When MassChallenge Texas launched last year, its team knew it was bringing a different kind of startup accelerator to the Lone Star state. Unlike many programs, MassChallenge offers financial support and mentorship to entrepreneurs and their teams, without taking equity in the company’s future endeavors.
“I’ve learned that while good ideas are everywhere, opportunity isn’t,” said MassChallenge Texas Director Mike Millard. “That’s why MassChallenge is so unique: our early-stage-focused, equity-free model allows us to focus on the idea and to work with entrepreneurs to make it as easy as possible to turn their ideas into reality.”
Instead of taking equity, the accelerator relies on grants, donations and public funds to support its efforts — of which there are many. This year alone, MassChallenge Texas has accelerated 84 startups, hosted more than 50 events, built its local expert network and awarded more than $500k — all with a six-person team.
I’ve learned that while good ideas are everywhere, opportunity isn’t.”
Globally, the MassChallenge program has mentored more than 1,500 startups and created more than 80,000 jobs.
Such an impressive track record demands a discerning eye when selecting a new class of startups. As with many incubator programs, the application process is long and the stakes are high. MassChallenge begins its program with a competition: two rounds of judging are overseen by a panel of industry experts.
“Because our panels of industry-focused experts are looking for ideas or early-stage startups that are high-potential and high-impact, the startups that join our program are highly vetted,” Millard said.
Yet, even just applying to the program can be a valuable experience for startups on the rise: all applicants receive feedback on their proposals from MassChallenge’s expert panel, which selects finalists who are invited to participate in the actual accelerator.
“And that’s when the real work starts,” said Millard. “Our startups get connected to expert mentors, industry-focused programming, community partnerships and corporate partnerships. At the end of this program, it’s safe to say that MassChallenge Texas startups are primed for exponential growth.”
I want Texas to be the best place in the world to innovate.”
Incubator and accelerator programs have skyrocketed in number in recent years. According to the National Business Incubator Association, more than 1,100 incubator programs currently exist in the United States, and that number is growing. What’s more, research on the accelerator model has concluded that “accelerator graduates were more likely to receive their next round of financing significantly sooner” than startups with an angel investor.
Statistics also show that robust accelerator programs have the ability to impact entire tech communities. According to a 2015 study, “[metropolitan areas] where an accelerator is established subsequently have more seed and early-stage entrepreneurial financing activity.”
For Millard, an incubator’s role as a community hub is key. He envisions MassChallenge as being part of the “connective tissue” across the Texas tech ecosystem.
“I want Texas to be the best place in the world to innovate,” he said. “And I believe that through the MassChallenge model we can attract, advance, and accelerate the missions of startups, corporates, investors and all ecosystem collaborators — right here in Texas.”