5 Keys to Startup Success

From the Nigam playbook

  1. Selling "A crucial skill, because startup founders are always selling, to potential investors, customers, employees, you name it. Get your pitch down pat!"
  2. Execution "Lots of people have great ideas, but startups are all about execution. Move the ball forward every day."
  3. Culture "Too many founders get caught up in raising money or getting a product to market, while neglecting culture and cofounder relationships, which are integral to a startup's longevity."
  4. Foundation "It's worth it to invest in good lawyers upfront. I've seen startups struggle or fail because they lacked legal basics like founder agreements or proper vesting and licensing arrangements."
  5. Funding "VC funding gets all the publicity, but it's not right for every startup. There are different ways to finance your business, depending on its nature, scalability, and stage of development."

Too much financial engineering. Not enough enterprise and value creation.

For Akhil Nigam (MBA 2007), that was a big takeaway from the 2008 economic collapse. It got the former software entrepreneur to thinking entrepreneurially again, but with a twist: "Why not create a platform that would help create multiple startups at the same time?" That's the idea behind MassChallenge, the startup accelerator and competition—now the world's largest—that Nigam cofounded in 2009 after leaving his job as a Bain consultant.

Based in Boston but now expanding overseas with programs in Israel and the UK—and with partners in Colombia, Mexico, and Russia—MassChallenge annually accepts 128 early-stage, high-impact companies from around the world, with no strings attached. The startups receive world-class mentoring (400-plus mentors), training, free office space, access to funding, legal advice, media attention, and more than $10 million of in-kind support. At the conclusion of each program, a panel of startup CEO judges awards $1 million in cash prizes to as many as 20 startups selected for their global-impact potential.

To date, MassChallenge alumni have raised over $470 million and generated more than $190 million in revenue, launching hundreds of new companies that employ thousands of people. "There's a lot of pessimism out there about the economy and where society's going," says Nigam, "so I love being surrounded by entrepreneurs. With them, it's all about optimism, seeing opportunity where there are problems, and changing the world with new products and solutions. Helping them do that is really gratifying."

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2007, Section G
follow @Akhil_Nigam

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