It’s a great value when you consider the high cost and frustration of delaying the big returns from your big idea for months or years.

The highly selective Top Gun Maine program will accept about 20 companies, largely from the Top Gun Prep graduates, for intensive mentoring and coaching beginning January 2013. 

Scholarship information and deadlines:

Due to software license restrictions a maximum of 100 people can attend each online class. Since Top Gun Prep is newly open to entrepreneurs across Maine, we don’t know how many will sign up; however, we could well reach more than 100 who are interested. We recommend that you sign up as soon as possible to ensure you have a spot. We will accept registrations through the earlier of reaching 100 participants or 5 PM on September 18.

To encourage participation across Maine we have partnered with a number of organizations to provide scholarships. If you register for the full fee, apply for and win a scholarship, you will receive a prompt full fee refund. So we encourage you to register ahead of scholarship winner announcements.

Scholarships are available in four different ways:

  • The six young professional organizations across the state are each co-sponsoring a “Back of the Napkin” contest.
  • Blackstone Accelerates Growth is sponsoring scholarships for college students across Maine.
  • Several economic development organizations are working on scholarships for local entrepreneurs (see below).
  • MCED has two scholarships – one for a “Back of the Napkin” contest entrant and one for a tech-based female entrepreneur.

Back of the Napkin Contest Deadline

Submission Deadline:             Sep. 4 (5 PM)
Winners Announcement:        Sep. 10

College Student Scholarship Deadline

Submission Deadline: Aug. 31 (midnight)
Winners Announcement: Sep 7

Northern Maine Development Commission Caribou Scholarships

Submission Deadline:      Aug. 31

Sunrise County Economic Council Scholarships
***Sunrise County Economic Council scholarships are only for Washington County
businesses or residents.

Rolling admission - For more information, contact Will at 255-0983 or