Helping Entrepreneurs Win – a Profile of Boston-Based Startup Accelerator MassChallenge

Author: First Republic Bank

Startup accelerators provide hands-on learning that gives entrepreneurs the catalyst they need to bring their businesses to life. We recently sat down with Scott Bailey, Managing Director of MassChallenge’s Boston division, to learn more about the startup accelerator, Boston’s diverse tech scene, and First Republic’s continued support in helping their business grow.

Can you tell us a bit about MassChallenge? What makes it so unique?

MassChallenge is the largest startup accelerator competition in the world. Since we’re an independent nonprofit (we don’t take any equity from the startups we support), we believe we can always attract the best, highest-impact, highest-grossing startups and support them with no strings attached. Our philosophy is to create value for entrepreneurs at every step of the way. When you go through the competition, it’s not about selecting winners, it’s about creating them. It’s that mentality that drives us all year long toward creating value for companies in new ways.

Right now we’re headquartered in Boston, with offices in the UK and Israel. We’re looking to launch 10 additional offices over the next five years, with two over the next 12 months. We’ll be on every populated continent.

What was your inspiration in joining MassChallenge, and what were you doing before?

I had a company out of college that didn’t go anywhere. It was a great experience, but I’ve worked at MassChallenge for most of my professional career and I continue to learn so much. Talking with the entrepreneurs is my favorite part of the job; I’m a student of them, and I learn more from them every day than I do anything else.

Can you tell us more about the MassChallenge founders?
John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam founded MassChallenge while working together at a large consulting firm. They realized they were tired of consulting for big companies and wanted to re-instill the feeling of enthusiasm, optimism and hope in the world during the economic decline of 2008. So they took their bonuses, quit their jobs and went to try to catalyze a global startup renaissance.

How did you hear about First Republic? Do you remember your first impressions?

I’ve been a personal banking client of First Republic since 2014. I’ve developed trust and respect for my banker’s enthusiasm about what we do. He’s supported of our team by introducing us to key people at the Bank and has been a ‘values first’ person, which is something that really resonates at MassChallenge.

What differentiates First Republic from other financial institutions you’ve worked with?

The differentiating factor for First Republic is the customer service. It’s definitely number one. Everyone is so friendly; they care and want to help. We have quick communication with our bankers, and everyone else I’ve worked with at the Bank has been incredibly helpful. My team is keen on banker availability, helpfulness, and personal connection – we’ve all been very happy.

What are some benefits of joining MassChallenge?
Since we’re not an investor and not trying to extract value from the companies, we can take companies that have slightly longer terms (think healthcare, pharmaceuticals, energy, nonprofits). That’s what makes our model really unique. In addition, mentorship is core to our program. The peer network, being around a lot of entrepreneurs that are like you, like-minded, is really valuable.

Is there a MassChallenge mantra/motto?

Yes: Helping entrepreneurs win. We believe in moving quickly, getting stuff done, and creating an impact.

What edge does Boston have over some of the well-known tech startup hubs like Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, or Silicon Beach? Is there a certain kind of startup that is more drawn to Boston?

I think it’s a mentality. The talent that’s here from all of the schools is incredibly compelling. We have some of the top universities in the world, putting out great people and great ideas. Boston has strong startups in healthcare, robotics, and enterprise. The lifestyle is really good here, and you’re so close to places like New York. There’s opportunity to better capture and collaborate with other major cities.

Can you give some insight on how entrepreneurs can best network with other entrepreneurs?

Be shameless. Ask people about their work/company, they’ll want to tell you about it. Offer value, even if it’s small. Be creative in the way you think about helping entrepreneurs, and then follow through – whether it’s via email, phone call, or handwritten letter.