14 Reasons You Should Enter the MassChallenge
1. The MassChallenge Accelerator
The MassChallenge Team organized a whopping 250 events in 3 months. That's roughly 8 events a day! Events included everything from Founder Stories, to hands on sales workshops, to one-on-one help with partners of major legal firms. The MassChallenge accelerator was literally like Startup Bootcamp on sterioids. I've never met so many people had to do so much intense thinking in such a short time span in my entire life (granted I'm young). If nothing else, having access to these events and having them only a stone's throw away from your office is worth the time it takes to enter.
2. Founder Fridays
Every Friday, the MassChallenge Team coordinated for a startup founder to come in and tell his or her stories of what it was like to startup. Imagine this - You're sitting in a room with about 75 other people and hearing the likes of Dharmesh Shah (HubSpot), Alexis Ohanian (Reddit), Desh Deshpande (A123 Systems), Jeff Taylor (Monster), Tim Healy (EnerNOC) and many more tell their personal stories of success and failure. There's nothing like hearing actionable advice from some of Boston's best entrepreneurs and actually being able to ask a question and get it answered. Bonus: All the founders who came in to speak were extremely friendly and were willing to talk to teams on a one-on-one basis after the event. I even managed to keep up relationships with a few of them after the competition ended. Why pay to go to an event to see some of these people speak when you can go for free every Friday at MassChallenge, then walk 20 feet to work?
3. Expose Yourself
No...Not like that! As a starter, you're probably constantly balancing going to events and networking with actually working on your business. Getting out and meeting new people is important, and MassChallenge makes this balance a bit easier by allowing you to expose yourself with almost no effort. They bring almost everyone in the ecosystem to you. My Twitter followers almost doubled once I joined the Acellerator. Likewise for my LinkedIn connections.
4. Expose Your Startup
Getting yourself out there is imporant, and talking about your idea is even more important. Bringing together over 100 startups under one roof attracts attention from the startup community at large. If you're selected as a finalist, people will want to talk to you about your company and find out what you are doing. You will get to practice pitching to very different types of people and figure out the easiest way to convey your idea. MassChallenge also did a good job of getting media exposure for all the teams. ABC, NBC, and other channels all came in to do stories on the program. Now that MassChallenge has the approval of the White House and Startup America, I'm sure more press coverage is to come.
5. The Best Office Space You'll Ever Have. And It's Free
The MassChallenge Accellerator is located on the 14th of ONE Marina Park Drive in the Seaport District. The views of the Marina and the City are absolutely stunning. You're probably never going to have office space this nice again in the lifetime of your company, so you should try to get in here now. During the accelerator you also get the office space for free
6. Friends and Community
After I got into MassChallenge and started meeting people from the other 110 teams, I was amazed because everyone I met made me think, "this person is just like me!" I have met a boatload of new friends who I never would have otherwise met if I wasn't in MassChallenge. We play ping pong together, go out for beers afterwork, and even I got invited to a few Halloween parties this year. Working in your house is free, but having a social scene and making friends is important too. MassChallenge brings the friends to you.
7. Entrepreneurial Support Group
One of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur is dealing with your emotional ups-and-downs on a daily basis. You'll have to learn to fend off the amazing highs to stay focused, and pick yourself up after a crushing defeat and keep going. Having other people to talk to that are just like you and running into the same sort of things will help balance yourself. Many of the teams also have advice and solutions that can help you grow faster if you choose to ask.
8. Personalized Mentorship
Having trouble finding advisors to give you advice for free? MassChallenge solves that problem by hooking you up with mentors all over the country. The 2010 competition involved over 200 mentors offering more than 500 mentoring hours collectively. Rentabilities had the privilege of wrangling Monster.com's Jeff Taylor as one of our mentors. Another mentor we had, Eric Silverman, introduced us to over 10 angel investors who allowed us to do practice pitches. If you want to connect with busy and high profile people, MassChallenge is a great asset.
9. It's Game Time
The MassChallenge office has a game room with ping ping, pool, XBox Kinect and even a Nintendo 64 (yes, we have GoldenEye). We're having a ping pong tournament next week to figure out who's the Office Ping Pong King/Queen. When you're stuck on a bug or just had a frustrating meeting with a client, there's nothing like a little gaming to relax your brain.
11. Social Proof
MassChallenge involved 4 judging rounds and was extremely competitive. The 2011 competition is probably going to run a little differently, but Here's a quick breakdown of how the 2010 comeptition went:
- 446 teams (all entrants) - Electronic judging
- 300 teams - 12 minute presentation to 3 judges
- 111 teams - 10 minute presentation to ~6 judges
- 26 teams - 10 minute presentation to ~10 judges
- 16 teams - Awarded $50,000 or $100,000 prizes
If you make it all the way through MassChallenge and receive a prize, you've pitched to some of the smartest venture capitalist and past entrepreneurs in Boston. Their endorsement and confidence in you is a huge badge of social proof. You'll have an easier time getting meetings with potential investors and advisors because you've already proven to some really smart people that you are worth the time.
12. $1,000,000 in Prize Money
That's right! MassChallenge awarded $1,000,000 in prize money to 16 teams. There were absolutely no strings attached to the money either. They don't tell you how to spend it or what to do with it. You get the check, and are only expected to succeed. Bonus:
Personal life goal - Win a big check
13. Free Beer!!!
The Boston Beer Co. graciously fueled every startup's sanity during the Accelerator with free beer. What more could you want?
14. Get in while you can
The 2010 MassChallenge competition was the first one held. My guess is that there's going to be well over 1,000 teams entering the 2011 competition. The year after, who knows? If your thinking about holding off on the competiton or not really sure if you should enter, I have one piece of advice:
Just do it!!!
You only have a small entrance fee to lose (which you can get waived through endorsements) and you have a lot to potentially gain. If you look at the history of other accelerators, they have all been steadily gaining in traction, and in competiveness over the years. There were 6 teams in the original batch of YCombinator. The latest batch of companies is 30, and I've heard there were over 1000 of applicants. I'm willing to bet it was much easier to get into YCombinator in 2006 than in 2010. Now's the best time to get into the MassChallenge network because it's only going to keep picking up steam.
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