MassChallenge Texas Kicks off in Austin

MassChallenge Texas team kicking off the accelerator program.

By LAURA LOREK
Publisher of Silicon Hills News

MassChallenge Texas kicked off Monday evening with a big crowd at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in downtown Austin.

“I want Texas to be the place where startups come to innovate,” said Mike Millard, managing director for MassChallenge Texas.

The global accelerator is now accepting applications for its 2018 Texas cohort that will be hosted at WeWork coworking spaces. The Austin-based nonprofit accelerator will work with up to 100 startups that will compete for up to $500,000 in equity-free cash awards.

All MassChallenge staffers based in Texas will have an office at WeWork and next year all 100 MassChallenge Texas startups will have office space at WeWork, said Cody Julian, regional marketing director at WeWork, based in Austin. WeWork has three locations in Austin right now and other locations throughout Texas, the U.S. and the world.

MassChallenge works with entrepreneurs and corporations to drive innovation, Millard said. The nonprofit organization has a network of accelerators in Boston, the UK, Israel, Switzerland, Mexico and now Texas is the latest, he said.

The key to MassChallenge’s success is its corporate partners, said Bob Metcalfe, professor of innovation at the University of Texas at Austin, inventor of Ethernet and co-founder of 3Com.

Already, more than 1,200 MassChallenge alumni have raised more than $2 billion in funding, generated $900 million in revenue and created more than 65,000 jobs.

Texas is the ideal next location for the MassChallenge accelerator, Millard said. Texas has 28 million people, 50 of the Fortune 500 companies, 40 plus venture capital firms and growing, 40 accelerators and growing and 18 angel groups, he said.

“Those ingredients allow us to be the best in the world,” Millard said.

Texas has deep expertise in energy, petrochemicals, healthcare, defense, financial services, cybersecurity, enterprise software, advanced manufacturing, food and agriculture, Millard said.

The crowd included hundreds of entrepreneurs and advocates of the technology industry including Joshua Baer with Capital Factory, Bill Blackstone with Galvanize, Kerry Rupp of True Wealth Ventures, Claire England with the Central Texas Angel Network, Jan Ryan with Women@Austin and UT Austin, Steve Guengerich with the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UT Dallas, Pike Powers, Austin Mayor Steve Adler, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg and U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett.

The founding partners of MassChallenge Texas include Southwest Airlines, USAA, Upstream and TMAC.

Southwest plans to work with MassChallenge Texas by matching its executives with startups to learn from them, said Heather Figallo, senior director of innovation and labs at Southwest Airlines.

USAA, based in San Antonio, is about service to the community and its members, said Zachary Gipson, Chief Innovation Officer of USAA.

“So, when I think of MassChallenge I think of the opportunity to continue to work with entrepreneurial and creative people to think about what service looks like in the future,” Gipson said.

Upstream is looking forward to driving new projects with global impact, said Jeff Mulhausen, founding partner of Upstream.

Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center, TMAC, reports working with MassChallenge can increase innovation, job creation and innovation, said Ron Lehman, TMAC state director.

The MassChallenge Texas inaugural board of advisors includes Metcalfe with UT Austin, Figallo with Southwest Airlines, Gipson with USAA, Pike Powers with the Pike Powers Group and Larry Peterson with the Texas Foundation for Innovative Communities.

At the event, Millard gave special recognition to Powers, who has been a pioneer in Austin’s technology industry.

Millard called him the “Godfather of Austin’s semiconductor industry.” Powers helped Austin and Texas foster a technology industry which laid the foundation for Austin’s vibrant tech industry, Millard said.

Also at the event, Austin Mayor Adler and San Antonio Mayor Nirenberg shared the stage to talk about how their cities are collaborating to drive innovation in the regional technology industry.

“The demographers say the next great metroplex in the country is going to be Austin and San Antonio,” said Mayor Adler.

“The Texas miracle is the Austin-San Antonio corridor,” Nirenberg said. “The future is bright in Texas if you look at it through Austin or San Antonio.”

The two cities are stronger when they work together, Nirenberg said.

“In every way, we can, we need to build momentum for the region and the future metroplex that we’re going to be and that’s what MassChallenge Texas is doing for us now,” Mayor Adler said.

MassChallenge kicked off a statewide roadshow on Tuesday with 35 events in 10 cities in coming weeks, Mayor Adler said. The organization is on a mission to recruit 1,000 startups and 350 mentors, he said.

Robyn Metcalfe, founder of Food+City in Austin, is working with MassChallenge to build a strong network for food startups.

“This is the breakout moment for food entrepreneurs in Austin,” she said.

Food+City is running a food Challenge Prize which is open right now and it’s sending its submissions to MassChallenge, Metcalfe said. It’s the fourth year for Food+City’s Challenge Prize.

At the event, MassChallenge Alumni company, Spoiler Alert, highly recommended the program. It plugged the company into funding, partnerships and mentors, said Emily Malina, chief product officer with Spoiler Alert, which created software to manage food inventory to eliminate waste.

Hydroswarm, based in Boston, which creates smart drones for underwater exploration, is also a MassChallenge alumni company and the program helped bring the project to life, said Sampriti Bhattacharyya, its founder.

“You can’t do it alone,” she said. “You need the support system.”

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