Now you might ask yourself, what is MassChallenge? And why should I apply to participate?
Great questions! I’m here to tell you about our experience and what we learned.
First off, let’s lay out what MassChallenge is and what the process looks like…
MassChallenge is a selective equity-free accelerator where the participating teams compete over a three month period to win cash prizes. Contrary to their name, they run programs all around the world (including Rhode Island!).
MassChallenge is segmented into many rounds to determine who will win the cash prizes.The first round is a written application open to anyone. A team of judges will then select the most promising applications to come and do an in-person pitch. If you make it to this round, you are a semi-finalist.
This in person pitch is where they will select the finalists, who then participate in a 3-month accelerator where you’ll get access to programing, space, and a variety of other benefits (which I’ll go over shortly). About 8% of applicants make it this far, so kudos to you if you are selected!
The accelerator portion is your opportunity to advance your business and make headway. This is really the meat of the competition and the most value you’ll get.
At the end of the accelerator, all participants will pitch to a group of judges to show what they’ve accomplished during the program. The top ~20% of the cohort will be selected to pitch in the final judging round. If you make it this far, you’ll be named a Top Startup.
These startups will now be competing with each other for a cash prize. Who gets what prize (if any) will be determined in this final round of judging. But no one finds out who wins until…
The Awards Ceremony!
All top startups will present in front of 2,500 people in Boston. At this event they’ll announce the “winners,” but note not every team selected as a Top Startup will necessarily win a cash prize.
Pangea.app made it all the way to the final round and presented in front of 2,500 people, but was not selected as a cash winner. And it’s all good! Because the other benefits of this process were tremendous, and made everything more than worth it.
Here are the top 10 reasons you should apply to MassChallenge RI (even if you don’t win money):
1. The application process itself is good practice, and helps align your team. You’ll get feedback in every round of judging (unlike many other programs).
2. The in-person pitch was amazing practice, and we were able to use the exact pitch to close a $10,000k angel investment.
3. Getting to know and work alongside a cohort of top peers. They helped us realize we weren’t totally insane (pursuing entrepreneurship) and also helped us beta test our product.
4. You’ll get access to a network of 1,000+ amazing mentors who can help shape your business and won’t take equity.
5. As part of the RI cohort, you get the added benefit of working out of the CIC: The heart of the RI entrepreneurial community and a world class c-working space with unlimited snacks, coffee, and spaces to work).
6. The mere presence of a deadline in the form of the next judging round will force you to rapidly advance your business. (This helped us secure an additional $100,000 angel investment!)
7. MassChallenge will add significant legitimacy to your venture.
8. The support of the MassChallenge team is unparalleled. They really care about you and will open so many doors with their sponsors, and network.
9. The opportunity to present your work in front of 2,500 people is life changing.
10. Finally, in RI, MassChallenge exists as part of the state’s first innovation Campus (RI Hub) which will continue to incubate you after the program is over.
11. (Bonus): Rhode Island is beautiful in the summer (they don’t call it the ocean state for nothing), and having the opportunity to spend time here and build your venture here is an incredible privilege.
Our building on far left, with downtown PVD on right. Taken from the new pedestrian bridge next to our office.
If you are serious about building an impactful venture and are looking for support, you should start the application process today; and work hard to get in!
Note: We applied 3 times before we got accepted, and never gave up. Each time the process of applying (and the feedback we got) help us mold our vision and push to be better.
If you want to talk more about our experience (or have any questions) feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com.
– Adam Alpert, Co-founder @ Pangea.app, MassChallenge RI 2019 – Top Startup