How was MassChallenge born and who are the founders?
MC is a no equity taken acceleration program that connects early-stage startupswith experts, companies, investors, and the community.
It was founded in 2009 in Boston, Massachusetts, by John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam. They firmly believed in the pivotal role of entrepreneurs, as the main value creators in society, to emerge from the gripping financial crisis. Since then, MC has expanded its presence to other U.S. locations (Texas and Rhode Island) and globally to Israel, Mexico, and, since 2016, Switzerland.
What is the current state of the innovation ecosystem in Switzerland?
Switzerland is one of the most vibrant and dynamic ecosystems for innovation; it has a highly competitive economy, easy access to the EU single market, and is incredibly business-friendly. In particular, the MC Accelerator is strategically located close to our partners, all world leaders in their field.
What is the role of MassChallenge in supporting innovation?
MC supports innovation by unlocking collaborations between the most promising startups and some of the best corporate partners in the Swiss ecosystem. We support startups on their journey by providing mentors, Swiss-specific advice on regulations and taxes, easy access to the EU market, and strong business ties. As an equity-free accelerator, MC’s culture is: “startup first.” This is reflected in the positive feedback we constantly receive from our alumni. For example, in the 2022 cohort, 75% of the startups gave us a score of 9/10. This means that for those who join our accelerator, the chances of reaching or exceeding their entrepreneurial goal are very high.
How many applications come to MassChallenge each year? How can I apply for the program?
Each year the MC Switzerland receives more than 1,000 applications from around the world and makes sure to fast-track the best 10% of applicants through a high-integrity selection process. We do this by having an active pool of over 400 judges who are independent experts and collectively evaluate all applications with an average of over 10 readings per application, providing individual feedback for all applicants.
We accept early-stage startups (< $1 million in capital raised, < $2 million in sales) from every sector and geography that add value to society and intend to offset their emissions or actively reduce greenhouse gases once scaled up.
You can easily apply online ( https://accelerate.masschallenge.org/accounts/register/entrepreneur/); make sure you select the Switzerland accelerator (CH) and the program of your choice.
What opportunities and challenges are there for foreign startups to get involved in Switzerland’s innovation ecosystem?
Regardless of their geographic origin, all startups will have access to more than 15 global corporate partners who are leaders in their fields and represent Switzerland’s best technology ecosystem. To name a few: Bühler, Givaudan, George Fisher, Nestlé, Bystronic, etc. Taken together, they represent an incredible and diverse source of opportunities for startups that have decided to participate in our program in Switzerland. In fact our 2022 cohort saw over 60% of startups come from outside Switzerland with over 40 countries represented.
How many startups have you supported so far?
MC it has been present in Switzerland since 2016 and has accelerated more than 600 startups which created more than 29,000 direct and indirect jobs and raised 985 million Swiss francs in funding. We are also committed to supporting climate-responsible startups that have collectively helped remove or avoid emissions of 8,300,000 tons of CO2 eq. pa at present.
How many of them have reached a global level?
When they join our program, some startups are already global, while others have priorities with their market(s) and don’t wish to be global, so we don’t track this data. We could, of course, give you examples of startups that became global after the acceleration program; however, this is not how we measure their success. It depends, in fact, on their objectives.
How long does the incubation program last, and what kind of assistance and training do you offer? Tell us about the MassChallenge accelerator program.
The accelerator program lasts four months. Finalist startups will benefit from an intense and engaging combination of coaching, mentorship, on-site networking events with corporate partners, and the chance to win up to 1M Swiss francs in cash with no strings attached. From the moment they are in, finalists become part of the MC community, an ecosystem that counts over 5,000 startups worldwide. The MC accelerator is a proven model that has helped more than 70 percent of finalists raise funds during or immediately after the program.
Equity and diversity.
At MassChallenge, we believe in diversity as the fuel to sustain innovation and create a profitable business, and we welcome startups from any geographic area. Starting in 2023, we’ll also implement a program designed to attract and provide support (through tailored content and the creation of a supportive network) to women entrepreneurs who according to the data (https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/why-women-owned-startups-are-better-bet) struggle more than men to grow their businesses.