Last night’s MassChallenge Awards Ceremony was a great celebration of entrepreneurship and our wonderful Boston startup community. In fact, MassChallenge itself is an amazing startup success story, with only two years under their belt John, Akhil and their team have created something incredible.
With speeches from Mayor Menino, Governor Patrick and home-grown entrepreneur success story Bert Jacobs, from Life is Good, you couldn’t help but feel that there’s momentum here, we’re at the beginning of something very exciting. I think it’s a great time for the startup community in Boston, because collectively we’ve decided to get our act together.
For a long time there were complaints that we didn’t have the kind of resources and community to support a thriving startup community. But now, it’s different. Wonderful leaders and thinkers are lining up to mentor startups; accelerators and co-working facilities seem to be popping up everywhere; the entrepreneurs are rock stars.
The successful entrepreneurs we have here are being celebrated, we’re telling our stories and cranking up the volume versus what our usual New England humble nature would allow. We need to keep this going. For awhile now I’ve thought we had a marketing problem when it came to touting what we have here. It’s clear that we’ve got all the ingredients; we just need to do what great marketers do when they are trying to make you believe in a brand --they tell a story, in an emotional way. They grab you, make you feel it in your gut – you care and you want to root for them. This is what we need to do – and tell this story far and wide. It will attract talent and resources. But that’s not all, we have to help our entrepreneurs be better marketers for their businesses.
This is why we launched MITX Up last May. MITX Up is a marketing mentorship program providing pre-screened startups access to marketing and communications experts who will help them increase their probability of success. The first of its kind nationwide, MITX Up brings together our local marketing and entrepreneurial communities in a way that has never been done before. Through group mentoring sessions called “marketing hackathons,” startups are assigned a team of marketing and communications experts from local advertising agencies and tech companies that have expertise in a variety of marketing disciplines to examine their business, delivering practical and actionable advice.
MITX Up provides unique value to the startup world. Historically, through the accelerator programs, participating entrepreneurs had access to mentorship as it relates to raising money and product development, but rarely has it been focused on marketing and communications, which are important building blocks for these companies as they work to engage new customers, investors and employees.
Through MITX Up, entrepreneurs now have access to free advice and knowledge that ordinarily would be difficult for them to tap and can help propel them forward – including branding, positioning, web site design, SEO/SEM, social media, UX, PR, lead generation, advertising, email marketing, etc. This kind of help is game changing for the startup community.
MITX Up has run four pilot sessions to date – one at TechStars Boston, with our marketing experts helping three exciting start-ups over the course of four hours; the other three hackathons took place at MassChallenge where our teams of marketing experts assisted 11 startups in their accelerator program.
The feedback from the entrepreneurs was nothing short of amazing. They loved it! For many, it was the first time they had even thought about marketing, some had no knowledge whatsoever of marketing and communication in their background or on their teams. All felt that they now had some actionable advice to use in support of growing their companies.
We’ve had over 50 expert marketers join us to hack – many came to every session. These marketers have also loved this experience. They get a chance to roll up their sleeves and flex their creative muscles in new ways and found working with the startups to be inspiring and energizing. And they have the opportunity to meet other like-minded marketing people in the Boston community – it’s a win-win-win!
We're ready to scale this initiative. We know it works and brings real value to entrepreneurs while strengthening our amazing marketing community here. We need more marketing experts to volunteer to help. If this sounds like something you’d like to do, you can apply here to join our marketing hackathon corps: http://bit.ly/vEy9Gr
So there you have it! We’re thrilled to be a part of this great ecosystem and to further our ties; helping to make it stronger and grow. Even better, starting Nov. 1st, MITX has a new home, co-locating with MassChallenge in their incredible office space donated to them by developer Joe Fallon. Proximity creates opportunity – we can’t wait to see what’s next.
(Photo courtesy/copyright of Greg Gomer, BostInnovation.)