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A week of winnowing for MassChallenge

Posted by Scott Kirsner  July 13, 2010 04:10 PM

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John Harthorne, CEO of the MassChallenge start-up competition, tells me that this week a group of judges are working to winnow 300 teams of entrepreneurs to 100 finalists; they're hearing some company pitches in person; some via Skype from as far off as California, Spain and Argentina; and Harthorne says a Brazilian team even flew to Boston for some face time. Judges include folks like 170 Systems founder Karl Buttner, Raj Melville of nTag Interactive and BeFree, and Micah Rosenbloom from Brontes/3M.

The goal of the competition is to encourage start-ups to come to Boston — or stay here and grow. The hundred finalist companies (finalists will be announced later this month) will be offered several months of free office space at the One Marina Park high-rise on Fan Pier; Harthorne is expecting about 200 people to use the space, noting that each team has 2.7 members on average. (Some entrants already have office space elsewhere.) A few lucky winners will receive either $100,000 or $50,000 at the competition's conclusion this fall. The cash prizes will total $1 million, and all of the prize money, Harthorne explains, comes from private sponsors like Microsoft, Xerox, and the law firm Foley Hoag.

Bill Starr of MyLifeList, who'd been living in Venice, Calif. earlier this year, says the MassChallenge competition — along with a more active early-stage investment community here — persuaded him to move to Swampscott in March. The site, which encourages visitors to list their life goals and then supplies encouragement, was founded in 2008.

You can view other team pitches on the MassChallenge Web site.

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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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