MassChallenge welcomes new class of startups, partners with WGBH

MassChallenge's Akhil Nigam
MassChallenge's Akhil Nigam

As more and more people filed into the Yawkey Atrium at WGBH’s campus in Brighton, a palpable buzz filled the booming, beautiful space as MassChallenge’s president and co-founder Akhil Nigam welcomed everyone to the announcement of the accelerator’s latest class of companies.

The main reason the excitement continued to grow throughout today’s event was that startup founders — from the 128 companies that found out just this morning that they had been selected to participate in this year’s MassChallenge program — showed up at WGBH to celebrate what could be a game changing opportunity for the entrepreneurs.

Those companies include startups from more than 10 different countries and 17 different US states, covering industries such as biotech, clean energy, e-commerce, and retail.

Massachusetts in represented by 71 companies who made the cut of 128 (whittled down from more than 1,700 applicants). Among those are a few that have been on the local scene for a while, in other local incubator or accelerator programs.

3Derm, founded by a couple of Yale graduates,  was selected as Healthbox’s “Most Innovative” last year; Drinkwell developed from a company that was a past Startup Weekend winner; and EdTrips spent some time at the LearnLaunch space.

One selection that really piqued our interest as being a truly unique pick was Artisan’s Asylum, a “makerspace” in Somerville. Artisan’s Asylum is a huge co-working space filled with companies experimenting with hardware ideas big and small. The idea of Asylum moving into MassChallenge new Innovation District space won’t be happening, but many of the MassChallenge folks I spoke with said that they are excited to work with a project that offers something quite different than other past participants.

The entire list of 128 participants was announced last, the full list can be found here.

After Nigam’s remarks kicked off the event, WGBH/Public Radio International’s Innovation Hub‘s Kara Miller introduced Ben Godley, WGBH’s chief operating officer to speak about how MassChallenge and WGBH can tap into “the vein of real innovation” in Boston.

Godley was glad to welcome MassChallenge to WGBH and commented that as far as the success of the new cohort companies is concerned, “It’s not about the idea, it’s about the ecosystem that you are going to learn and grow those ideas in.

“It’s the mentorship and the value of the network that makes this all work.”

John Harthorne closed the event thanking WGBH, who MassChallenge just announced a new partnership with. WGBH president and chief executive Jon Abbott will be joining MassChallenge board of advisors.

Harthorne concluded by saying, “When we started MassChallenge, many people didn’t think this would work, thinking that people wouldn’t collaborate here in Boston.

“We couldn’t have proven that more wrong,” he said, before urging all the venture capitalists, mentors, and company founders to connect and get to know each other.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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