A national venture-capital firm that targets areas where startups are underserved has pledged to help Maine entrepreneurs.

Village Capital, a Washington, D.C.-based investment firm, launched VilCap Communities on Thursday, an initiative to partner with startup organizations and direct $50,000 to emerging entrepreneurs. The group selected 16 cities, including Portland, where startup communities are underserved by conventional financing.

VilCap intends to work with Maine Accelerates Growth, a network of partners helping entrepreneurs, to identify, support and fund a local startup working in the food or agriculture industries.

“(The selection) is really a reflection of all the incredible work happening by all of the stakeholders and entrepreneurs across the state – a list that is really big,” said Jess Knox, statewide coordinator for MxG.

Knox said there are many ways that local entrepreneurs can benefit from this partnership, besides the financing. The network of VilCap Communities provides opportunities for entrepreneurs to get in front of investors and markets more efficiently and effectively, he said. And VilCap’s connections across the country could help Maine companies get faster access to customers and increase revenues.

The team at Village Capital visited Portland during the Rise of the Rest tour with Steve Case, co-founder of AOL, last year. Case is a stakeholder in the group.

It sets itself apart from other venture capital firms by focusing on companies outside of tech centers in San Francisco, Boston and New York, where conventional venture capital financing tends to congregate. It also uses a unique peer-review model to make investments.

“I’m confident that (last year’s visit) really helped them understand the opportunities for high-impact companies here,” Knox said. “We’re very excited about the partnership with them and the opportunity for Maine.”

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