On Tuesday afternoon, MassChallenge hosted the launch of the startup accelerator program’s fifth year at the Innovation and Design Building in the Seaport. The event served as the “official” launch for MassChallenge 2014; the accelerator will start accepting applications from up-and-coming startups from around the world.
At the event, co-founder Akhil Nigam announced that MassChallenge will be opening ‘MassChallenge UK’ this year in London. Fellow co-founder John Harthorne also spoke via satellite from the program’s other international outpost in Israel.
Harthorne had been in London earlier this week as part of the new initiative to expand the MassChallenge model internationally. While in the UK, Harthorne said that they have already received strong support from the Prime Minister’s office as well as the Mayor of London. Additionally, The Royal Bank of Scotland will be joining as a “Founding Partner” for MassChallenge UK.
“This is a really key development for us,” said Nigam. “We have gotten really good financial support, as well as support from political and business leaders to help take the MassChallenge model to the UK.”
“We are out there laying the groundwork this year with the intention of launching the program in 2015.”
Nigam also announced that there will be an additional $500,000 in “Sidecar” prize money available to this year’s MassChallenge participants. The new money brings the total prize pool for the program from $1M to $1.5M.
Nigam thanked everyone in the room for “joining what is really becoming a community movement.”
"We are the world’s largest startup accelerator program and competition, and the first in the world with ‘no strings attached’.
Nigam continued, adding, “Our mission is to find the very best entrepreneurs from around the world, who want to change the world, and who have incredible ideas that could change the industries that they are working in.”
“We want to give the signal that Boston and the Commonwealth are open for business,” he added. “And that this is the best place in the world if you are thinking about growing and launching a high-growth startup.”
Governor Deval Patrick also spoke at the event about the importance of MassChallenge for the state.
“We have to have economic growth because we need more opportunity,” he said. “We need to expand ways for people to make money for themselves and for their families.”
“That doesn’t happen by accident,” Patrick added. ”That happens if we make wise, smart, strategic investments that play to our strengths: education, innovation, and infrastructure."
“What’s so exciting about [MassChallenge] is that you are a part of inventing our future — not leaving it to chance — but inventing it and doing it here,” Patrick concluded.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh spoke as well, commenting that, “MassChallenge has been an economic engine in the city and the state for five years now.”
Walsh thanked everyone involved in keeping MassChallenge in the Seaport and Governor Patrick for his role in bringing more business to Boston.
“I started my day off by meeting with business leaders from around Boston, and we were talking about what’s next for Boston,” the mayor said.
“MassChallenge is what’s next for Boston,” he continued.
“We are going to make sure that companies that start up here in Boston stay in Boston,” he said. “We are going to make the environment here in Boston a place where people want to stay.”
“I am 100 percent committed not just to MassChallenge, but to the creative economy to make sure we continue to build great things here in the City of Boston,” Walsh added.
He also said that building a thriving innovation economy is of regional importance, and “not a Boston versus Cambridge versus Waltham thing.”
Additionally, the mayor talked about the City’s launch of Boston’s first Public Space Invitational to improve civic spaces, including City Hall. (For more on the Public Space Invitational check out Michael B. Farrell’s coverage of the new initiative.)