MassChallenge

U.S. Early Stage

U.S. Early Stage

More than an Accelerator

The MassChallenge Edge: Experience our flagship U.S. Early Stage Accelerator, a dynamic, industry-agnostic program designed to propel startup growth through unparalleled access to mentors, peers, customers, knowledge, and capital.

 

Proven Track Record: Join a legacy of success! Since 2010, MassChallenge has empowered over 4500 startups, facilitating a remarkable $9B+ in funding. Our program consistently nurtures ventures that make a substantial impact in their respective industries.

 

Empowering Entrepreneurs: At MassChallenge, we champion your journey. We are among the world’s premier accelerators, committed to fostering founders’ success without claiming any equity. You retain ownership as you chart your path to growth.

 

Tailored Support: Choose your adventure! Our founder-centric approach empowers entrepreneurs to select the specific support they need. We’re dedicated to providing customized resources and guidance aligned with your vision.

 

Exclusive Cohort Opportunity: Secure your spot among the most innovative startups across the country! Our 2024 cohort will host approximately 125 early-stage startups, offering a prestigious community and invaluable networking opportunities.

 

Hybrid Program Format: Experience the best of both worlds! Our upcoming program combines the impact of in-person sessions for the kickoff and wrap-up events with a blend of virtual and in-person opportunities throughout the duration. This hybrid format ensures accessibility and engagement for all participants.

How to Get Involved

Interested in applying for a future program? Complete the form below to stay up to date on application deadlines and events!

Program Benefits: How We Help Startups Accelerate

Connections: Forge invaluable connections within a robust network of mentors, peers, and the wider MassChallenge community. Leverage these relationships to amplify your growth and access opportunities beyond the program.

 

Mentorship: Collaborate closely with a dedicated lead mentor, your ‘Startup Champion’, to craft precise goals, track progress, and receive tailored guidance throughout the program. Engage with a diverse pool of experienced entrepreneurs, investors, and business leaders who are committed to supporting your journey. Select multiple mentors aligned with your objectives to maximize your progress.

 

Peer Support: Join forces with over 100 startups, foster friendships, and build a supportive network of like-minded founders. This collaborative environment provides invaluable insights and shared experiences to bolster your entrepreneurial path.

 

Customer Access: Benefit from MassChallenge’s unique ties to leading enterprises and institutions, including government entities. Gain actionable insights to approach new markets, receive invaluable feedback from relevant brands, and fortify your strategies for scalable growth.

 

Strategic Partnerships: Leverage our extensive network of global corporate partners, such as IBM, BAE Systems, Carta, Fundify, and First Republic Bank. These partnerships offer unparalleled opportunities for collaboration, mentorship, and potential future endeavors.

 

Residency and Community Access: Enjoy complimentary office space in Boston and Dallas, providing a conducive environment for innovation and collaboration. Gain exclusive, year-long access to our diverse events and vibrant community, fostering ongoing learning and networking opportunities.

 

Knowledge Enrichment: Access optional, highly curated curriculum focusing on sound strategic fundamentals, leveraging tools like the Lean Canvas. Delve deeper into critical topics such as fundraising, sales strategies, and effective leadership approaches to fortify your business acumen.

 

Industry Tracks: Participate in specialized industry tracks—Climate, Dual Use, FinTech, and HealthTech – to elevate your visibility and readiness within these sectors, paving the way for enhanced opportunities and industry-specific guidance.

 

Capital Opportunities: Stand a chance to secure a share of $1M+ in no-equity grants awarded during our annual February awards event, RESOLVE. MassChallenge attracts support from angels and VCs, with our alums collectively raising over $9B in funding—a testament to the network’s potential for future fundraising endeavors.

 

Process Overview: What to Expect

US Early Stage 2024 Program Timeline

Industry Tracks

The U.S. Early Stage Program also features special, industry-specific programming. These industry tracks will provide additional programming and networking opportunities from leading experts specific to each industry. Track curriculum will largely be delivered in person and is open to all program participants. There is no need to apply for a track in advance.

 

Climate Solutions: This track will provide value to startups with solutions that impact greenhouse gas emissions or mitigate the impact of climate change. Technologies of interest include carbon capture, AgTech, geoengineering, mobility, and energy efficiency. To learn more about MassChallenge’s climate work and additional opportunities please click here.

 

Dual Use: This track will focus on startups with direct or potential relevance to national security and public safety challenges and applications in the commercial and governmental/military sectors. Some areas of interest include cybersecurity, underwater sensing, systems integrations, and human performance. To learn more about MassChallenge’s dual-use work and additional opportunities please click here.

 

FinTech: This track will support startups to fuel their innovation across banking, insurance, asset management, and many other financial sectors. MassChallenge FinTech partners are especially interested in data management, security, workflow automation, and financial education and planning. To learn more about MassChallenge and additional opportunities please click here.

 

HealthTech: This track will support startups that provide clinicians and healthcare organizations with new treatments, technologies, or processes. These solutions should be focused on improving the needs and welfare of patients as well as reducing the burden on healthcare professionals. To learn more about MassChallenge’s HealthTech work and additional opportunities please click here.

“If you had asked me before MassChallenge if I thought that NASA could be one of our bigger funders or partners, the answer would have been no.”

 

– Dr. Nicole Wagner, President and CEO of LambdaVision, U.S. Early Stage 2016

Eligibility Guidelines

We welcome all applicants who can benefit from our U.S. Early Stage Program. Please note the following: 

  • The program experience is tailored for early-stage companies, from the ideation stage to early market engagement.
  • This generally correlates to startups that have raised less than $1M in equity-based funding and generated less than $2M in annual revenue.

Please note these are guidelines, not firm requirements. While funding and revenue are important factors, we realize that in some markets, startups are considered early stage with greater initial funding or higher annual revenue. You can explain why you think you’re still eligible in your application or you can reach out with questions.

Application Process

Every application receives written feedback and scoring from 3+ expert judges. We know applications require a time investment and therefore, we have designed a 3-part application process to ensure that you derive value even if you’re not accepted.

 

To view the application in its entirety prior to completing it, please see here. Please note: all applications must be submitted online, through our Accelerate portal.

 

Step 1: Submit an application. Please click here for a step-by-step guide on how to submit your application


Step 2:
Round 1 Judging (R1) is an online judging round during which every application is reviewed by several judges who provide their written feedback and scores. Upon the completion of the judging round, applicants are notified regarding their advancement to the next round, and the judge’s feedback is made available to them. Past applicants have reported judge insight to be helpful in scaling their business.

 

Step 3: Round 2 Judging (R2) is a virtual judging round designed to select the final group of startups that will be invited to join the accelerator program as a Finalist. Startups will be invited to pitch virtually in front of a Zoom room of judges. Startups will be notified of their 20-minute timeslot in the first week of April. Upon the completion of the judging round, the final cohort will be determined, and judge feedback will be made available to applicants.

Learn More

To learn more about how our 2024 accelerator can scale the growth of your venture, connect with the MassChallenge Early Stage team by either attending one of our virtual/in-person Meet MC events, signing up for office hours, or emailing us at earlystage@masschallenge.org

“I learned so much in that four-month period. I was able to greatly build upon my business acumen, increase my confidence to sit at the bigger tables and have access to those nuanced cheat codes that are more available to the typical white cis-male entrepreneur. It was a game-changing experience.”
Janice Omadeke
Janice Omadeke
Founder and CEO of The Mentor Method, MC 2018
"Our mentors really pushed us to take the next step with our company. As MassChallenge grows, they have a bigger and bigger network that we can leverage. Making that step and seeing the impact our product had was incredible."
Erin Keaney
Erin Keaney
COO of Nonspec, MC 2017

Early Stage Partners

FAQs

MassChallenge judges look for high-impact, high-potential startups with a viable path to success and some traction/progress in their plans. High-impact and high-potential means a startup has a large addressable market and, if successful, will significantly impact the problem it is trying to solve.

  • Ready to Grow: Founders should apply if they’re ready to build on early traction and prepare for scale. We’ve helped startups in the idea stages, and we’ve helped startups that have already generated $1M in revenue. Startups that have raised less than $1M in equity-based funds (grants excluded) and generated less than $2M in revenue in the last 12 months are eligible.
  • High-Impact: Entrepreneurs convince MC judges of their impact. Our judges want to know why it matters if your company succeeds. Huge economic opportunity? Better patient outcomes? Healthier planet? We’re open to all of the above.
  • High-Potential: Our judges pick startups with a credible path to achieving that impact. This isn’t just about funding or revenue: historically, each year at the time of acceptance, roughly half of the cohort had not raised significant funding or generated revenue.
  • Anywhere in the world: MassChallenge is open to entrepreneurs from around the world. Note there are key in-person events in Boston and Dallas.
  • Industry Agnostic: Any startup is welcome to apply. Our alumni have touched every industry. Note: Our US network is strongest in these four areas: Health, Dual Use, Climate, and FinTech.

MassChallenge does not take equity, nor do we charge for our programs. We offer zero-equity, zero-cost accelerators. All founders participating in a MassChallenge program are not required to give up a financial stake in their company’s future success.

MassChallenge is a competition-based model that provides cash awards and other prizes to the top startups in the global network. We do not offer any investment or funding upfront, but participating founders and program alumni can apply to compete for cash award prizes which are announced at our annual awards ceremony (RESOLVE) each February.

MassChallenge judges look for high-impact, high-potential startups with a viable path to success and some traction/progress in their plans. High-impact and high-potential means a startup has a large addressable market and, if successful, will significantly impact the problem it is trying to solve.

Every application receives written feedback and scoring from 3+ expert judges. We know applications require a time investment and therefore, we have designed a 3-part application process to ensure that you derive value even if you’re not accepted.

Step 1: Submit a written application (applications must be submitted online. To assist with the application process, you can download a copy of the application here).

Step 2: Round 1 Judging (R1) is an online judging round during which every application is reviewed by several judges who provide their written feedback and scores. Upon the completion of the judging round, applicants are notified regarding their advancement to the next round, and the judge’s feedback is made available to them. Past applicants have reported judge insight to be helpful in scaling their business.

Step 3: Round 2 Judging(R2) is a virtual judging round designed to select the final group of startups that will be invited to join the accelerator program as a Finalist. Startups will be invited to pitch virtually in front of a Zoom room of judges. Startups will be notified of their 20-minute timeslot in the first week of April. Upon the completion of the judging round, the final cohort will be determined, and judge feedback will be made available to applicants.

MassChallenge is an industry-agnostic network that supports early-stage startups across all industries. We rely on our community of expert judges to select the highest-potential solutions – regardless of whether startups are in direct or indirect competition with each other. MassChallenge does not have quotas or limits on industries or technologies represented in the cohort.

MassChallenge offers zero-equity for zero-cost accelerators and does not charge an application fee to apply. All founders who participate in a MassChallenge program are not required to give up a financial stake in the future success of their company. We have several in-person events throughout the program (kick-off in Boston, wrap-up in Dallas, and several additional 2-day events) that we highly encourage founders to attend to maximize the impact that they can get out of the program. Founders are responsible for paying for their travel and accommodations.

All MassChallenge accelerators are designed with a founder-friendly approach to maximize value for founders. We know that asynchronous work drives huge efficiencies, and we know that relationship-building benefits from in-person touch points. This year’s MassChallenge U.S. Early Stage program will be hybrid. All core curricula will be virtual and recorded to ensure all participants have ease of access. Mentor meetings can be held in person if the mentor/mentee is able. We will also host several in-person events across our geographies to support networking across the cohort, and our greater MC community including our mentors, alumni, investors, partners, and more. The in-person events include program kick-off in Boston (July 9-12), program wrap in Dallas (Sep 23-26) as well as several additional industry-specific 1–2-day events (dates and locations TBD).

A formal business plan is not required to apply. However, many elements of a business plan, including the problem, solution, and impact of your venture will be incorporated into the application.

Yes. Goal and expectation setting will take place between June 3-28. Goal setting will take place in several stages: (1) Founders will be invited to a 15-minute call with one of our MC staff members to align on program expectations and answer any last minute questions (2) Startups will be assigned a single experienced mentor (Startup Champion) who will connect with the startup for a 1-hour session to support the creation of clear goals and KPIs for the startups time at MassChallenge. These goals will be documented, and the Startup Champion will continue to meet with the founders throughout the program to help track progress and support the founders in achieving their goals. The time commitment for pre-work is approximately 2-3 hours total.

Expectations for engagement and eligibility criteria to apply are as follows:
Adherence to all MassChallenge guidelines and terms
Commit to and sign the Founders Code by committing to:
• Set and drive towards the goals you set at the beginning of the program.
• Practice intention in everyday engagement.
• Be an accountable member of the community.
Attendance is highly encouraged at two in-person events:
• Program kick-off in Boston, MA (July 9-12)
• Program wrap up in Dallas, TX (Sep 23-26)

Intentional engagement in the program, including meeting mentors, attending workshops and events, and engaging with speakers.

Completion of all accelerator surveys.

Our Early Stage Program will kick off the week of July 9 and end September 28.

Tuesdays and Thursdays will be hybrid days with virtual sessions and in-person events in specific geographic locations. Wednesdays will be virtual days with optional office hours with staff, mentors, partners, etc. that startups can sign up for in advance. The number of hours per week spent in the program will depend on the geographic location of the founder. For remote founders, we anticipate an average of 1-3 hours per week. For Boston-based founders who attend all in-person events participation will average 2-5 hours per week.

While we don’t require specific hours of engagement or attendance, our data has indicated that the more a founder participates in the program, the greater their overall satisfaction and benefit from the program. We encourage our entrepreneurs to embody the Founders Code, listed above.

MassChallenge’s U.S. Early Stage curriculum is built on three themes to help founders drive their startups to the next level: goal setting, access to curated mentors, and support from a peer network. We do this through live speakers, curriculum, working groups, virtual events, and 1:1 mentorship. You will work with your mentor and working groups according to individual schedules and availability.

Applications are open from January 23 – February 29. The first round of judging will occur from March 5 – March 24, during which your application will go through our vetted online judging process completed by MassChallenge Experts. If you are invited to participate in the second round of judging – a live virtual pitch session with MassChallenge judges – you will receive an invitation with your pitch timeslot in the week of April 1.

The second round of judging will take place virtually between May 7 – May 15. Startups selected to pitch in this round will be provided with a date and time for their virtual pitch in front of a panel of MassChallenge judges. Founders chosen for the programs will receive an invitation to participate on May 22.

Protection of intellectual property rights (ex. patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, etc.) of your concept is your responsibility and your responsibility alone. If you have an idea or product that you might want to patent, we recommend speaking to a lawyer before submitting information about this idea to MassChallenge. 

The information you include in your application will be shared with the set of expert judges for review. Please note that these judges do NOT sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). Therefore, you should not include any information in your application that you feel could be harmful to your company should that information be disclosed.

Applying to MassChallenge is similar to presenting your idea to potential investors. Very few investors (venture capitalists or angel investors) will agree to sign an NDA before even hearing your initial pitch. It is up to you to determine the right balance between sharing enough information to get people interested and giving you credibility versus sharing information that could potentially be damaging to your company if it were to be disclosed. 

We do not currently provide scholarships, sponsorships, or stipends. We recommend you budget for any relocation or commute to one of our Early Stage program offices. If you are out of the country, it’s important to remember that you will need to secure all required documentation that enables you to travel to the U.S. legally. We will write letters of support as needed.