To MassChallenge, “innovation is the heartbeat of progress.” And, the nonprofit organization believes that entrepreneurship is the process by which innovation comes to life—and how global problems are solved. That’s why, for more than a decade, MassChallenge has transformed ideas to impact, equipping founders with the resources to lead their own growth, create jobs, and generate wealth.
This year marks the 50th iteration of MassChallenge’s highly coveted early stage accelerator. Just announced were the 229 startups chosen to participate for the programs in Austin, Boston, Houston, and Providence, Rhode Island. Four are from the North Texas region.
Though the MassChallenge network stretches across the globe, Texas was the second domestic location for the Boston-based accelerator, which has offices in Austin and Houston. According to MassChallenge, its traction across the state proves that the model attracts, advances, and accelerates the mission of all players in the ecosystem, including both startups and corporate innovators.
With a mission to strengthen the global innovation ecosystem, the ‘zero-equity startup accelerator’ accelerates high-potential startups across all industries. MassChallenge’s model allows for emerging entrepreneurs to catalyze their businesses: The program hinges on goal setting, access to key industry players, and a supportive peer community.
To date, more than 2,900 program alumni have raised $8.6 billion in funding, generated $3.6 billion in revenue, and created more than 186,000 total jobs, according to the organization. Its portfolio includes unicorns and companies that have IPOs.
Cohort members are provided with carefully curated coursework and a committed team. MassChallenge says its proprietary tools and knowledge base it offers aim to “strengthen a startup’s readiness to fundraise, increase revenue, and grow a team.”
When this year’s accelerator concludes, startups will have the chance to compete for equity free cash prizes and grants amounting to $100,000. That will be awarded during the 2021 MassChallenge US Showcase & Awards event on Oct. 28.
“At MassChallenge, we believe that uncommon approaches yield uncommon outcomes, and we are in the business of transformation,” Cait Brumme, SVP of MassChallenge Early Stage, writes on the program website. “Our at-scale, no-equity, community-powered approach provides on-ramps for startups that fit and break the mold; engages thousands of experts in supporting entrepreneurship as a driver of economic and social value each year; and democratizes access to the closed networks that have characterized the startup scene for decades.”
MassChallenge’s 2021 U.S. cohort
This year, the startups asked to participate underwent a two-round selection process with more than 1,000 judges. MassChallenge’s network of investors, serial entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and academics evaluated applications based on each entrepreneur’s “ability to demonstrate high impact and high potential in their fields.”
The selected cohort represents 26 industries and 20 countries, with some 20 percent of startups coming from outside the U.S. and 88 percent outside of California. Forty-seven percent of startups have at least one BIPOC founder and 48 percent have at least one female founder.
MassChallenge says there’s also an “exceptional cross-section” of industries being represented, such as high tech (40 percent), healthcare and life sciences (33 percent), social impact (7 percent), and cleantech and energy (3 percent). Of the cohort, 17 percent are in a general industry, which includes materials, hardware, retail, and consumer goods.
The group also demonstrates some emerging industry trends, according to MassChallenge: “enterprise tech and digital health are surging, artificial intelligence and machine learning is here to stay, and startup activity is booming outside Silicon Valley.”
“The participating founders and their startups represent innovation at its core,” Brumme said. “From addressing mental health, to electric vehicles, and new ways to pay for education; these entrepreneurs will greatly impact how we effectively and efficiently get back into the world and keeps each other safe.”
To Jon Nordby, MassChallenge Texas’ managing director, at the core of the early stage businesses selected is the “entrepreneurial spirit of their founders.” He defines this as a blend of optimism, passion, and drive that motivates founders in their early days.
He sees MassChallenge as the perfect outlet for providing them access.
“What we see across the trends of this cohort is a direct reflection of the world we have lived in for the past nearly year-and-a-half where we saw old problems laid bare and new problems emerge in the face of inequality, injustice, and a global pandemic,” he said. “There are more entrepreneurs coming from every corner of the world and all walks of life because they have seen the problems, have visions of a better future, and the knowledge of where to ask for help.”
Meet the North Texas startups
Here’s the startups chosen from our region, along with their short pitch given to MassChallenge:
SeebeckCell Technologies (Arlington) — Seebeckcell Technologies develops & manufactures liquid-based thermoelectric modules that convert waste heat into electrical energy.
Opsin Biotherapeutics (Bedford) — OpsinBio is developing a pipeline of opsin-based gene therapies for pain management which are safe, effective, and non-addictive.
Invento Robotics (Dallas) — Caregiving robots for nursing homes.
Exosphere Fitness (Sunnyvale) — Exosphere Fitness strives to make fitness more accessible for all. This is not a gym you put in your home. This is a gym made for your home.
SeebeckCell Technologies, Invento Robotics, and Exosphere Fitness will participate in the MassChallenge program in Austin, and Invento Robotics in Houston. Opsin Biotherapeutics and Exosphere Fitness are categorized in the healthcare and life sciences industry, Invento Robotics in high tech, and SeebeckCell Technologies in energy and cleantech.
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