My co-founder Warren Paul Anderson also spent two years in residence there as a volunteer fellow with the MassChallenge team from 2010 to 2012, after selling his first company. Warren and I actually met at MassChallenge and now we are both pumped to be coming back full circle, a little wiser, as 2013 MassChallenge finalists with JAZE!
Below are six reasons why we are excited to be coming home to MassChallenge and some short tidbits of advice for the incoming class, that we have learned in our past experience at MassChallenge.
1. The People
MassChallenge is a community of amazingly talented people, taking advantage of extraordinary business opportunities by solving insurmountable obstacles, all under one 22,000 square foot roof in Bostons Innovation District. Although the neighbors working in the cubes all around you may be operating in completely different industries, focusing on seemingly unrelated problems, they still empathize with the trials and tribulations of building a company and that is impossibly hard to find anywhere else in the world in such high density and volume.
ADVICE: Set out to introduce yourself to (and even get to know), as many of your fellow MassChallengers as possible, because like it or not, we are all part of the MassChallenge Mafia now.
2. The Space
You would be fortunate enough to ever have as beautiful views out your office window as you will at MassChallenge. After leaving the MassChallenge office space, Warren and I both spent over a year grinding away in greasy garages, windowless offices and loud coffee shops, with the hopes of some day matching the breathtaking views that the office space at One Marina Park Drive affords its residents.
ADVICE: Take a quick moment each day to appreciate the scenery. Youll wish you had when time comes to move out.
3. The Energy
In case you havent experienced it already, building a company is akin to riding on a roller coaster. At times, its hard to maintain the energy and strength required to stomach the volatile journey. The energy at MassChallenge is infectious. Even on your bad days, by sheer volume alone (128 companies), odds are that someone in the space is having the best day theyve ever had as an entrepreneur.
ADVICE: Seek out this positivity and like taking a shot of adrenaline, use their energy as a catalyst to help pull yourself out of your temporary rut. Even a high-five from the right person can leave you feeling renewed, refreshed and ready to take on the world. But always remember to pay-it-forward to the next dreary startup soul, seeking a boost while youre on top.
4. The Drop-Ins
Warren was telling me a story about how Senator John Kerry somewhat unexpectedly dropped into the MassChallenge space one day during the 2011 accelerator (unfortunately, I was gone). In case you havent been keeping up on national politics, Senator Kerry is now Secretary of State and the fourth in line of U.S. presidential succession. I dont care what side of the political spectrum you walk on, pitching your startup to someone like Secretary Kerry only comes around once in a lifetime. As Woody Allen once said, 80% of success is showing up. You never know who might drop-in to see the next big thing.
ADVICE: Try to spend as much time as humanly possible at MassChallenge (hint: investors, advisors and judges tend to lurk around in the wee hours of the night, so clear it up with your loved-ones first and bring a pillow). However for those of you designer/developer-types like Warren, that need complete un-interruption, try to devise a system that signals to random passer-bys that your team is busy working (a busy-at-work sign, next to a stack of business cards, is a respectful way to signal that youre busy now but still want to connect later).
5. The Events
MassChallenge hosts nearly 300 events per year, much of them during the accelerator program. Some of these events have speakers that youd otherwise only be lucky enough to see on TV, however since they are also part of the MassChallenge Mafia, they choose to take critical time out of their busy schedules to part some of their wisdom onto us. So display some respect and show up, because I assure you, their time is worth more than yours.
ADVICE: With the exception of mandatory events, its ok (and sometimes imperative), to be selective about which events you choose to attend, because as you will find, there are MANY. At the very least, send someone from your team to go (and bring back free beers upon their return), while you and the rest of your team stay in your cube and get stuff done. Even if the topic is irrelevant, the people at the events are usually worth it and are always there to help.
6. The Pay-It-Forwardness
If youre not familiar with the term, Pay It Forward, dont worry, you will be soon enough. Its essentially the opposite of paying it back. For instance, when someone does a kind deed for you like offering up a piece of helpful advice, taking a user test or providing an introduction, you then pay that deed forward to someone else in the community, rather than paying it back to them. Sound crazy? Well, its not a rule or anything but it has become part of the culture at MassChallenge and in Boston in general, where the startup community really helps each other out.
ADVICE: In case you havent done so before, try Paying It Forward at least once during the first few weeks of the accelerator, just to see how it feels. Id be willing to bet that you end up feeling pretty good about the experience. Its part of what MassChallenge is all about.