Innovation Blog

Top tips to build a standout MassChallenge…


The idea of participating in MassChallenge as a startup finalist is truly enticing one. What budding entrepreneur building a company wouldn’t want access to free office space, over 800 mentors, a curriculum built for their needs, and a chance to win part of a $1.5 million cash grant — all with no equity taken? That dream is only an application away…an application that is also submitted by over 1,500 other startup companies looking to realize that same dream. Only 128 of these startups can get in, so applicants need to do their best to stand above the rest of an already super-competitive pack! 

To help out entrepreneurs looking to apply to the most startup-friendly accelerator on the planet, we’ve put together a quick deck to help craft the perfect MassChallenge application: 

Key take-aways:

Anyone can apply to MassChallenge
No matter the industry, no matter how early your company might be, no matter where you are located, MassChallenge is open to all sorts of companies. Our model is designed to support all. This is key to forging cross-industry collaborations which entrepreneurs thrive on at MassChallenge. 

Demonstrated experts review your application
The judges who have volunteered their time to review your application are as rigorously vetted as the finalist startups that enter our accelerator! MassChallenge judges represent a tremendous depth and breadth of experience and perspective. Hundreds of lawyers, successful entrepreneurs, investors, corporate executives, service providers, and even MassChallenge alum pore over hundreds of applications each year to determine whether or not a startup gets a shot at the accelerator program. 

Prove you’re worth it
At MassChallenge, we’ve communicated with our judges to identify the startups and entrepreneurs that are going to make the most impact or leave the largest impression in the world around them. Why does your startup matter? Why are you uniquely qualified to pursue that idea? What’s your overall potential? What are your company’s chances of actually fulfilling that potential? These are all questions our judges ask themselves when they review the startups they are assigned to. 

Many pathways to impact
As demonstrated in slide 8, it’s up to you to define what exactly you’re impacting. What systems are you disrupting on a fundamental level? Make sure you clearly define what metrics you’ll be measuring too. Is it people helped? A ton of revenue? Creating behavioral change? Be clear and specific. 

Character limits are designed for your success
While the character limit might be annoying, it’s actually designed to make sure you get the best feedback possible and to help you really nail your startup idea. Use repetition strategically to drive a point home and bullet points to keep things simple. Judges have access to your startup profile, so make sure that is complete and informative so that you don’t have to repeat anything on the application and waste characters. 

Manage Expectations
The best applicants to MassChallenge are honest and have a realistic view of where they are going. Show milestones, be clear about next steps, and most of all prove that you have the ability to meet the challenges you present. 

“Explain it to me like I’m 12” 
Many startups applying to our accelerator program have complicated technology that might be hard to explain within a few characters. Leverage the video and the startup profile (which you can update even after you submit your application) for the specifics of your product. For the application portion – get feedback from peers, a layperson, or even a kid from elementary school student to make sure your project is easy to understand. 

You don’t need a business plan
If you’re worried that you don’t have a business plan, don’t fret! The MassChallenge application is an executive summary. Check out slide 12 for some of the sections you should prioritize. 

What are you waiting for? Apply to MassChallenge, now! 

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