High Impact Entrepreneurial Innovation Starts Here

The official starting point of the Boston Marathon, the oldest Marathon in the world, is Hopkinton, MA where EMC’s corporate headquarters also sits.  The area’s many colleges and universities make Boston an international center of higher education and medicine and a world leader in innovation.  It is no wonder then that MassChallenge, the largest-ever startup accelerator, and the first to support high impact, early-stage entrepreneurs with no strings attached, was established here in the “Innovation Waterfront District.” MassChallenge launched a program in Israel with the support of EMC in the spring of 2013 – over 100 startups and 60 judges participated.  The program connects the most promising early-stage companies with the resources and networks at the heart of MassChallenge’s Boston accelerator.

In the announcement, John Hawthorne, Founder & CEO of MassChallenge said, “MassChallenge Israel features a deep infrastructure of supporters and resources within Israel, strong connections between Israel and Boston, and exclusive opportunities for Israeli startups in Boston… Boston and Israel have had a special relationship for a long time that has generated close collaboration on both business and technological fronts.” MassChallenge selected Israel as its first international location because of the country sits at the cutting edge of technology and entrepreneurial activities globally, and because MassChallenge is eager to enable top startups to scale quickly and effectively.”

Understanding the power of this partnership, I partnered with John and his MassChallenge team to create new opportunities for partnerships between our organizations.  Initially, I drove EMC‘s global participation in the MassChallenge judging process and inspired local leaders to mentor the 128 finalists.

Subsequently, I established and hosted a new program called “Technology Directions: Keeping It Real.”  Our first event, held in May 2013 was “Open Source Software – What’s the Buzz All About?”  Speakers included leaders from RackSpace and two MassChallenge start-ups:  AppSembler and Profit Bricks.

Thinking outside the Box

I am not the only one working to extend and grow EMC’s partnership with MassChallenge. EMC’s Executive Business Center (EBC) Director Bernie Baker and his team partnered with me and Steve Todd, EMC VP and Fellow, to develop an EBC customer innovation tour at MassChallenge’ s corporate headquarters.  AIG Israel was the first to tour with us and their Israel CIO reflected that “EMC is a brilliant company that is stimulating new initiatives.”

But it is not only about customers, it is also about employee enthusiasm and knowledge sharing. Thus, we created an EMC Innovation Ambassador program for employees with different skills, talents, and roles to share their personal innovation stories with customers and partners. The mission of the Innovation Tour is to “envision an inspired creative community where EMC, our customers, and our partners, can collaborate globally around innovation.”

MassChallenge Keeps Growing

What is truly exciting is to see MassChallenge growing. Some of its supporters include US President Barack Obama, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, venture capitalist Desh Deshpande, Dr. Josh Boger of Alkeus Pharmaceuticals, the Kraft Family, and top brands like Fidelity, Microsoft, and Verizon.

Since starting in 2010, the 489 MassChallenge alumni companies have raised $472 million in funding, generated nearly $200 million in revenue, and created nearly 4,000 jobs.

In December 2013, MassChallenge and EMC UK & Ireland President James Petter met with UK Prime Minister David Cameron to discuss the launch of a program expansion in the UK. In London, MassChallenge will engage hundreds of startups, expert mentors, investors, students, and business leaders from across the UK, Europe, and the world – placing London at the center of the global innovation map.

It has been less than a year since I began engaging with MassChallenge. We have traversed continents to bring the spirit of entrepreneurship outside the walls of our corporate campus in order to catalyze a connected community of innovation and thought leadership.

To learn more about MassChallenge, visit their homepage at www.masschallenge.org and consider reading the 2013 MassChallenge Impact Report or reviewing the 2013 winners.

About the Author: Sheryl Chamberlain