Founder and Chief Executive Officer
John Harthorne is the Founder and CEO of MassChallenge, a startup accelerator and competition designed to catalyze a startup renaissance by connecting high-impact startups from around the world with the resources they need to launch and succeed.
John received his MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 2007. While at school, John received Grand Prize in the 2007 MIT $100K Business Plan Competition and received the 2007 Patrick J. McGovern Award for impact on quality and visibility of entrepreneurship at MIT. He also led the 10th annual MIT Global Startup Workshop (GSW) held in Trondheim, Norway
In September 2011, the Boston Business Journal identified John as one of Boston's 50 Most Influential Business Leaders alongside the CEOs of Akamai Technologies, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Boston Celtics.
John is a life-long Massachusetts resident and an avid Red Sox fan. He currently lives in Somerville with his wife Natalia, their 6-year old son Max and their baby girl Yulia.
Founder and President
Akhil Nigam received his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City (Valedictorian) and his MBA from Harvard Business School. Before business school, Akhil was one of the founding team members (employee number 5) of a high growth startup focused on software, Internet technology and IT services. In this role, he helped grow the firm to 100 employees in 5 years across the United States, India and Singapore. He was the youngest partner elected in the firm and gained extensive experience advising top level executives on technology strategy and trends while leading the firm's new business development initiatives. Akhil has also evaluated investment opportunities in a variety of industries for major private equity firms at Bain & Co. and at Fidelity Strategic Investments. Akhil lived in India until age 12 and then attended High School in Zimbabwe before receiving a full 4-year scholarship to the Cooper Union. Akhil currently lives in Cambridge with his wife Hemali and two daughters Diya and Aisha.
Chief Mentorship Officer
With over 20 years of both bootstrapping and VC-backed company experience, Karl is passionate about supporting entrepreneurs. Karl co-founded 170 Systems, an enterprise software company in 1990, and saw it through two decades of growth and profitability, culminating in a successful acquisition. Karl led the company as CEO as it bootstrapped to become a profitable, worldwide market leader with a Fortune 1000 customer base using the company’s software products and services in over 90 countries – all before taking VC funding which fueled further growth. After joining MassChallenge in its inaugural year as a judge and mentor to many teams, Karl is now focused full-time on making the mentorship experience the best it can be for both the emerging companies and the participating community. Karl is also an active supporter of the entrepreneurial ecosystem through other involvements, including programs such as TechStars and the MIT Venture Mentoring Service. Karl received his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT, and lives with his wife and two sons in the Boston area.
Director of Partnerships
Scott Bailey is the Director of Partnerships at MassChallenge. In his role, Scott develops annual fundraising strategies, builds partnerships with public and private organizations and investigates new expansion initiatives. Scott also plays a critical role in the day-to-day operations of the accelerator program and competition. He connects finalists with key stakeholders, partners and sponsors, and manages the competition judging logistics and the annual awards ceremony. Scott supports local and global entrepreneurship by frequently hosting international delegations at MassChallenge and volunteers his time to work with entrepreneurs, speak on panels, and mentor college students in the Boston startup community.
After graduating from the University of Vermont in 2009 with a degree in Business Administration and Entrepreneurship, he served as the Director of Client Programs at the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies (VCET), a non-profit technology business incubator. During his time at VCET, Scott prospected early stage companies for the $5 Million Seed Capital Fund, founded the Entrepreneurship Club, and joined a student run startup, BlirpIt, as Director of Sales & Marketing.
Senior Director, Programs and Operations
Joanna is the founder of Snip-its, a franchised chain of hair salons specializing in children. Her areas of expertise include brand development, business planning, financial planning, P&L management, marketing, franchising, business management, and leadership. Joanna was a finalist in the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards twice during her tenure at Snip-its.
Joanna holds a BA from Duke University and an MBA from Babson. In addition to her work at MassChallenge, Joanna volunteers as a mentor at Babson’s Summer Ventures Program, MIT’s Venture Mentoring Services, and Harvard’s I-Lab. She lives in Wayland with her husband and four children, and she loves yoga, tennis and drumming.
Erica coordinates the accelerator curriculum for entrepreneurs across various industries and developmental stages. She identifies and recruits experts in the startup growth and expansion fields to engage and connect with top early stage companies. Erica collaborates with like-minded organizations in the innovation industry to build stronger relations and share knowledge and expertise with the local and global community. Additionally, she manages teams of ambassadors, interns, and startup enthusiasts to increase awareness and expand outreach.
Erica received her undergraduate degree in Nutrition and Health Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She implemented the first annual Northern Arizona Healthy Living Expo as her senior capstone project, and has since fallen in love with the event planning business. Erica has since been involved in planning both private and public engagements, and is delighted to be a part of the Boston innovation world. She loves traveling and meeting new people, and hopes to continue exploring the many opportunities the world has to offer.
Robby Bitting is interested in exploring new social media and creative solutions that take on old marketing and PR problems. Prior to joining MassChallenge, he completed the Executive Training Program at Ruder Finn, Inc., contributing as an Assistant Account Executive to the Healthcare Practice’s Healthcare Innovation and Oncology teams. Robby is a graduate of Bowdoin College, where he studied religion and chemistry and was a member of the Men’s Ultimate Frisbee team.
Kara Shurmantine’s interest in entrepreneurship began when she interned at BookheadEd, LLC, an early-stage educational technology company based in her home state of California. She combines a passion for innovation with a deep background in journalism, having served as the editor-in-chief of the student weekly at Middlebury College, where she received her B.A. in English & American Literatures and Spanish in the spring of 2012. Kara is thrilled to join Boston’s dynamic entrepreneurial community and looks forward to building meaningful relationships within the innovation ecosystem.
Ryan Walsh is the Operations Manager at MassChallenge. He’s responsible for managing the logistics, day-to-day tasks, and “behind the scenes” work that goes into putting on MassChallenge events, programs, and workshops. Other duties include managing interns and working with MassChallenge’s core team to plan, implement, maintain, and evaluate all processes. Ryan serves as a point person before, after, and during each event for vendors, guests, speakers, and finalists.
Prior to joining MassChallenge, Ryan worked at CampusLIVE (now Dailybreak) and ESPN. Ryan graduated from The University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in Business Management. He is passionate about startups, and enjoys baseball, golf, traveling and Coca-Cola.
Media/Community Outreach Coordinator; CEO and Brandographer, La Capoise Galerie
Jodi-Tatiana Charles has enjoyed bringing people and companies together for over three decades. As a strategic marketing & branding specialist she has combined her passion for branding with her love of business development. While completing her Global MBA at Babson College and traveling to 14 countries within a year, conducting research work on the global effects of tourism on business-to-business (B2B) segments of an economy, she developed La Capoise Galerie, a unique branding and marketing firm, specializing in community and media outreach for startup companies and small businesses.
Prior to creating La Capoise Galerie, Jodi-Tatiana managed and coordinated the Massachusetts Conference for Women, an annual, one-day event where in two years she raised the number of attendees from 2500 to over 7500 women. Prior experiences include: serving as Deputy Press Secretary to Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, NECN Producer of the award winning program NewsNight, hosted by Chet Curtis and Jim Braude; WXKS Associate Producer for the legendary radio program The Matty in the Morning Show, for which she was nominated "Producer of the Year."
- How Do I Join the MassChallenge Yammer Network?
- Is MassChallenge limiting the competition to specific sectors or types of companies?
- What is the accelerator program?
- Is my startup too early? What if I only have an idea?
- What are the eligibility requirements for entry?
- What is your Policy on Intellectual Property Protection?