Tilson, Portland, Maine
Tilson, headquartered in Portland’s Old Port, was founded in 1996 to offer IT and telecom consulting and implementation services. Tilson began growing rapidly in 2007, doubling the business each year, and now has regional offices in New York, Pennsylvania, and Alabama, making the Inc. 5000 list in each of the past three years. CEI Ventures, Inc. made an equity investment for growth capital needs, primarily to fund rapidly growing contract opportunities.
Tilson has successfully overseen a number of projects that have helped local businesses and organizations take full advantage of the array of technological tools available on the market today, including the Maine Three Ring Binder project. For this project, Tilson helped manage the construction of a 1,100 mile fiber optic network to deliver high-speed broadband connectivity to rural communities throughout Maine. The project received $25 million in 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, and, under Tilson’s management, was constructed six months ahead of schedule and under budget.
“CEI Ventures provided our first outside investment, giving us the working capital we need during a high-growth period in the business. This financing will help us bring our ‘get it done’ technology implementation services in software and telecom to customers in new markets and meet the increasing demand during the economic recovery.”
- Josh Broder, President, Tilson
Number of Employees: 93
Benefits: Health and dental insurance, FSA, HSA, Employee Assistance Program, life insurance, short and long-term disability insurance, 401 (k) retirement with employer contribution and paid vacation.
NativeEnergy, Burlington, VT
Listen to the news for any amount of time and you'll quickly hear a story about people without access to clean water and the need for public and private investment in solving this issue. With climate change and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns, access to clean water is quickly becoming the issue. The World Bank notes that about 700 million people lack access to safe drinking water, a number that is expected to rise as water scarcity and sanitation issues continue to plague developing countries.
NativeEnergy develops, structures, and finances impact projects that provide its corporate customers investment opportunities to further their sustainability and business goals. NativeEnergy has water purification projects in Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, India, and Honduras. In these regions, waterborne illness is a leading cause of death for young children, and untreated water is dangerous to people of all ages. Families have to make a daily choice: use polluting woodstoves, fueled by scarce and expensive charcoal or wood to purify their water, or risk serious disease. NativeEnergy brings private sector funding to reduce the associated greenhouse gas emissions from these methods and gives these families a sustainable, healthy alternative in the form of water filters. CEI Ventures invested $250,000 in NativeEnergy to expand the project origination and development capabilities necessary to implement these water filter projects.
"CEI is an ideal partner for NativeEnergy. Their long-term view on sustainability and understanding of the impact investing space provides value to our evolving Corporate Impact Investment practice. We look to them not only as a board member but also a business partner."
- Jeff Bernicke, CEO and President, NativeEnergy
CEI Partners: FreshTracks Capital and Village Ventures
CEI Ventures Investment: $250,000 for working capital and expansion
CEI Connections: CEI Ventures
SmartPak Equine is a direct marketer, specializing in the administration of equine and canine health care products. The company’s primary product is its patented SmartPak™ custom unit-dose packaging & automatic replenishment system supplements, but it also offers a broad variety of English & Western equine gear, and canine health and food products. In 2003, SmartPak was raising capital to fund the growth and expansion of its innovative products. At the time, SmartPak was small, and its market was outside the scope of traditional venture investment. Because of this, the company struggled to find capital from larger venture firms.
CEI Ventures Investment
Intrigued by a strong management team, a commitment to corporate social responsibility, and an innovative and disruptive product offering, CEI Ventures invested $1MM into SmartPak Equine. This capital enabled rapid growth and put the SmartPak in a competitive position. As a result, SmartPak captured the interest of a larger Boston based venture capital firm. In 2013, sales were well in excess of $100 million, and in 2014, SmartPak was acquired by Henry Schein Animal Health, a leading companion animal health distribution company. https://www.henryscheinvet.com/footer-content/news/2014/05/22/henry-schein-animal-health-enters-into-agreement-to-acquire-smartpak-expands-its-equine-offering
Results and Impact
SmartPak, now owned by Henry Schein, employs over 350 people, many of whom are low income individuals from an immigrant community in Fall River, Massachusetts. The company provides employees with transportation to and from work, generous wages, and a robust benefits program. Smartpak continues to focus on employee well being by placing an emphasis on safety and comfort, and also instituted Reduce/Reuse/Recycle programs, which significantly reduce waste. In the end, CEI Ventures’ investment in SmartPak provided a 9x return on invested capital, providing significant financial returns for our investors and community benefit.