Dear MassChallenge Community,
It is with a great sense of excitement that I (officially) step into the role of Chief Executive Officer for MassChallenge. To our extraordinary entrepreneurs, experts, partners, MassChallenge team and Board – I say with a full heart what a privilege it is to lead this organization into its next phase.
I believe that entrepreneurship is the world’s most powerful lever to solve challenges, empower individuals, and drive economic strength. However, I also believe the forces of entrepreneurship and venture have not yet reached their full potential. The first few decades of high-growth entrepreneurship and venture capital – and yes, even accelerators – have been breathtakingly successful and yet defined narrowly by a handful of geographies, technology categories, and a certain founder archetype.
We are at a moment in time in which entrepreneurship can and must play a vital role in addressing humanity’s greatest challenges – climate, equality, human health – and in bringing to life the moonshots that will transform life as we know it, such as space commercialization or synthetic biology. As I step into the role of CEO, I am inspired by the opportunity to harness MassChallenge’s decade plus of leadership and learning and push the entrepreneurship sector itself along the innovation frontier. MassChallenge’s sights are set on expanding entrepreneurship into new sectors, into more geographies, and led by a more diverse set of founders targeting global challenges that have yet to be fully realized.
Throughout my career I have spent time in the public, private, social, and academic sector – pursuing a world in which business, technology, and investment play a greater role in creating a better world. I’ve often been told I am idealistic. That may be. I prefer to think I am optimistic. And I believe there is a growing body of evidence that the next generation of founders and companies will usher in a new wave:
The real deal
We are seeing a rise in “real economy” entrepreneurship; entrepreneurs who are increasingly tackling complex and often physical challenges including, but not limited to, the built environment, climate, mobility, and healthcare. Even infamous “software eating the world” Andreesen Horowitz is looking hard at “builder” entrepreneurs. This emerging area is complemented by a growing openness to alternatives to venture capital, including non-dilutive capital and self-funding, and the embracing of uncommon partnerships with industry, government, or even nonprofits.
At the table
The dismally exclusionary nature of entrepreneurship is primed for transformation. If we can sustain recent focus on increasing the diversity – race, gender, geography, age – of entrepreneurs, ensuring their access to resources and a seat at the table, we will move the needle towards something truly groundbreaking. The pursuit of equity, particularly for historically underrepresented founders and specifically founders of color, must and will remain at the forefront of our mission and occur in partnership with others.
Power of purpose
The movement towards stakeholder capitalism – which shines a bright light on the role of companies and founders in creating a more sustainable world – has made its way from niche activists to public markets. While we are still in the early innings, there are both economic and values-driven reasons to believe the next generation of entrepreneurs will integrate issues of responsibility, sustainability, and inclusivity into purpose, value creation, and risk management from the start.
MassChallenge has more than 12 years of experience at the leading edge of community-powered, no-equity programs with a public-value lens. We have taken this approach because the data is clear that this model allows us to work with high-potential founders regardless of whether they fit or break the traditional venture mold. It is no surprise to us that MassChallenge’s first hyper-successful companies were not in consumer software – but rather electric trucks, mental health, weather intelligence. It is no surprise either that almost 48% of the companies in our 2021 U.S. Early Stage cohort had at least one female founder and 47% had at least one founder of color – this is the result of the sustained and intentional effort to create opportunity and drive change through our programs.
Looking forward, we will build on the strength of our mission and our programs in accelerating startups and connecting communities. We will also embrace experimentation and innovation in our own work recognizing, like the founders we work with, that we too must grow and evolve to create transformative impact:
Solving Massive Challenges. Baked into our name is our deep-rooted belief that entrepreneurs can solve the world’s most critical – massive – challenges. We will double down on our commitment to supporting innovators who tackle generation-defining challenges. Today that includes Sustainable Food Systems, Health and Human Potential, Climate Resilience, the Future of Finance, and Safety and Security, while understanding that tomorrow will bring new challenges and entrepreneurs emerging to meet them. We will be ready for them.
Unlocking the community. Together, we have demonstrated the power of an open and decentralized community to support entrepreneurs. In a world of elite networks and closed-door decisions, I cannot emphasize enough how unique and important this is. Too many transformational ventures never saw the light of day because they lacked brand-name pedigrees, or because their founders did not know the “right” people. Together, we will breathe new life into our community by building a locally grounded, digitally connected global network with the power and purpose to provide access at scale to the resources, support, networks, and ecosystems essential to founders over their entire journey.
Re-imagining venture. We will support the next generation of founders who want to imprint purpose and environmental, social, and governance values into their company strategies from day one. This approach will increase their true economic value and enable them to realize their goals of creating world-changing companies.
MassChallenge is uniquely defined by an active and diverse community of founders, volunteer mentors, and corporate innovators – all who contribute to a shared vision of a stronger future through collaborative innovation.
If you have been on this journey with us, thank you. Your continued support means more to us than we can express. Celebrate your contribution and invite others to join us in our journey today.
If you are hearing about MassChallenge for the first time, come solve with us. Join our global network of innovators and support the next generation of founders and their game-changing startups today.
Cait Reimers Brumme
Want to learn more about supporting ground-breaking founders and their startups? Schedule a meeting with our Community team here.