MassChallenge Awards $1M to 16 Startups Across IT, Cleantech, Retail, and Healthcare (Also Some Words of Wisdom from Steve Case)

10/22/10Follow @gthuang

It was a packed house at the MassChallenge finals last night in Boston’s Seaport District. Business luminaries such as Desh Deshpande, Steve Case, Josh Boger, Brad Feld, and Greg Bialecki were in attendance. And Boston mayor Tom Menino kicked things off by emphasizing that, especially compared with other innovation clusters around the country, “what Boston has is brainpower.”

Case, the co-founder of AOL and chairman and CEO of Revolution, stole the show early. A few gems from his keynote:

—“Big companies mostly play defense. Entrepreneurs create the future of this country…They are, in some sense, American heroes.”

—When Case was an undergrad at Williams College, he applied to Harvard Business School: “They rejected me…No donations headed that way!”

—In the early days of AOL, Case entered an Inc. 500 national competition: “I lost to Outback Steakhouse. The Bloomin’ Onion kicked my butt. So I redoubled my efforts to make AOL the best performing stock of the ‘90s. Which is more than Outback Steakhouse can say.”

—“Think big, and think bold…There’s way too much incremental thinking. The real change [comes from] bigger bets that are harder and take longer. Err on the side of thinking big instead of miniaturizing.”

But the real stars on this evening were the 26 MassChallenge finalists who gave one-minute pitches for their companies. Nobody tried anything particularly daring or unusual in their presentations—which is too bad, because the final awards had already been decided, so they had nothing to lose. Their pitches were pretty conventional (and polished for the most part) spiels for their companies. One of my takeaways is, once you’ve seen enough of these presentations, you can tell most of what you need to know in one minute.

In the end, four startups won $100,000 each, and 12 startups won $50,000 each. The companies were refreshingly diverse in terms of their focus, but there were lots of familiar names; … Next Page »

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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