October 8, 2012

Boston Herald, October 2012

Startups Snag Contest Win
Marie Szaniszlo
October 6, 2012
Boston Herald

With just more than two weeks left in what for many will be the biggest test of their lives to date, 26 finalists — ranging from a company that collects food for the poor to one that will help cancer to be detected earlier — now remain in this year’s $1.1 million MassChallenge startup competition and accelerator out of a pool of 1,237 applicants.

The 26 learned via an early morning email yesterday that they had been selected from a group of 125 that for the past four months have each been given a team of mentors, legal support and free office space at MassChallenge’s headquarters in Boston’s Innovation District.

“It’s been a lot of hard work, so when I shared it with the company, they were all thrilled,” said Jordan Fliegel, the 26-year-old founder and CEO of CoachUp, which helps connect young athletes with private coaches. “There are a lot of great companies in MassChallenge, so to be chosen is really an honor.”

During the next two weeks, the 26 finalists will pitch their startups to the last round of judges, who will award no-strings-attached grants of either $50,000 or $100,000 to 10 to 20 winners, who will be announced at an Oct. 23 awards ceremony at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

“There is a degree of arbitrariness to it; (judges) can bring personal biases. But at the end of the day, the evaluations really boil down to the people,” said one of the judges, Christopher Mirabile, managing director of Launchpad Venture Group. “You have to ask yourself: Am I looking at a special person who is going to be successful at what they set out to do? Is this someone who is going to make a difference?”

Struck by the abundance of food on the table during a lunch out with her mother, Ashley Stanley started Lovin’ Spoonfuls to collect fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains donated by supermarkets, farms and restaurants, and deliver them to soup kitchens and shelters in the Boston area.

“We’re a young, but such high-impact, nonprofit that the grant money would be incredibly significant,” Stanley said in an email yesterday after learning her company was one of the 26 finalists. “But in the end, for us it’s about solution. We set out to create real-time change in the way that Massachusetts approaches and addresses hunger and food insecurity — and we’re doing it. So to have this platform is a win in itself.”

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