MassChallenge, the not-for-profit accelerator program that began in Boston but has since spread to Mexico, Israel, Switzerland and the UK, has announced that it has chosen 100 finalists for its latest British cohort, which will be held in London, at The Tobacco Dock co-working space near Shadwell Overground station, alongside the river.
MassChallenge say they received over 1,000 applications and noted “particular interest from female-founders and entrepreneurs from all over the world”, which the accelerator believes is a sign that “London remains a top destination for those looking to start and scale a global company.
Applicants were drawn from 69 countries, including Macau in China, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and India. In the final reckoning however, 86 of the finalists will come from the UK, whilst just four are from other European countries, and four from the US.
43% of the finalists chose operate in general, retail, or consumer goods markets, whilst 20% represent healthcare and life sciences, 17% High Tech, 11% social impact and 9% clean-tech and energy.
Diane Perlman, MassChallenge’s CMO commented: “The UK is one of the best places in the world for innovation. Ideas, skills and ambitious minds will always flourish here as long as there is a supportive eco-system in place. We’re committed to providing that stability and access.”
Gordon Innes, CEO of London & Partners, added: “The diversity of the companies and 11 countries represented in MassChallenge’s 2016 cohort offer further proof that London remains open to businesses from all over the world. As well as access to talent, risk capital and international markets, London can offer start-ups a range of accelerator programs such as MassChallenge. All those ingredients make London the leading European destination for fast growing businesses looking to scale.”
MassChallenge finalists are given access to free office space at Tobacco Dock’s state of the art co-working space (the site had been used mainly as an events venue after a failed attempt to convert it into a high end shopping district in the 1970’s), and given free mentoring, access to world class corporate partners plus the opportunity to win £50,000 in cash to grow their business without having to sacrifice any equity.
MassChallenge calls itself “the most start-up friendly accelerator on the planet”, and tries to reward “the highest impact start-ups” in terms of the social benefits they bring, and not just the most materially successful or profitable.
The company now has as many as 835 alumni who have collectively raised more than £1 billion, generated £440 million in revenues, and created more than 50,000 jobs. In total, 36 MC companies have been acquired since the program began.
Partners for the most recent program include the JP Morgan Chase Foundation, Swiss Re, Digital Catapult, IBM, and the UK Business Angels Association.
Amongst the finalists this year include food-labelling service PantryAce, donor-milk research biobank The Herts Milk Bank, and Dateplay, the online dating / gaming start-up founded by ex-Apprentice finalist Vana Koutsomitis, whose idea narrowly lost out in the final episode to eventual winner Joseph Valente’s plumbing business.
Since it launched in January 2015 MassChallenge seems to have become part of the London start-up furniture, regularly hosting events and awards ceremonies and attracting significant interest from some of London’s top entrepreneurs.
100 start-ups is also a comparatively whopping cohort size – even Entrepreneur First, who have recently announced they are setting up an investment team to search worldwide for funding support for their companies, only work with 50 start-ups each year, albeit some of the cream of the crop in terms of academic excellence, over the course of 2 cohorts.
Although MassChallenge UK can’t yet boast, like Entrepreneur First, of a major success story like Magic Pony (a graphics start-up founded at EF that was acquired for $150m by Twitter earlier this year), with their emphasis on “disruption for good” and influential circle of mentors, it surely won’t be long before one of their London alumni builds a company of global significance, like Ginkgo Bioworks, a product of the Boston MC accelerator that makes scents and flavours from micro-bugs, which recently completed a $100m Series C investment round from the likes of VCs Baillie Gifford and Viking Global.
The company is led by Jon Harthorne, an ex Sloane MIT Business School student who says a Eureka moment while feeling sorry for himself one day led him to create Mass Challenge and conceive of a global vision.