"Holy shit. I can’t believe I’m about to do this."
That’s all that was going through my mind, over and over again.
It’s 9:55 on a Monday morning, and in 5 minutes the phone is going to ring. On Friday afternoon, Molly offered me a healthy sum of money for a great job that’s a huge career boost.
Now I have to explain why I’m going to say “no thank you” to risk my career.
(photo courtesy of StuckInCustoms on Flickr)
Less than two weeks beforehand, we had pitched at MassChallenge for entry into the finals; John, Alex, and I had been moonlighting for a while on the product that would eventually become Grinnit.
That very same day, like an hour after the pitch, Molly called me based on a referral from one of my former employees. She had fast-tracked me through a hiring process, background checks, and references to get an offer in my hands within 8 days.
But she was two days too late; we’d heard back that we got into MassChallenge’s accelerator program.
"I hope you can understand," I said, "that this is not easy for me - these are two fantastic opportunities, and if the timing was just a week beforehand, we might be having a different conversation. I have to jump on this, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
And it was.
MassChallenge played a pivotal role in how my life - and many other lives for sure - for three big reasons:
1. The Fundamentals
While I’d built a business within a big company, and built software products and sold them to customers, doing it from scratch and doing it faster was different. It requires a specific set of tools that I hadn’t gotten a handle on yet. Sure I could sell and build, but there’s so much more to the story.
MassChallenge workshops and office hours were a firehose of information that helped us move quicker: legal (incorporation, understanding equity, and the basics of IP), Customer Development as a structured process, product marketing, Agile (I came from the land of Waterfalls), content marketing, understanding & quantifying markets (sizing, dynamics, disruptive opportunities)…
2. The Community
Having a hundred very very smart innovators working around you is an incredible thing - and the diversity of the group that MC pulls in is a huge advantage. Want to run a consumer facing software idea by someone who only knows Biotech? Yup, you can do it by walking 15 feet.
There’s so much going on, it can be distracting if you don’t figure out how to put your head down and focus. You learn quickly not to interrupt folks, to use the social events to build the peer group for everyone, and there are so many great opportunities to help folks out, it’s a great way to take a step back from your own stuff with a simple “how can I help you?”
The peer group, as well as the top-tier Mentors, taught me more than the workshops.
I still remember the first day working from the MC space - and that’s where I met dear friends that I’m still close with.
3. The Push
Deadlines enforce speed in action and decisions.
The first one MassChallenge had on me was The Jump; anyone who’s made it knows what I’m talking about here - the proverbial cliff that every Entrepreneur leaps off of. It’s gut wrenching, terrifying, and amazing. We all had to do it, and in my case, MassChallenge gave me a thing to leap into - not working from a local coffee shop just to be around people, to break the routing of making sales calls from my home. It forced to realize that whether I went to MC or not, taking that job offer was going to prevent me from ever being successful.
Later, it became deadlines around milestones, the peer pressure of the teams to ship product and close deals, and the electric energy of the place helped us accomplish more in three months than we would have in a year without it.
Let’s be clear about something… An Incubator is for maintaining conditions so something can hatch; an Accelerator is that thing under your foot when you’re in the drivers’ seat. You step on it, and you just keep gaining momentum.
As far as I’m concerned, the jury us still out on “success” in my career, but I’ll tell you that without MassChallenge to opportunities with Grinnit, Ringtela, The Martin Trust Center at MIT, and now Fitgiver would likely never have happened.
Thank you John, Akhil, and Karl - MassChallenge changed my life.
If you’re on the fence about it, just apply - the deadline is tomorrow. You’ll be glad you did.
Got a story like this one? I’d love to hear it; leave a comment, or hit me up on twitter at @rcolinkennedy.