Three essential ingredients from the world’s largest startup accelerator

MassChallenge is the largest-ever startup accelerator, and the first to support entrepreneurs with no strings attached, taking zero equity.

They’re on a mission to ‘catalyse a global startup renaissance’ and now launching in London. Independents United will be hosting an evening with MassChallenge on 26th March, where early stage startups can find out more about the accelerator programme — tickets available here.

MassChallenge’s Program Manager for UK, Fhiwa Ndou, gives us an insight into the MassChallenge story so far, and what it takes for a startup to achieve high impact over a short space of time:

We want to “catalyse a global startup renaissance”

Our vision is to bring MassChallenge support and training for entrepreneurs with high impact and high potential ideas to all five populated continents in the next five years. We want to make sure entrepreneurs have all of the knowledge, connections, and tools they need to achieve their dreams and to make a positive impact on the world.

MassChallenge was born at the depth of the recession in 2008

The idea was to combat people’s obsessions over short-term value capture at the expense of value creation. Cofounders John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam quit their consultant jobs at Bain & Co. in January 2009 and with MassChallenge, they set out to restore value creation to the foundation of the global economy.

There could not be a better time to launch this idea in London

Early support from Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor Boris Johnson acted as a catalyst, but it has been the widespread, industry agnostic, even word-of-mouth support that has spread the message like wildfire. It is the fact that the programme sounds “too good to be true” that has gotten people talking, but the numbers speak for themselves. To date, 617 MassChallenge alumni startups have created over 4,000 jobs, raised over $700m of funding, and have generated over $400m in revenue.

I absolutely love the story of MassChallenge 2011 Winner, Alkeus Pharmaceuticals

A biotech company working on a new treatment for blindness. Leonide Saad, CEO and Founder of Alkeus, has committed himself to finding the cure for Stargardt disease — a form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration that leads to early-stage blindness in children.

Leonide entered MassChallenge with a specific goal in mind: to get support from MassChallenge judge and founder of Vertex Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: VRTX), Josh Boger.

Leonide did not get Boger’s support right away, but like a true entrepreneur, he kept at it. After months, he convinced Boger to leave retirement and join Alkeus as Executive Chairman.

The company is doing quite well. Just this month, Dr. Boger announced that Alkeus will soon start Phase II clinical trials for Stargardt disease.

Three essential ingredients for startups to achieve high impact in a short space of time

Keep Networking. At MassChallenge, nearly everyone you encounter has something valuable to offer, even if that something is not immediately apparent. Repeating your pitch over and over, and engaging with hundreds of people week in and week out will get exhausting, but the entrepreneurs that engage actively typically reap the greatest benefits.

Stay focused. A large accelerator can be distracting if you do not define your goals clearly. Prioritise those resources that will get you closer to reaching your goals.

Think big, act small. Early-stage startups should strive to achieve something gigantic, but do it by taking baby steps.

If you’re an early stage startup and want to apply — use the Independents United code iunited025 for a 25% refund off of the £66 application fee.

The final application deadline for all three programmes in Boston, UK, and Israel is 1 April, 2015.

Photo credit: Jason Ahrns

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