MassChallenge Rhode Island Awards $100K in Cash Prizes to Two Startups from 2020 Cohort

Providence, RI – MassChallenge, the global network for innovators, tonight awarded $100,000 in equity-free prizes to two startups from its Rhode Island cohort: Graphene Composites USA (GC USA) and Nautilus Defense LLC. The announcement – made during the 2020 MassChallenge U.S. Virtual Awards Ceremony – caps the non-profit’s first virtual accelerator and the third Rhode Island-based program. 

 “Over the last four months, we’ve seen the Rhode Island ecosystem double-down on its commitment to founders, entrepreneurship, and innovation. These stakeholders are the cornerstone of our community and their efforts to advance startups from areas in and outside of New England has helped spark entrepreneur-driven economic growth during this uncertain time,” said Hope Hopkins, Managing Director of MassChallenge Rhode Island. “These efforts were a success. The 30 startups, ended the program with $12.2M in funding, $2.7M in revenue, and 167 jobs across the cohort.”
“This year has brought an enormous amount of uncertainty to the world, and I want to commend all of the startups who, despite this, doubled down and went for it. They showed incredible passion, dedication and vision in pursuing their dreams, and pivoted to capitalize on new opportunities,” said Jill Ramussen, AVP of Innovation for Amica Insurance. “We at Amica want to congratulate the winners for an impressive race run. And for all those who participated – you are making a difference.”

In June, MassChallenge Rhode Island welcomed 30 startups from three countries and four states to participate in its first-ever virtual accelerator. The MassChallenge program connects startups with the resources, partnerships, and communities that help them launch, grow, and scale their businesses. Specifically, startups benefitted from bi-weekly sessions with top speakers like Niraj Shah (CEO, Wayfair), Brian Halligan (CEO, HubSpot), Kirk Arnold (EiR, General Catalyst), Deb Benton (Willow Growth Partners), more than 100hours of tailored workshops, direct access to over 200 mentors, and access to MassChallenge’s global corporate partner network.

To close out the 2020 cohort, the Rhode Island program financed by local partners awarded $100,000 in prizes to top startups during the MassChallenge U.S. Virtual Awards on October 22, 2020. In addition, MassChallenge Rhode Island founding partner FM Global awarded an additional $50,000 in cash prizes.

The MassChallenge U.S. Virtual Awards brought together more than 2,000 viewers for a livestreamed event to celebrate the transformative power of entrepreneurship. In total, MassChallenge and its partners awarded more than $1 million in cash and investment prizes to 34 startups from this year’s Austin, Boston, Houston, and Rhode Island accelerators. The event was hosted by Chris Denson of Innovation Crush, and featured a fireside chat between Arianna Huffington (Founder and CEO, Thrive Global) and Linda Pizzuti Henry (Managing Director, Boston Globe). 


Platinum Award – $75,000

Graphene Composites USA (GC USA) (Providence, RI): GC USA combines graphene and aerogel to make the strongest, lightest, most resilient products ever – enhancing the quality of life.

Gold Award – $25,000

Nautilus Defense LLC (Pawtucket, RI): Nautilus Defense builds advanced textile and composite-integrated systems for monitoring structural assets and their environments.


FM Global Resilience Prize 

Paper Crane – $25,000 Award – (Boston, MA): Paper Crane shows great potential in rapid deep data analysis, aiming to empower organizations such as insurance companies, to do more with their data, faster.

Power Polymer – $15,000 Award – (Wimberly, TX): Power Polymer’s patented solution shows significant promise in reinforcing existing structures, with the goal to enhance a property’s resilience.

Airgility – $10,000 Award – (College Park, MD): Airgility’s ability to develop artificial intelligence that is hardware agnostic could increase the safety of those that work on elevated surfaces or inside confined spaces.


This year, the U.S. programs in Austin, Boston, Houston, and Rhode Island welcomed a total of 244 early-stage startups. Selected from thousands of applicants, the 2020 cohorts represent the best and brightest ideas tackling some of the world’s most massive challenges including affordable housing, Alzheimer’s disease, climate change, waste management and sanitation, and more. In total, the cohort represents 18 countries, 34 U.S. states and 5 industries: 36% High Tech, 32% Healthcare/ Life Sciences, 18% General/Retail, 7% Energy/Clean Tech, and 6% Social Impact; and 57% cohort has at least one female founder.


Agrosuper, Altus Dental, Amica Insurance, Analog Devices, Austin Technology Incubator, Autodesk, Babson College, BAE Systems, Boston University, Brandeis University, Brex, Carta, Central Houston, City of Houston, Cydan Development, Defense Innovation Unit, Dell for Entrepreneurs, Delta Dental, Department of Defense, Downtown Redevelopment Authority, Duane Morris LLP, First Republic Bank, FM Global, Foley Hoag LLP, Hasbro, Henkel, IOwnIt, ISS National Laboratory, J.P. Morgan, Juice Consulting, KPMG LLP, MassCEC, McKinsey & Company, MITRE, Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), Mitsubishi Electric, Mitsui & Co., Office of Economic Adjustment/DIA, Oracle for Startups, PwC, Raytheon, Reliant, an NRG Company, Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, Sanofi, SOMPO, Stadia Ventures, Texas Foundation for Innovative Communities, The Boston Foundation, TMAC, University of Texas at Austin, UPS, Upstream, US Air Force, WeWork, Winstead 


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 2,400 MassChallenge alumni have raised more than $6.2B in funding, generated more than $3B in revenue, and created more than 157,000 total jobs. Learn more about MassChallenge at