Don Gooding, executive director of the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development, says he plans to stay in Maine after stepping down from his position in June to pursue other professional and personal interests.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Gooding said in an interview Wednesday. “My joke is, ‘I’m not dying, and I’m not moving to Massachusetts.'”

Gooding surprised colleagues by submitting his resignation Tuesday. He has headed the center, which provides financial assistance, mentoring, education and other resources to entrepreneurs and startups, since October 2010.

Gooding said that when he took the job, he committed to staying for at least five years, a commitment he has fulfilled. However, Gooding said he will continue to work with the center in a more limited capacity.

MCED is at the hub of innovation and entrepreneurship in the state. It is the organization that oversees the state’s Top Gun five-month entrepreneurial training program from which more than 115 entrepreneurs have graduated since it began in 2009. Gooding said that staying on through June will allow him to oversee the next Top Gun competition, in which future participants will be chosen.

In his resignation letter, Gooding noted that funding challenges confronting MCED will dominate his successor’s time. He said MCED is facing a $130,000 to $150,000 shortfall this year, and filling that “is a tall order.” In 2014, the organization reported about 94 percent of its $670,000 operating revenue came from grants and contributions.

The organization had benefited from a three-year, $3 million grant from Blackstone Charitable Foundation awarded in 2011, which has ended. The money was used to expand the Top Gun program from its Portland roots throughout the state.

Gooding said he attempted to secure funding to replace the Blackstone grant but has been unsuccessful. There are other options to yet to be explored, he said, such as funding from foundations, successful entrepreneurs or the state.

“Sorting through all of that is a long process,” Gooding said. “I’ve been at it for a year.”

Gooding said he will remain involved in Maine’s entrepreneurial community in various ways. In addition to MCED, he plans to work with organizations such as Maine Startup & Create Week, Greenlight Maine, and colleges and universities.

“I have a bunch of things that I will be pursuing,” he said.

Known as a tireless advocate for startups, Gooding has had a long career as an entrepreneur. He started Mainely A Cappella, the predecessor to Primary A Cappella, the organization featured in the Pitch Perfect movies, selling recordings and sheet music. A talented singer, Gooding often takes the mic at entrepreneurial events like pitch contests and entertains the crowd.

He also spent 10 years as a research partner at a venture capital firm Accel Partners, focusing on the telecommunication and networking markets.

He maintains his investment work as a member of Maine Angels. In 2015, Maine Angels closed 23 deals totaling $2.3 million in investments, one of the most active angel investment groups in the country.

Gooding said he is looking forward to spending more time on his personal interests, such as singing, international travel and “spending a little more time living, as opposed to working.”

“It was time for me to go do some things I wanted to do,” he said.


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