MassChallenge and IBM Launch Mentorship Program for Underrepresented Founders

IBM and MassChallenge to provide AI mentoring support and resources to high-impact startups with historically underrepresented founders.

(Boston, MA) Sept 23, 2021 – MassChallenge, the global network for innovators, and IBM, a leading global hybrid cloud and AI company, partner together to launch a call for applications for a new mentorship program designed to support and advance startups solving with 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), and/or female.

Together, MassChallenge and IBM will identify a cohort of 50 high-quality startups to participate in a mentorship program that utilizes MassChallenge’s proven startup acceleration methodology and IBM’s network of industry-leading mentors with expertise in AI to jumpstart startup success.

 “We are incredibly fortunate to partner with IBM to support this important initiative. MassChallenge is committed 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.
“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 the launch of this program, IBM and MassChallenge strengthen their commitment to support entrepreneurs from underrepresented populations and create more equitable distribution of and access to key resources for growth. 

“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.

Applications for the IBM Mentorship program will open on September 23, 2021 and close at 11:59pm ET October 14, 2021. Accepted startups will be notified by October 27, 2021. Entrepreneurs interested in the program can start an application here.

The IBM Mentorship program will take place over the course of 3 months beginning November 10 with a virtual kickoff for the cohort. Early stage startups enrolled in the program will be matched with IBM Mentors who will share their expertise helping them advance their businesses.

Select participating startups will be invited to participate in a Prize Competition where IBM will award $50k in non-cap-table cash prizes. 

AI focus areas that will be prioritized for consideration with this cohort include: 5G Cellular Networks, Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning (AI/ML), Big Data Analytics, Blockchain, Business Process Automation, Carbon Capture, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Customer Retention / Customer Loyalty, Cybersecurity, Digital, Marketing, Digital Payment, eCommerce, Enterprise Management Software, Imaging, Internet of Things (IOT), Inventory Management, Natural Language Processing (NLP), Predictive Maintenance, Robotics.

Apply by 11:59pm ET October 14, 2021. 

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.