Mass Challenge

Founders

Founders

MassChallenge supports founders who disrupt the status quo and create sustainable change – whether they fit the mold or break it. Since we take NO EQUITY in your startup, we are able to support founders from all backgrounds with novel ideas more thoroughly than other accelerators.

 

As a founder, it’s important to be strategic about where to spend your time and energy. Our global network offers access to mentorship and resources that support founders through every stage of the startup lifecycle. 

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The Founder Experience

MassChallenge Founder Experience

Why MassChallenge?

MassChallenge’s evidence-based, outcome-focused, zero-equity acceleration model demonstrates that when founders are supported by a global community-driven network, they scale their startups more rapidly and profitably.  

 

MassChallenge is a nonprofit that supports innovators from all backgrounds to create breakthrough change and accelerate their business without requiring financial stake in the success of the organization. 

“I learned so much in that four-month period, both professionally and personally. I was able to greatly build upon my business acumen, increase my confidence to sit at the bigger tables and have access to those nuanced cheat codes that are more available to the typical white cis-male entrepreneur.” 

– Janice Omadeke, Founder and CEO of The Mentor Method. 

 

See more Startup Successes here.

The MassChallenge Advantage

MassChallenge accelerators are the most efficient pathway to connect startups, experts, corporations, and communities to grow and transform businesses and economies. For founders, our key emphases are the following: 

 

  • Help entrepreneurs identify goals and key initiatives  
  • Provide access to a meaningful network of experts  
  • Connect entrepreneurs with a deep peer network  

 

Additional benefits include live seminars and workshops, a digital curriculum library, focused industry tracks, our deep corporate partner network, in kind deals and discounts, and equity-free cash prizes. Start your application today to be considered.  

 

Learn more about qualification and applying here.

FAQs

MassChallenge judges look for high-impact, high-potential startups, with a viable path to success and some traction/progress in their plans.  High-impact and high-potential mean a startup has a large addressable market and if successful, will have a significant impact on the problem it is trying to solve. 

MassChallenge judges look for high-impact, high-potential startups, with a viable path to success and some traction/progress in their plans.  High-impact and high-potential mean a startup has a large addressable market and if successful, will have a significant impact on the problem it is trying to solve. 

MassChallenge offers zero-equity programs and a competition-based model to provide cash awards and other prizes to the top startups in the global network. We do not offer any investment or funding upfront but participating founders and program alumni can apply to compete for cash award prizes.  

Founders who apply to our program go through two rounds of judging. The first is an online application review, and the second is a virtual pitch in front of a panel of judges. Acceptance is determined by our diverse community of expert judges who have been recruited and trained to identify the highest-impact startups across industries. Judges will provide feedback that matches the criteria of the application and also provide a recommendation for participation along a scale from definitely no to definitely yes. 

MassChallenge is an industry agnostic network that supports early-stage startups across all industries. We rely on our community of expert judges to select the highest-potential solutions – regardless of whether startups are in direct or indirect competition with each other.  

MassChallenge offers zero-equity for zero-cost accelerators and does not charge an application fee to apply. All founders who participate in a MassChallenge program are not required to give up a financial stake in the future success of their company.  

This year’s MassChallenge US early stage program will be a completely virtual experience though founders located in cities where we have offices (Austin, Boston, Houston, Dallas, and Rhode Island) or those willing to travel to a location can apply for our residency program which provides them with free office space to work out of.  Additionally, in the 4th month of the program (October), we will host in-person Market Access events that our startups can attend. We may also offer some optional in-person networking events in locations where we have offices.   

While a formal business plan is not required to apply, many elements will be incorporated into the application, including the problem, solution, and impact of your venture. Should a startup advance into further judging rounds, a slide deck is highly encouraged if you are invited to participate in Round Two judging, which is a 20-minute virtual pitch session.  

Expectations for engagement and eligibility criteria to apply are as follows:   

  • Adherence to all MassChallenge guidelines and terms  
  • Commit to and sign the Founders Code by committing to:  
    • Set and drive towards goals aligned with business value-creation  
    • Practice intention in everyday engagement  
    • Be an accountable member of the community  
  • We do not require 100% attendance, but rather ask startups to commit to maximizing the ROI of the program by building and following through on an intentional engagement plan including workshops, speakers, mentors and events.   
  • Completion of all accelerator surveys   
  • Virtual attendance to orientation held the week of July 11, 2022 

Our acceleration program is four months long and includes three months of diverse virtual curriculum (July 11 – Sep 23) and one month of optional “market access” opportunities (October).  

While we don’t require specific hours of engagement or attendance, we drive our entrepreneurs to embody the Founders Code, listed above.  
 
MassChallenge’s US early stage curriculum program is built on 3 themes to help founders to drive their startups to the next level: goal setting, access to curated mentors, and support from a peer network. We do this through live speakers, curriculum, working groups, virtual events, and 1:1 mentorship. 

We aim to schedule speakers and live virtual events on pre-identified days (e.g Tuesdays) to support your schedule. In addition to the above, all curriculum will be recorded to increase access and utility. You will work with your mentor and working groups according to the groups schedule and availability. 

You will get out of the MassChallenge Accelerator what you put in. 

The first three months of virtual curriculum  covers a diverse array of curriculum, including: 

  • 3 days of orientation (90 minutes of curriculum, optional networking sessions)  
  • 3 days a week of curriculum sessions – Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (2 hours per day average)  
  • Curriculum sessions include live speakers, workshop sessions, themed roundtables, small group conversations, and virtual events 
  • 1 day a week of open office hours for programming questions (1 hour, attend as needed) 
  • Optional virtual networking and social events throughout the program  

3 months of curriculum and 1 month of additional opportunities 

The Market Access Program is a new offering for MassChallenge community members. MassChallenge will organize a series of fixed duration “micro-programs” with the focused goal of helping founders build their network with key stakeholders in MassChallenge’s physical communities around the United States during the following dates in 2022: 

  • Dallas, Texas: October 3-5, 2022  
  • Houston, Texas: October 5-7, 2022  
  • Austin,Texas: October 11-13, 2022  
  • Providence, Rhode Island: October 13-14, 2022 
  • Boston, Massachusetts: October 17-19, 2022 

All startups in the 2022 accelerator will be eligible to attend Market Access Programs in any location.  

Protection of intellectual property rights (ex. patents, trademarks, copyright, trade secrets, etc.) of your concept is your responsibility and your responsibility alone. If you have an idea or product that you might want to patent, we recommend speaking to a lawyer before submitting information about this idea to MassChallenge.  

Information you include in your application will be shared with the set of expert judges for review. Please note that these judges do NOT sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). Therefore, you should not include any information in your application that you feel could be harmful to your company should that information be disclosed. 

Note that applying to MassChallenge is very similar to presenting your idea to potential investors. Very few investors (Venture Capitalists or “angel investors”) will agree to sign an NDA before even hearing your initial pitch. It is up to you to determine the right balance between sharing enough information to get people interested and to give you credibility – and sharing information that could potentially be damaging to your company if it were to be disclosed.  

Our 2022 program is fully virtual, and we offer a residency program that provides founders with a free workspace at our offices in Austin, Boston, Houston, Dallas, and Providence. Unfortunately, we don’t have the capability to provide scholarships or sponsorships for the founders who wish to participate in the residency program. We recommend you fundraise and budget for any relocation or commute to one of our early-stage program offices. If you are out of the country, it’s important to remember that you cannot work unlawfully while in the US while under a visitor visa.  

What are the visa requirements and what steps do I need to complete if I am coming from out of the country?  
If you choose to take part in our optional residency program, you will need a B1 or B2 visa. It is important not to use the word “work” in your visa application for either of these, as MassChallenge does not constitute as work. If you need a letter from MassChallenge as proof of your reason in the country. Please reach out to earlystage@masschallenge.org, and include each team member’s name and title that will be requiring a letter.  

You may also need to prove you have the financial resources to live in the US for the 4-month duration of the program, as well as proof you plan to return to your home country. Proof that you will return home country includes things like proof of home ownership, proof you are leaving a family behind, a letter from your business stating you will return to work on the startup which is based in your home country. 

It is important NOT to use the ESTA program (“visa waiver”) as you can only stay in the country for 90 days, after which you MUST leave and cannot return.  

  • MassChallenge does not take equity from the startups we support (yes, really).  
  • MassChallenge is open to startups across any industry, from anywhere in the world. 
  • MassChallenge is a global network, which means more resources and more access for all founders. 
  • MassChallenge is one of the largest accelerators in the world – which means more resources for participating founders. 
  • MassChallenge uses a competition framework to facilitate our accelerator program: 
  • We use two rounds of judging during the application process to select startups for the cohort. 
  • Experts from the startup community serve as MassChallenge judges. 

MassChallenge judges look for high-impact startups, with a viable path to success and some traction/progress in their plans.