Finalists, speakers announced for this year’s MassChallenge Awards


MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup accelerator program, announced its list of finalists for the annual MassChallenge Awards ceremony taking place on October 29. At the event, $1.75 million in no-strings-attached funding will be distributed among the 26 startups, narrowed down from the 128 that began the program in June.

Between 18 and 20 awards will be given out, with a few companies taking home $100,000 and others getting $50,000. Additionally, $775,000 will be distributed in “sidecar prizes” which are awards for companies innovating in specific industry sectors or for important needs that have specific sponsorship. The sponsors include CASIS and Boeing, the John W. Henry Family Foundation, Microsoft, MassIT, and The Perkins School for the Blind.

MassChallenge founder and chief executive John Harthorne said that this year was different from past programs in that it was quite a challenge to narrow down the startups to just 26 finalists. “This was not only the largest number of applicants, but the highest quality of teams,” he said. “They are all high-caliber, so we had to make really tough decisions.”

Past MassChallenge Awards winners include LiquiGlide, SilverSide Detectors, Viral Gains, CoachUp, Ministry of Supply, Evertrue, and Privy.

Last week, word got out on the expected list of speakers at ceremony, including Travis Kalanick, chief executive officer of Uber, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Nancy Frates, who created the “Ice Bucket” challenge for her son Peter Frates, and WGBH Innovation Hub host Kara Miller.

Harthorne said that Kalanick was excited to come because of his fondness for the program which helped launch and introduce Uber to Boston a couple of year’s ago.

“We have the governor coming to speak, and he’s a big fan of the governor,” Harthorne said. “The governor helped to make sure that Boston and Massachusetts stayed innovative, and the Patrick administration allowed companies like Uber to be disruptive and to operate.”

“I think Travis appreciates that and wanted to show respect in return for the governor.”

“The governor is the star of our show, even more than Travis,” Harthorne added. “It’s the end of his term, he was our first supporter; literally, we would not exist without him.”

“He has done a lot for us and the broader innovation community,” he added. “As an example, you have Travis flying from California to honor his contributions to innovation.”

Here are the finalists who will be competing for a share of the $1.75 million later this month:

3Derm – Founded at Yale, the company’s handheld imager can help with the early detection of skin cancer.

Anfiro – Cleantech company looking to provide clean and affordable water for the future.

ArtLifting – Mass. company that helps homeless and disabled individuals by helping them sell their art.

Ashton Instruments – Mass.-based maker of an affordable cycling power meter.

AutoAgronom – Founded in Israel, the company uses audio technology to increase agriculture yields.

Cam Med LLC – Maker of Evopump, the flexible, bandage-like patch pump for active and simultaneous subcutaneous delivery of medications. – Crowd-sourced career advice for students in low-income communities.

Catie’s Closet – Mass. non-profit that provides clothing and necessities to students living in poverty, making them feel comfortable in school.

Dimples, Inc. – Penn. company has found a way to lower ink costs when printing documents.

Disease Diagnostic Group – Ohio company that has developed a handheld device for quantitative malaria diagnosis.

Drinkwell – Trying to make a difference with the global arsenic and fluoride water crisis.

DropWise – Developer of a nanoengineered coating for power plants.

EdTrips – EdTech company that makes planning field trips easier for venues and schools.

Fluid-Screen – Conn.-based company that allows for faster and more sensitive microbial detection from fluid samples.

Gecko Health Innovations – Maker of a device that improves the management of chronic respiratory diseases.

Grapevine – A marketing platform connecting consumer facing brands with relevant YouTubers.

Jisto Inc. -Mass.-based cloud computing company that helps enterprises make use of underused server cycles.

KnipBio – Maker of more nutritious and sustainable animal feed.

Oncolinx – Founded in New Jersey, the company develops next-generation cancer therapeutics for the most aggressive types of cancer.

ReFleece – Maker of accessories from recycled clothing.

Sano LLC – A disposable “Point-of-Care” diagnostic platform focused on chronic wounds.

SQZ Biotech – The MIT founded company’s CellSqueeze can deliver molecules into cells by a gentle squeezing.

Unima – Low cost disease detection process developed in Mexico.

Ustraap – Mexico-based developer of a wristband that helps the visually impaired sense their surroundings.

VOXEL8 – Maker of multimaterial 3D printing of electronics that was spun out of Harvard.

ZOOS Greek Iced Teas – Mass.-based maker of all natural, caffeine free, Greek Iced Tea.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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