MassChallenge and IBM Announce its First AI Cohort for Underrepresented Founders

More than 40 volunteer IBM Mentors will share their expertise with the 50 early-stage entrepreneurs to help them tackle key areas and advance their businesses.

(Boston, MA) November 10, 2021 – MassChallenge, the global network for innovators, and IBM, a leading global hybrid cloud and AI company, together announce a cohort of 50 startups for a new mentorship program dedicated to cultivating early-stage entrepreneurs with at least one founder from historically underrepresented identities including black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and/or female who are leveraging AI as part of an innovation solution. Learn more about the cohort here

“The announcement of this cohort of 50 startups is a cause for celebration in reaching this significant milestone, which further signals MassChallenge’s commitment to leading the way in building inclusive communities that support founders of all backgrounds and industries, from anywhere in the world,” said Hope Hopkins, MassChallenge New England Managing Director. “We are pleased to be doing this with IBM as AI has the potential to be transformative to businesses, and through this mentorship program startups will receive personalized, subject matter expertise to unlock their potential.” 

With this collaboration, IBM and MassChallenge are actively pursuing their commitment to support entrepreneurs from underrepresented populations and create more equitable distribution of and access to key resources for growth. More than 40% of the cohort has at least one founder who identifiest as both BIPOC and female, while 14% of the startups are located outside of the U.S. Sixty-eight percent of the cohort has a focus on the high-tech industry, with healthcare coming in at 24%, and social impact, and general coming in at 4%, respectively. Now that the startups have been selected, they are being matched with industry experts who will work with them over the next three months.  

“Together with MassChallenge, IBM is happy to offer the expertise and experience of our employees as a resource for underrepresented startup founders,” said Roger Premo, IBM General Manager, Corporate Development and Strategy. “Every startup benefits from connections and resources that accelerate growth, and through this program, IBM aims to help startups scale and run successfully. This collaboration is another example of the way that IBM volunteers are making an impact with entrepreneurs, in this case to help a diverse cohort of startups thrive, through the Reignite for Small Business from IBM program.”

Select participating startups will be invited to participate in a competition where IBM will award $50k in no-equity cash prizes. 

About MassChallenge

MassChallenge is the global network for innovators. Headquartered in the United States with seven locations worldwide, MassChallenge equips bold entrepreneurs to disrupt the status quo and to create meaningful change. Since launching in 2009, more than 2,900 MassChallenge alumni have raised $8.6B in funding, generated $3.6B in revenue, and created more than 186,000 total jobs. Learn more about MassChallenge at  

About IBM

IBM’s support of MassChallenge is part of Reigniting Small Business from IBM, a program that provides no-cost education and coaching designed to help small businesses run their companies more effectively as the COVID-19 pandemic eases. As part of the program, IBM volunteers and other industry professionals are available to coach individual entrepreneurs at no cost. Reigniting Small Business from IBM also offers live and on-demand tutorial sessions from program partners and IBM that include primers on topics such as human resources; accounting; funding; legal; and digital branding, marketing and customer relationship strategy.