Top 3 Winners of the MassChallenge Startup Competition Tell New England Post About Their Experiences (and the Road Ahead)

Posted by erik devaney

While a total of 17 companies were awarded cash prizes after competing in the MassChallenge startup competition, only three took home the $100K “Diamond Prize.”

As mentioned in a previous New England Post article, these companies were Alkeus Pharmaceuticals, which is creating novel treatments for blindness; Sanergy, which is bringing sanitation services to urban slums; and Tinfoil Security, which is developing automated web security for small businesses.

After interviewing the entrepreneurs behind these successful startups, it became apparent that – for them – MassChallenge had less to do with prize money and much more to do with making connections, setting goals and working towards achieving those goals.

When Tinfoil Security was just one of the 125 startups in the early stages of the MassChallenge competition, they “really weren’t focused on the money,” said the company’s co-founder, Ainsley Braun. “The money’s great, but if you just focus on the money, it’s a waste of time.”

“I think the most valuable thing is the great network support,” Braun continued. “The mentorship was awesome, we all got to pick out two or three mentors at the beginning of the program.”

One of Tinfoil Security’s mentors was Corey Thomas, the executive vice president of sales, marketing, & operations at Rapid7. According to Braun, Thomas helped keep Tinfoil Security on track and was an invaluable resource for bouncing ideas of off.

As Leonide Saad, CEO of Alkeus Pharmaceuticals, told New England Post, MassChallenge also allowed entrepreneurs from different startups to interact with one another.

“The competition is very professional and all finalists were very competitive companies,” said Saad, who continued, “so it was a pleasure to work close to them.”

Of course, winning the MassChallenge $100K Diamond Prize gave all three companies a boost in confidence, not to mention a much-appreciated injection of cash.

As one of Sanergy’s project leaders, David Auerbach, told New England Post, “Winning the Diamond Prize gives us both the confidence and the capital to scale Sanergy’s work.”

So how do Sanergy, Alkeus Pharmaceuticals and Tinfoil Security plan on using their $100K?

“We plan to use the award to build out our pilot in Nairobi’s slums,” said Auerbach of Sanergy. “Our long-term goal is to dramatically improve the sanitation situation in urban slums around the world. We’re a long way from reaching that goal, but we know that to see big results, we need to dare to think big in the first place.”

For Alkeus Pharmaceuticals, the plan is to continue moving forward with the team’s drug development program. “We have adopted a lean and focused business model with required capital exceptionally low for a drug,” said Saad. “ …Our drug development program is moving very smoothly and after obtaining the clearance from FDA to start our clinical trials, we are getting ready to start these trials in some of the world’s leading medical institutions.”

Tinfoil Security, in comparison, will be putting its $100K toward hiring a new software engineer. “We’re looking to hire at the moment, and an extra $100k helps hire another developer for another year, so we can’t think of a better use for this if we find the right person,” said Braun. “ …So if there are any great software engineers out there, we’d love to talk to them!”

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Posted by erik devaney on Oct 26 2011. Filed under Business, Featured - For home page featured article, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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