MassChallenge occupies the 6th floor of 21 Dry Dock Avenue (Boston Design Center) in the rear of the image
MassChallenge is a global non-profit startup accelerator and competition with a focus on high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs. MassChallenge was created by founders John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam with the intent to promote innovation, and takes no equity from its startups. To date, MassChallenge has accelerated 1,211 startups, which together have raised $1.8 billion in funding, generated over $700 million in revenue and created over 60,000 direct and indirect jobs across the world.
Each year, MassChallenge admits over 300 finalists to its three- to four-month accelerator program across its five locations: Boston, Israel, Mexico, Switzerland, and the UK. These accelerators provide startups with free office space, mentorship and more. At the end of the program, the most promising startups are awarded equity-free cash prizes.
In addition to the original Boston location, MassChallenge runs accelerator programs in London, Lausanne, Jerusalem and Mexico City. The organization's funding comes primarily from sponsorships from large corporations including Fidelity Investments, Verizon, Oracle, AmericanAirlines and Microsoft, and from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Launched in April 2010, MassChallenge began in earnest in May 2009 when co-founders John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam quit their jobs as consultants at Bain & Company to pursue their idea for a startup competition. In the midst of financial crisis, the two decided that their talents would be better served by helping entrepreneurs than by advising big multinationals.
MassChallenge garnered early support from successful entrepreneurs, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and large corporations. The earliest supporters of MassChallenge included Desh Deshpande, founder of Sycamore Networks, Thomas Menino, Mayor of Boston, Greg Bialecki, the Massachusetts Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation, Microsoft and Joe Fallon, a local real estate developer who donated the fourteenth floor of ONE Marina Park Drive, However, the MassChallenge offices recently relocated to the 21 DryDock Avenue in Boston's Design Center. The space is 26,000 sq. ft. taking up a large portion of the 6th floor and was donated courtesy of Jamestown, a real estate investment firm.
The organization originally attracted applications from 446 startups for its first program in 2010, selecting 111 companies to join the accelerator. The number of applications grew to 733 for the 2011 accelerator and to 1,237 for the 2012 accelerator. Approximately 10% of applicants were accepted to the 2012 program.
Recently, MassChallenged opened a MADE@MassChallenge, a research and development lab that startups can use at their Drydock office. Additionally, the organization launched a digital health lab, PULSE@MassChallenge at Hatch Fenway, and the Newton Innovation Center, a location designed for startups farther from Boston proper.
As of early 2016, MassChallenge has formed a partnership with Our Generation Speaks, a fellowship program and startup incubator whose mіѕѕіоn іѕ to bring together young Israeli and Palestinian leaders through entrepreneurship.
MassChallenge Israel was launched in Jerusalem in 2016 with a mission to enable top-tier Israeli startups access global markets. With the help of Israeli mentors and judges, MassChallenge Israel identifies the highest-potential startups in Israel to relocate to the MassChallenge headquarters in Boston for the summer and participate in the four-month accelerator program. These startups will be able to return to Israel after the MassChallenge accelerator with new sales channels, investors, mentors, and growth that wouldn't otherwise be feasible.
MassChallenge UK was launched in London in 2015. It runs a nearly identical four-month accelerator program based out of London's historic Tobacco Dock. Its first accelerator program attracted 800 applications, had 90 finalists and 26 winners.
In 2016, MassChallenge launched locations in Mexico City and Lausanne, Switzerland. The MassChallenge Switzerland has chosen its finalists and is currently in the process of its first accelerator program. MassChallenge Mexico is receiving its first round of applicants this year.
In June 2014, MassChallenge announced a goal with the Clinton Global Initiative to expand into ten cities on all populated continents by 2019. The next sites for accelerator programs are unknown, but MassChallenge is active in many countries already through its smaller "bootcamp" style Bridge Programs that serve to intensively train high potential entrepreneurs across the globe. Bridge Programs have been conducted with entrepreneurs in Colombia, Mexico, Russia, Switzerland, and South Korea.
MassChallenge’s startup accelerator program connects entrepreneurs with resources to help them succeed. The program lasts four months and takes place in the MassChallenge offices in Boston, London, Mexico City, Jerusalem, and Lausanne.
MassChallenge entrepreneurs typically build a small team of 2-4 mentors and work with those experts throughout the accelerator. Every match between entrepreneur and mentor is mutual. MassChallenge never forces a relationship, but does help entrepreneurs and mentors make connections. The organization matches entrepreneurs with expert mentors, who are a mix of senior executives, lawyers, marketing consultants and successful entrepreneurs. There are over 700 mentors in the MassChallenge network.
MassChallenge organizes hundreds of events and training sessions during the four-month program, including a one-week “Boot Camp.” Events range from large lectures and networking events to small workshops.
During the four months, the entrepreneurs work out of MassChallenge's offices located in South Boston's "Innovation District".
MassChallenge uses a competition framework to provide resources to top startups. Two rounds of judging determine the class of 100+ “finalists,” which are invited to participate in the four-month accelerator program. Several more rounds of judging determine cash winners. MassChallenge judges award a total of $1 million in grants to 10-20 startups in amounts of either $100,000 or $50,000. The startups are judged on “impact, feasibility, and execution.” MassChallenge judges have included Vertex Pharmaceuticals founder Josh Boger, famous tech entrepreneur Desh Deshpande, and Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck.
Entrants must be in the early stages of their business to be eligible. MassChallenge defines this as no more than “$500K of investment” and “$1M in annual revenue.” MassChallenge does not take any equity in its winners or place any restrictions on any of the entrepreneurs in exchange for the cash prizes. Unlike some other startup accelerators, MassChallenge does not provide cash upfront. It provides grants to winners after the program.
All finalists have access to multiple other prizes and in-kind deals throughout the accelerator program. Other prizes include; The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) provides an additional $600,000 prize and the opportunity to use the International Space Station National Laboratory as the ultimate research or technology development platform, Perkins School for the Blind offers an additional $25,000 to encourage participants in MassChallenge to develop new, low- and high-technology devices that could make a significant impact on the quality of life for people with disabilities. The John W. Henry Family Foundation provides additional grants to support the startup or startups in the 2013 MassChallenge accelerator with the most compelling social impact potential. Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center is supporting a $50,000 prize for the startup or startups that solve civic challenges through technology. MassChallenge partners provide startups with a massive range of in-kind deals, collectively valued at over $10 million.These deals include legal advice, marketing & media support, talent & hiring partners, and special deals in software, hosting, manufacturing, airfare, shipping and much more.
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