Mass Challenge – an accelerator program for early stage startups

26 Nov 2014
| Last update: 05 Oct 2015

A non-profit accelerator for early stage startups

early stage startups

Renaissance as a cultural period was the bridge between Middle Ages and the Modern Times. It was a time of flourishing thought, of thriving in arts, culture, education and architecture, and of reaching freedom of thought. The man of the Renaissance was innovative, a visionary, skilled in as many fields as possible. MassChallenge envisions a global startup Renaissance.  It is an accelerator for early stage startups, which believes in the rebirth of the startup ecosystem, in an inspiring, creative and innovative way. It stands for new value, and its main concern is improving the entrepreneurial community, ensuring their success.

MassChallenge is the first accelerator offering world wide support to early stage startups with no strings attached. It awards over $1 million to winning entrepreneurs, from its impressive backers, with ZERO equity taken, and it does not place restrictions on participating startups. MassChallenge is described as a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

A powerful innovative ecosystem

early stage startups

[ Photo credits: Robert Scoble’s Flickr ]

If there is one thing in which MassChallenge believes in, it’s innovation in the startup ecosystem. Kyle Kahveci thinks their powerful innovative ecosystem is the most impressive thing. It is true they are backed by some “of the most influential organizations in the world”, partnerships which in the beginning relied exclusively on vision and trust. (Read more…)

Some of MC’s backers are: Jamestown, Fidelity Investments, Verizon, the Richard
and Susan Smith Family Foundation, CASIS, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The
Deshpande Foundation, Microsoft, American Airlines, iNNpulsa Colombia, Massachusetts Life
Sciences Center, Mass Tech Collaborative, Pfizer, Henkel, Turnstone, Zapopan.

The list is very impressive, but their success doesn’t come only from their backers. They have impressive relationships with successful entrepreneurs, and mutual benefit is always sought.

Kyle Kahveci sees their success in their tight-knit community and dedication to innovation. Their success lies in the careful understanding of the needs of the startup community and the drive to create value. There is mutual benefit, as startups need the help of successful entrepreneurs, mentors and sponsors, who can be found in this accelerator, while they feed value back into MC’s external stakeholders and the community.

In their words, MassChallenge envisions “a creative and inspired society in which everyone recognizes that they can define their future, and is empowered to maximize their impact.” MassChallenge works to set early-stage entrepreneurs and companies up for success.

One of a kind internship at Mass Challenge

MassChallenge also offers a Business Development internship. Jonathan Reichel wrote about his experience as an intern in their program. He was in awe that a nonprofit accelerator could offer 128 of the world’s most innovative startups the necessary office space and connections in order to be successful.  He was an intern in the summer program and he transformed a network of successful entrepreneurs into a community of friends. He was impressed by people from famous companies he got in contact with: from AWS, Dell, Fidelity Investments and IBM.

To quote Jonathan Reichel, he says that “MassChallenge has given me the internship I didn’t even know existed. I learned from myself and I learned from the people around me. I failed, I succeeded, I iterated on my successes and I found myself doing the things I love to do. MassChallenge gave me the opportunity to teach myself the skills I wanted to learn and that’s a privilege unique to MassChallenge. ”

Mass Challenge: great impact on the global startup community

early stage startups

[ Photo credits: Robert Scoble’s Flickr ]

An accelerator for early stage startups, which is a world wide success, doesn’t only offer funding to startups, but also world-class mentorship, training, free office space, legal advice, media attention and in-kind support.

MassChallenge opened applications for the 2014 startup accelerator earlier this year. Entrepreneurs competed for 128 finalist spots in the program and %1.5 million in cash awards, without having to give up any equity.

In 2015 it is expected that MassChallenge will take its residence in London U.K. for its first accelerator program for early stage startups for the next year.

In 2014, from the 128 finalists, who spent the last few months working in the program’s new space in the Boston Innovation and Design Building,  26 startups were selected for more than $1.75 million in cash grants. The top 26 faced a final judging panel, who determined which startups were to receive equity free funding. The winners were announced at the MassChallenge Awards Ceremony, which took place on October 29th.

Among the top 26 was AutoAgronom, a smart irrigation startup that was acquired by a Chinese firm for $20 million in September — not your typical early-stage startup accepted into MassChallenge.

More expected to win was Harvard-born Artlifting, an organization providing homeless and disabled artists with a place to sell their work. The startup recently launched a crowdfunding campaign, surpassing their $20,000 goal on Kickstarter.

In the Energy/Clean Tech field, there was Anfiro, which is helping create clean and affordable water.. Also,  AutoAgronom increases agriculture yields while providing savings of up to 50 percent water and 70 percent fertilizers by “listening” to growth roots.

Last but not least there was DropWise is on a mission to avert metagons of CO2 with a nanoengineered coating for power plants.

In the Healthcare/Life Sciences field, there was 3Derm takes 3D pictures of skin with an inexpensive handheld imager to help detect skin cancer at the earlier, more treatable stages. Also, Cam Med LLC has created Evopump, the first soft, flexible, bandage-like patch pump for active and simultaneous subcutaneous delivery of one or more medications. Disease Diagnostic Group’s reusable, mechanical device offers a handheld, quantitative malaria diagnosis. Fluid Skin is faster, more sensitive microbial detection from fluid samples.

GeckoCap is a connected mobile device that improves the management of chronic respiratory diseases for better outcomes and costs.

And the winners are…

The two $100K Diamond Winners are Catie’s Closet and Disease Diagnostic Group. The former is a charity, poverty alleviation program, helping children in need with clothes and necessities, so that there won’t be so many stigmas in school and students will attend them more. The latter is focused on Healthcare, Healthcare IT, Medical Devices, Social Impact and Public Health, and they can more easily and cheaply diagnose malaria parasites.

If you want to take a look at all 2014 winners, click here.

So, what’s your opinion on MassChallenge? Would you be interested in a non profit accelerator for early stage startups?

Ligia Mangra
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Ligia Mangra

Content Writer at Squirrly
A passionate writer. I love seeing a full moon and I like to rock 'n roll in life. Can't wait till my first novel gets published. Thumbs up, it'll be a fantasy horror!
Ligia Mangra
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