For MassChallenge entrants, tomorrow is “judgment day” as 125 finalists are winnowed down to 26 winners who will go on to compete for the competition’s top prize of $100,000. So how is the mood around the MassChallenge offices today?
Mostly empty, actually, according to Anna Callahan, founder of MassChallenge finalist ZoomTilt. She said that after tense pitching to the competition’s judges on Monday through Wednesday, many startups in the space are working remote or taking the day off to decompress.
Other then that, it’s just another day at the office, which for ZoomTilt, means all the grunt-work behind the company’s character-driven, branded web shorts: Development, script work, and coordinating with contractors.
Callahan, alongside the program’s other hopeful founders, have spent weeks crafting, refining, and, hopefully, perfecting roughly 10-minute pitches that were delivered before the program’s judging panels, followed by a round of tough questioning as judges look to see how much .
“A month ago, I thought this was going to be no problem, this was going to be fine,” Callahan said of the pitch.
And then with two weeks to go, the big moment loomed a little larger.
“It took a couple of weeks, rewriting draft after draft to get it polished, and then it should be memorized,” she said. “I was up late at night, first thing in the morning, on the T, while at work, practicing it, running it by friends, mentors. Getting the time down as low as possible, preparing supplemental slides, with graphs, numbers and real answers for them.”
The day of, all the preparation paid off.
“Both my parents are actors, so I actually loved it,” she said of the pitch itself. “But it’s only fun if I really know my stuff; if I feel unprepared it’s not fun.”
But aside from going out for a celebratory beer afterwards, the pitch also afforded Callahan and her team a chance to look forward about where they were taking the company.
“It was very time consuming but I think it was completely worth it because it forced us to answer those questions for ourselves,” she said. “This was a chance to think, where are we going to be in four years, how are going to scale, what’s the revenue?”
Those are important questions to ask, but tough to juggle for a start-up growing staff, customers, and awareness — ZoomTilt’s short webisodes just hit 275,000 collective views.
The week has also been a chance to reflect on how far ZoomTilt has come.
”I entered MassChallenge, and I didn’t have a team,” Callahan said. “I did one series for one client, and it was just me. Since then, we’ve grown the team to five, finished two series, worked with two big brand clients.”
All in all, a worthwhile opportunity even if ZoomTilt doesn’t advance when the winners are announced sometime tomorrow.
“I am completely a supporter, convert, drunk the Kool-Aid, in terms of MassChallenge,” Callahan said, who was previously a developer with TechStars, another accelerator. “Everything that has happened to our company has been great in terms of MassChallenge.”
And now, the waiting: The startups will find out tomorrow sometime if they advance or not, but either way, Callahan said the company is prepared to be raising funds in the “very near future.”
Are you a MassChallenge participant? Have your own reflection on how the competition has gone? I’d love to hear it at The Hive: Just e-mail me at Michael.Morisy@Boston.com to get in touch, or tweet us at @HiveBoston. In the meantime, help relieve the tension with episode one of ZoomTilt’s thriller Dead Man’s Trigger: