MassChallenge

Case Study

How MassChallenge Connects Corporate Innovators with Startup Solutions Across Industries

MassChallenge believes that startups and enterprises can accomplish more together than alone. Our team works to ensure direct, unbiased focus on the specific interests of each of its partners and startups. 

Rooted in a non-profit model, MC offers a range of industry-specific and industry-agnostic solutions that are tailored to meet their partners’ goals. At the same time, we encourage pushing the boundaries that connect corporate innovators, entrepreneurs, and communities to drive business growth and transform economies. 

Across Industry 

IBM 

MassChallenge and IBM Launch its Mentorship Program supporting underrepresented founders solving in both artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

MassChallenge partnered with IBM for two cohorts from November 2021 to September 2022 of mentorship programs designed to support and advance startups solving with artificial intelligence (AI), or with the potential to solve through AI, with at least one founder from historically underrepresented identities including black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), non-binary, and/or female.  

The program ran for three months and had a cohort of:  

  • 101 Accepted Startups 
  • 60% Of startups with at least one female or non-binary founder 
  • 85% of startups with at least one BIPOC founder 

The cohort features startups from 19 of the United States, plus the District of Columbia, as well as 8 countries including Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, and Mexico. Some industries represented include Agriculture, Education, Energy, FinTech, Hardware & Robotics, Healthcare & Life Sciences, SportsTech, and Telecommunications. 

Dual-Use 

Air Force: Pison and Simplesense 

The US Air Force partnered with MassChallenge  to de-risk and grow cutting edge technologies and startups that are addressing national security challenges. 

The partnership with Hanscom Air Force Base to deliver the Banshee Innovation Training Program and the Air Force Labs Program, together designed to train innovation and acquisition-focused Air Force personnel to scout novel technologies from small business and increase transition to phase two SBIR’s for startups. 

In addition, the Banshee Innovation Training program helps educate our service members and Airmen in particular to take an entrepreneurial and agile approach to acquisitions with innovation training. It is our hope to build a network of innovation focused service members that are able to support startups make the right connections within the Department of Defense. 

Simplesense (Graduate of AF Labs) 

Simplesense is a dual-use startup — an emergency response software that improves response times by 6+ minutes, reducing loss of life, serious injury, and downtime. Simplesense is a 2019 MassChallenge Finalist. 40% of their market potential is in the commercial enterprise market, while around 5% is defense. 

“Simplesense had early success with our initial product but not a clear path to scale. Through MassChallenge, we connected with other startups who have had success in government contracting, with Air Force end users, and even won some seed funding through an AF pitch competition. We didn’t enter MassChallenge intending to focus on government and defense — thanks to the program, it’s now our biggest source of revenue and we have a clear path to scale.”  

– Eric Kanagy the CEO/ Founder of Simplesense 

Pison (MC 2019, AF Labs 2020) 

Pison develops wearable gesture control solutions for ATAK, robots, and night vision goggles.   

Pison joined the MassChallenge Air Force Labs program to be exposed to the Air Force and larger DoD program offices. The program provided Pison with connections to multiple stakeholders in the commercial and government innovation ecosystems. MassChallenge specifically provided demo opportunities and events to meet the right people at the Air Force and Army. Pison is now integrating to six programs of record with Federally funded departments.   

Pison has raised $12M in private VC funding and is raising a Series B in 2023. It is a STRATFI SBIR awardee and is integrating to the Special Warfare and also Security Forces programs of record.   

FinTech and HealthTech 

MassMutual 

Leading mutual life insurance company MassMutual doesn’t have a team fully dedicated to innovation but rather looks to drive its products and services strategically into the future within each organization throughout the enterprise. This includes identification of key stakeholders within the HealthTech and FinTech ecosystem for collaboration and identifying emerging solutions within the regional startup community. 

The partnership 

Through MassChallenge, MassMutual recognized opportunities to efficiently source new, innovative startups and  build and foster these relationships. MassMutual began their partnership with MassChallenge – both the HealthTech and FinTech programs – in 2018. By working specifically with the HealthTech program, they hoped to identify new technologies and ideas and push inspiration around innovation internally. 

“Once we started with MassChallenge, we looked to our executive team for the initial first step,” said Mohammed Dastigir, Head of FinTech and HealthTech Partnerships, Ecosystem Development at MassMutual. “Our approach was to identify a few creative and talented people, regardless of job description or department, and really focus on creating a team of innovative thinkers. With this team, we were able to help define business challenges across the enterprise.” 

MassMutual then used these identified challenges to “reverse pitch” startups during our application period, vying for a spot to act as the startups’ mentors and partners with a focus on entrepreneurs and solutions that could possibly benefit their business. 

The success 

One of the strategic challenges MassMutual identified was accessing electronic health data. After key stakeholders met with 18 selected HealthTech startups during matchmaking, MassMutual identified 1upHealth as one of the startups they would collaborate with during the 2019 program. 

HealthTech 

1upHealth is an inclusive data platform for patients, providers, researchers and app developers to automate data integrations with health systems and wearable devices within 1upHealth’s EMR integrated application. 

Since the end of the 2019 program, MassMutual has continued their relationship with 1upHealth. When the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the company experienced challenges obtaining the customer health data needed as part of the underwriting process for new life insurance policies as the availability of paramedical examiners became scarce. MassMutual leveraged 1upHealth’s technology during an engagement earlier this year to access medical data from external health systems in a HIPAA-compliant way, which allowed the underwriting process to move forward without in-person exams for some customers to get the life insurance they needed to protect themselves and their loved ones. 

“Our partnership with MassChallenge over the last three years has been impactful, with clear mutual growth opportunities that emerged with startups in the FinTech and HealthTech programs,” said Mike Fanning, Head of MassMutual U.S. “MassChallenge gives us access to hundreds of talented, forward-thinking entrepreneurs who are solving real business challenges. 1upHealth is just one example of a strong partnership we established that led to leveraging the startup’s technology in our underwriting process for some clients during COVID-19. We look forward to our continued engagement on both programs and having MassChallenge housed at our new Boston Seaport office.” 

FinTech 

In 2023, BCube, an end-to-end Audit and Policy Management solution provider, and connected with the MassMutual through the FinTech program. Through collaboration sessions between BCube (also a 2020 U.S. Early Stage alum) and MassMutual mentors, a specific challenge around insurance providers was uncovered: How to simplify the manual review and certification process for product disclosure documents that are administered in a third-party system. This a cumbersome and time-consuming process which includes extensive subject matter experts’ reviews and then the documents being manually aggregated, processed, and updated in the original system. This process is repeated several times and incurs thousands of hours of manual effort.  

How BCube gained traction and support from MassMutual’s stakeholders involved championing the product and its value, streamlining a complex process that can be automated to deliver more efficiently at a compelling price point. 

The collaboration was extremely successful, meeting all the project objectives. This rapid progress, bolstered by having a partnership lead within MassMutual to tout BCube’s value, showcases the symbiotic relationship – MassMutual‘s dedication to startups and modernization, the agility and innovation of the BCube RegStacker team, and the invaluable framework provided by the MassChallenge FinTech team, worked together to bring this concept to reality. 

Since partnering in 2018, roughly 50 percent of startup partnerships from MassChallenge FinTech and HealthTech have turned into real engagements for MassMutual, as customers, investors, or both.  invested in have subsequently launched, including Surround Insurance and Posh.  

After working with MassChallenge for three years, in 2021, MassMutual extend its partnership with MassChallenge for another three years. In 2021, MassMutual spearheaded a public-private partnership consisting of leaders from the industry, academia, startup and investor communities, and the state, to launch the Mass Fintech Hub with the objective of making Massachusetts a global hub for financial technology.  

John Hancock and BodesWell 

Founded by software veterans Matthew Bellows (Yesware) and Bernie Bernstein (Trip Advisor), BodesWell’s mission is to allow for far greater accessibility to long-term financial planning by offering a personalized and intuitive software.  Specifically, BodesWell aspires to break down barriers to financial planning by providing better, easier tools for more people. 

As founder Bellows stated, “All this financial planning knowledge exists, but it’s unevenly distributed. It’s distributed primarily to the wealthiest part of our country and to the people who feel most comfortable working with the current financial advisors. We are here to change that.” 

BodesWell participated in MassChallenge in 2021 in a program designed to connect BodesWell to hard-to-access, but necessary financial partners in order to pilot and scale.  

“Participating in MassChallenge was one of the smartest things we did at BodesWell. From the application to the numerous opportunities to pitch, we honed our value proposition. Through MassChallenge we connected with John Hancock, learned a ton about their business needs and were able to secure a pilot agreement with them. This interest was a catalyst to our previous partnership with American Express, and helped us exit to them. We are huge fans of the MassChallenge team at BodesWell!” 

– Matthew Bellows, Former co-founder and CEO of BodesWell.io