MassChallenge: Altruism from the Front Lines

AltruHelp Advice for MassChallenge

We collectively decided what better way to give back to both current and future MassChallenge participants than by launching a new series of blog posts about our team’s experience in the MassChallenge 2011 Competition, hence 

MassChallenge: Altruism from the Front Lines.

Part#1: Obtaining MassChallenge Endorsements

Over the last 2 weeks I’ve received several emails from participants in MassChallenge, startups, and my Babson MBA classmates with one question: How did AltrUHelp obtain so many endorsements/votes in such a short period of time? The secret to our success is actually quite simple and NO its NOT cold calling. How do you think a startup that launched only a few short months ago pulled down 9 diamond endorsements, 17 platinums, and 100+ votes in 30 days or less? The answer is one word. Collaboration.

Prior to submitting our application to MassChallenge, my team and I sat down to review the MC website to understand all of the judging criteria thoroughly. We set a goal to achieve at least 5 diamond endorsements and 10 platinum endorsements for round 1 of the competition not because the endorsements were worth 10% of our judging grade but because they stand for so much more. (i.e. credibility, community support, the chance to build customers, business partnerships, expand your network & most importantly constructive feedback.)

So how did we make the collaboration contagious? We shared the list of diamond endorsers from the MC website (600+ contacts) in a Google spreadsheet among the whole team and organized a team meeting. We went through the entire document highlighting companies/contacts where we had direct & indirect relationships so that we would not cold call anyone (i.e. analyzing LinkedIn networks, Facebook connections, family members, & friends). Each team member highlighted their respective contacts on the Google Doc so that we could color code the doc  and refrain from contacting the same endorser more than once.

Our strategy was two-fold. We massaged the current connections we had and prioritized the list of endorsers based on the companies/individuals that could help our business model. We crafted an email template for everyone on the team to send to their endorsement connections to schedule conference calls and ensure our team’s message was consistent. No conference call had less than 2 co-founders on it unless the meeting was in person. The purpose of the call was to build consultative relationships so we could learn what the endorser’s needs were before selling them on the potential endorsement. Our top priority was actually not to close the endorsement but to get solid feedback and gain the endorsers support as a potential customer, business partner, or advisor.  Collectively we probably had about 40 conference calls and 5 in person meetings to gain support and build business partnerships.

To bring in votes we wrote a blog post about entering into the MassChallenge competition and stated a “Call to Action” for our readers to vote for us in the MC Competition: AltrUHelp Enters MassChallenge Blog post. In conclusion, endorsements are important but its even more important to not lose sight of your overarching business strategy. Immersing your startup team in sales, biz dev, and more while trying to win the MassChallenge Startup competition is like swimming the 400m medley relay. Your strokes represent your primary focus on the day to day work you need to complete to get your business off the ground. Coming up for air every few arm lengths is when you assess how your strategy aligns with the MassChallenge goals. Tagging your teammates at the end of each lap signifies the constant communication/collaboration that needs to take place to keep your team unified.

Collaboration is the key to success. Good luck to everyone and we look forward to sharing our future experiences. Stay tuned! (For the next set of insider info, check out our posts on about MassChallenge Bootcamp)

Best,

Mathew
CEO/Co-Founder, AltrUHelp

Part#2: AltruHelp Named 2011 MassChallenge Finalist

MassChallenge is the world’s largest $1 million startup competition & accelerator program that connects early stage entrepreneurs to the resources they need to launch high-growth, high-impact businesses.

Last week MassChallenge joined by Governor Deval Patrick and business leaders, announced AltrUHelp as a FINALIST in the world’s largest start-up competition. Hundreds of expert judges from the startup ecosystem (CEO’s, lawyers, VC’s, angel investors & more) selected 125 finalists after several rounds of judging on 733 original startup entry applications from around the globe (24 countries).

The finalists range from high-tech and life science business to social impact ventures like AltrUHelp. The finalist companies represent 19 states and five countries, including Kenya and South Korea. According to MassChallenge, last year’s finalists from the 2010 competition have raised more than $30 million in funding and hired over 300 new employees. Read More

MassChallenge was honored by President Obama in January as one of nation’s best support organizations for high-growth startups and was selected to partner with the White House’s Startup America Partnership . As part of the MassChallenge 2011 Finalist Accelerator program, AltrUHelp, and the other finalists teams will receive:

  • Free water front office space at MassChallenge’s 22,000-square-foot office on the Boston Fan Pier.
  • Legal support, expert mentors, publicity from major media outlets, access to funding resources, workshops w/ key stakeholders and more!

This coming October, AltrUHelp and the other 2011 Finalists will compete in the last round of judging for a slice of $1 million in cash prizes that will be announced at an award ceremony on October 20th.

The AltrUHelp Team would like to thank our business partners, advisors, customers, friends, and family for your tremendous support! With you help we will continue to inspire altruism and change the world. Together we can successfully implement a universal platform dedicated to social impact!

Please continue to show your support by joining our upcoming beta launch via http://www.AltrUHelp.com and “liking” us on Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/AltrUHelp

Part#3: MassChallenge Finalist Bootcamp Week 1: The Intern Perspective

Last week marked the beginning of the FINALIST round of the 2011 MassChallenge Global Startup Competition—the world’s largest startup accelerator. Over the next three months, AltrUHelp and 100+ other startups will compete for a slice of $1.2 million in funding. Each company has been awarded office space in the brand-new One Marina Park Drive through October along with access to lawyers, business mentors, investors, and support staff.

Day 1 of the finalist “Startup Bootcamp” began with Scott Griffith, CEO of Zipcar, discussing the importance of constant personal development, sharing his incredible story of battling cancer while growing ZipCar 8000%. Bill Warner—founder of Avid Technology and inventor of nonlinear video editing—urged the audience to avoid compromise and maintain integrity, offering his own mistakes as evidence.

We also heard from Jeff Taylor, Founder and CEO of Monster.com, who focused onthe importance of a few business cliches (“Go Big or Go Home”, “In It to Win It”, “Its a Journey Not a Destination”, and “If its Worth Doing, It’s Worth Overdoing”). Overall, we heard inspirational stories of how these seasoned entrepreneurs founded their companies, overcame their failures, and leveraged their successes to “make it big”.

While day 1 was defined by inspirational speakers, day 2 was much more pragmatic—it was a veritable crash course on marketing. Chris Colbert, CEO of Holland-Mark, emphasized the importance of the “one simple thing” that will draw the attention of potential customers. Howard Kogan of Communispace discussed the importance of listening to clients, and stressed that in a trusted environment clients will literally say anything that companies can use to improve their product and service. Emily Green, prolific public speaker and Chairman of Yankee Group, gave a thorough outline of how to plan, practice, polish and perfect public speaking engagements. Stan Dolberg, Founder and Principal of Carriage House Consulting, taught us not only who trend-setters are, but also how to effectively communicate to them. The day ended with Laura Fitton, CEO of OneForty, who gave us a brief but comprehensive overview of how to manage your startup’s social media presence. Overall, day 2 focused on the need to understand your customers on a practical and emotional level to dominate your market.

Boot camp gave us a rapid primer in running a startup. As new authors on this blog, you may “only” know us as college interns working at AltrUHelp for the summer, but because of Masschallenge, we’ve gotten the chance to learn some of the skills necessary to become successful entrepreneurs!

While week one was jam packed with information and advice, in true MassChallenge style there is always more to be learned. Stay tuned for Week 2: Boot Camp Wrap Up. Let us know your thoughts and questions by posting a comment on the blog!

Connect with the AltrUHelp Summer 2011 Interns via LinkedIn below:

Nick Jacob – Brown University – 2014′
Richard Cheng -Boston University 2013′
Jessica Brennan – University of Arizona – 2012′

Part#4: MassChallenge Finalist Bootcamp Week 2:

…And thus began week 2 of the Masschallenge Boot Camp. As you might remember, week one rapidly introduced us to the startup universe, introducing us to the skills we’d need to help AltrUHelp win! But even with all that we learned, we had no idea what was in store for us in week two. Masschallenge really kicked it up a notch (or a couple of notches). We saw more CEOs this week than all of CNBC’s anchors combined…except maybe Jim Cramer.

Wednesday started off with David Cancel of Hubspot and Gina Ashe of Krush dishing out executive secrets in a panel moderated by Christopher Austin from Goodwin Procter. They covered every aspect of running a startup: financing, hiring, vision, product, and customers. David and Gina used a lot of powerful personal examples, going so far as to reveal some gory details about their more unfortunate hiring decisions providing us with an unadulterated glimpse into the inner workings of two amazing startups. After another great (and free) Foley and Lardner lunch, we were treated to an interview with David Friend, CEO of Carbonite and prolific serial entrepreneur. David took us on a journey through his past startup success, outlining his winning strategy (sorry, it’s a secret—we can’t put it in this blog post) and explaining the thinking behind Carbonite. One thing we will share with you, however, is the importance of putting yourself in the shoes of the customer to determine exactly which of your products attributes make it desirable.

Before the end of the day, we heard from two more CEO/Founders— Russ Herndon of Hyrda Bioscience and Jim Bull of Brass Monkey. Herndon and Bull, accompanied by Chinh Pham and Steve Adams—shareholders of Greenberg Traurig—provided us with even deeper insight into the startup hiring process. At this point, our CEO “insider information” was snowballing—but this was just the start of what week 2 had in store for us.

Thursday—the final day of bootcamp—brought with it a change in scenery: we spent the day at Fidelity’s Center for Applied Technology (an amazing building located next to South Station). After a quick registration, we settled down to a power-panel: angel investor (and moderator) Jean Hammond, Silicon Valley Bank representative (and debt financing extraordinaire) Dan Allred, TimeTrade CEO Ed Mallen, and VC founder Miguel Granier. Over the course of 90 minutes, these four experts immersed us in the world of startup financing. We learned the ins-and-outs of venture capital, angel investing, government grants, and debt financing. After a short—and networking-filled—lunch, we got a chance to hear from Paul Sweeny of Foley Hoag about negotiating term sheets (and how to avoid getting the bad end of a deal).

Jeff Bussgang, author of “Mastering the VC Game” and founder of UPromise followed Paul with a great Q&A on obtaining VC funding. We finished the day with an incredibly entertaining multimedia presentation by Colin Angle, Founder and CEO of iRobot—and a look inside the success of the ubiquitous Roomba robotic vacuum!

Yes, week two was incredible. We heard from a wildly talented group of executives and specialists. This week gave us a solid insight into the startup world. Now AltrUHelp’s internships begin in earnest, and each of the interns only stand to learn more.

Want to discuss any of the topics above in more detail or pose a question to the AltrUHelp Team? Share your comments or questions in the “Reply comment” box below. 

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