Mike Millard, managing director of MassChallenge Texas in Austin

At the South Congress Hotel last week, MassChallenge Texas officially kicked off its next application cycle for its accelerator programs in Austin and Houston.

The MassChallenge Accelerator has completed two cohorts in Austin and one in Houston since launching in 2017.

The Houston and Austin application cycles kicked off simultaneously with a giant video screen beaming in the Houston MassChallenge leaders to talk about their program.

Meanwhile, a packed house of elbow-to-elbow people watched videos and then listened to Mike Millard, managing director of MassChallenge Texas in Austin talk about the success the program has had in its first few years.

This year, the MassChallenge Austin and Houston program will run simultaneously. Those selected for the Austin program will compete for $500,000 in cash prizes and those selected for the Houston program will compete for $250,000 in cash prizes.

The application period began this week with applications closing March 9th. Judging and the selection process will begin with finalists being announced in late May. The program begins in June and runs through September.

“Up to 100 startups will be selected for each program,” according to MassChallenge Texas. “Participating startups will receive six-month of free office space, access to industry experts and mentors, a bespoke curriculum, access to top corporations and more, all at zero cost and for zero equity.”

In addition to the Texas program, MassChallenge runs programs in Boston, Israel, Mexico, Switzerland, and the UK.

In 2019, MassChallenge awarded TRAXyL, a startup that installs high-speed Internet on roadways, received the top prize of $150,000 in cash. It also gave $100,000 award each to including Collective Liberty, based in Washington, D.C., that has created a platform to help prevent human trafficking. And Mens Gold Boxx, based in Austin, a big and tall e-commerce site for men. And teleCalm, based in Allen, Texas, which created a phone service aimed at keeping seniors safe. And Olifant Medical, based in San Antonio, won $50,000. The startup has developed a medical device to insert breathing tubes into patients easier.

In 2018, MassChallenge awarded  EQO and Sempulse, both based in Austin, $100,000 each, followed by $75,000 to NovoThelium, which  is working to provide nipple grafts to breast cancer survivors after a mastectomy. Austin-based Cloud 9, a healthcare startup, won the other $75,000 Platinum award. And Austin-based GrubTubs took home a $50,000 award and The Mentor Method, an Austin-based mentor network that creates inclusive workplace cultures, took home a $25,000 award.The other winners included Augmenta, based in Greece, which won $50,000 for its technology that monitors the application of fertilizers and pesticides. And Popspots, based in Austin, won a $25,000 award for its AdMob product for retailers. And  Re:3D also received a $10,000 award.