This post was originally published on LinkedIn by Elizabeth Jennings.
Congratulations to each and every startup in MassChallenge Texas’s inaugural cohort — to the monetary winners and to the 84 finalists! Through mentoring, speaking, leading a panel of healthcare executives, and judging pre-accelerator and post-accelerator, it truly has been a privilege.
Not a day passed in which I wasn’t thoroughly impressed. You would be hard-pressed to find a more genuine, no-nonsense community.
I can sincerely say that it has been an honor to watch each of you progress as you have over the last few months. I’ve seen the distances you’ve crossed, the discomforts you’ve faced, the sweat that it’s taken to be a part of this cohort. I’ve watched as you’ve revised your decks, pricing models, forecasts, pithy one-liners, product designs, and go-to-market strategies dozens of times, over and over until they’re refined by that sweat and caffeine and long nights.
Being an entrepreneur is no easy feat — but of course, that’s why you’re here. Many of you left your homes across the country and across the world to be here. From Augmenta in Greece and Partz Boys Auto Parts in Nigeria, to The Mentor Method in DC and Aggressively Organic in Indianapolis, you set aside all the familiarities of your home communities and networks to come to our odd little neighborhood in Austin to be a part of our emerging startup ecosystem (er, “tapestry”).
You’ve spent the last few months with yourselves as individuals in a way that only entrepreneurship provides. Every day, it is a small quiet room. You show up and only you know if you’re doing the work. Every day, you’ve come to understand not just your business, but yourself better.
Within your hectic schedules, you worked in curriculum and mentor meetings around investor pitches, events, and daily business operations. You made it work. You were ruthless with your time. You showed up.
I’ve seen you do what wasn’t fun, or easy, or obvious. I’ve seen entrepreneurs get part-time jobs, sell valuables given to them by their partners, pick up driving for Lyft in the evenings. But you showed up.
It’s true: only a few startups will walk away with prize money. But every one of you who showed up and did the work will leave with a much more significant prize: you have mastered how to hustle.
It’s sounds cliché, but it’s also crucial. We have to travel long distances to make things happen — be that across continents, or competencies, or comforts. We have to know how to work when exhausted, when managing fears and anxieties, when frustrated by inertia. As Julia Cheek put it so well last night: that inertia is the hardest part. But that’s when it’s most important to show up. That’s when things happen.
That hustle is how you build momentum. You see, it’s not going to get “easier” upon graduation. Exhaustion never gets less wearisome. Revisions never become fun. The small, quiet room is always there, no matter how many people you fill it with. But it become less important as a factor in your success.
May the momentum from your time here at MassChallenge carry you forward.
To all the entrepreneurs whom I’ve have the honor to know and to mentor, congratulations. I’ve seen firsthand how far you’ve come. It has been an honor to invest in your success.
To Henry Keculah, who has poured heart, soul and expertise into changing Education with 4.0 GPA.
To Jeff Levine and Aaron Bernstein, who spent hours navigating my own scientific curiosity into the technology at Advanced Scanners with immense patience.
To Jonathan Partlow and Divyam Balani, who burned up airports and energy drinks in their war on world hunger through Aggressively Organic.
To Dr Jin Lee and Avishaan Sethi, who managed long teleconferences, tight schedules, and challenging questions in their quest to make early awareness of learning progress for those with autism an integral part of every pediatrician’s clinic with BabyNoggin.
To Fran Harris, who made us all smile when she pitched her aim of “putting cheeks in the seats” through Black Business University.
To JC Adams and Dr Liz Truong, who have deliberated night and day to tackle the complex challenge of mental health through Cloud9.
To Eydis Lima, who has put more effort into every aspect of developing a business than most mortals would consider feasible — all without losing the compassion that drives her mission against cervical cancers and STIs through DermaDiagnostics.
To Irene Brinker, who can pivot so fast you’d be forgiven for thinking it the tango. Through the building of a new company in a matter of weeks, she’s shown that she — and Devali — are unstoppable.
To Daniel Hussey, who has taken redlines and edits with professionalism and a smile, and who has risen to the task time and time again with Diffregen.
To Farhaj Mayan, who leads FADE with the unique combination of commercial insight, technological prowess, and humor.
To Shuchi Vyas, who can pack more boxes better and faster than any mere mortal could or should. From bootstrapping her business to uncovering the balance between niche needs and under-seen vendors, her attitude and insight have rocketed GuestBox forward.
To Michael Reyes, who has deliberated through my many questions over phone calls and evenings, pouring compassion, conviction, and character into his war on diabetes and malnutrition with Halo Life Sciences.
To Mei Wang, who has navigated an incredibly challenging schedule to bring Instapath to life with immense professionalism and a contagiously positive attitude.
To Candace Leak and Kristine Palmer, who embody the hard-to-find characteristics of successful entrepreneurs, most of all through knowing the smart questions to ask. It was clear from the beginning that this power team will take Loanables to the next level.
To Mohit Juneja, whose insight into emerging technologies and dedication to continuing improvement make MirrAR.io a company to watch develop the AR industry.
To Dr Bianca Cerqueira and Lauren Cornell, who lead NovoThelium with professionalism, deep understanding, and a keen perceptiveness that is hard to match.
To Tony Shawcross and Christopher Keeling, who have put transparency to technology and backed it with the brains and imperturbability needed to bring Open.Media to government.
To Don Oelke and Marlow Nickell, whose plans to shake up a crucial part in the grocery industry with Popspots are fortified by their unique approach and dedication.
To Daniel Weisfeld, who brings industry insight, scientific savvy, and commercial consideration to Resthetics as they change anesthesiology for the better.
To Kurt Stump, Mike Boyle, and Sean Bauld, whose ability to weave insightful humor and cutting insight together has never ceased to amaze me — and their attitudes and effort is reflected well in the progress Sempulse has made toward saving lives.
To Emile Maamary and Mark Elias, who have managed a complex commute with Canada while building a novel and necessary medical device at Steadiwear.
To Janice Omadeke, who brings a contagious attitude and dangerously sharp wit wherever she goes, leading The Mentor Method forward with grace and Olympian ease.
To Jake Miller and Ashok Seetharam, whose kindness and positive dispositions always brightened my afternoons. With a unique combination of skills and the drive to truly improve operating rooms, their effort in developing ToggleHealth is commendable.
To Phillip Cooper and Michael Phillips, who have pushed past the infernal Texas temperatures to build a winning product and business with Vena Medical.
To Sam Lillie, who has taken his natural teamplayer demeanor and gregarious attitude to support his colleagues and brighten the halls while building Vinder.
To Doug Quitmeyer of Your6, whose ability to find smart questions is only matched by his patience at tardy email responses.
And to Mike Millard, Dana Rygwelski, Lindsay Eulenfeld, Aisha Lewis, and Dustin Crawford— congratulations on bringing the first Texas cohort to life.
And to my fellow mentors and judges — Don Fowler, Brandon Knicely, Kevin Smith, Lisa McDonald, Paul O’Brien, Nicholas Hayman, Scott Collins, Barbara Kelso, Stephen Chen, Rory Carrillo, Blake Holman, Corinne Smith, Mark Jesser, Jesse Garcia, and everyone else who has brought bright and insightful conversation to the hallways — it has been such a pleasure to join you in building this community.