If you’ve been anywhere around the startup community in Massachusetts, the key theme of 2009 was “How can Massachusetts make itself more competitive?” Scott Kirsner raises the issue in a recent article on Boston.com, where he highlights seven things that Massachusetts could do to foster a stronger startup environment (other than pep-rallies, panels and reports–which I’m finding myself fatigued by). He points to one area which I want to highlight:
We offer a lot of support to start-ups, but some kind of organized, open mentorship program across every industry (or an office hours initiative) would be helpful to entrepreneurs trying to grow their five-person start-up into a 500-person business.
There are a number of venues for entrepreneurship mentors in Massachusetts. I’m a mentor for one such organization, the MIT Venture Mentoring Service (VMS). To gain access to VMS, you need to be a student, alumnus or faculty member of MIT. Boston could use a few more things like this, particularly for those who come from other other academic backgrounds or other parts of the social strata.
That’s why I’m particularly excited about a new organization: MassChallenge. This group was founded by three successful entrepreneurs: John Harthorne (who won the Grand Prize in the 2007 MIT $100K Business Plan Competition), Akhil Nigam and David Constantine. MassChallenge is creating a competition intended to expose entrepreneurs at varying levels of company development (not simply startups) to successful business people, mentors and capital sources. Winners will receive cash prizes, and–more importantly–privileged access to potential investors. John, Akhil and David are to be thanked for their effort on this program.