Austin welcomes startup accelerator program

Raga Justin

Eager for the chance to network with big names in business, entrepreneurs gathered for the launch of startup accelerator MassChallenge Texas Monday night.

The event at the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum marked the opening of the Austin branch of MassChallenge, a Boston based nonprofit accelerator program whose 1,211 startups boast nearly $2 billion in funding.

“It’s a celebration of entrepreneurship in the state of Texas,” said Dana Rygwelski, director of marketing for MassChallenge Texas. “As well as an introduction to MassChallenge and what we plan to do here in Texas to make it come to life.”

Texas currently hosts 54 of the Fortune 500 companies, as well as a number of venture capital firms, Rygwelski said.

As a hub of booming activity, MassChallenge Texas Director Mike Millard  said Austin was a strategic choice.

“This is a Texas play, and Austin is as good a place as any to start,” Millard said. “We have great venture capitalists, great talent, great universities, great corporations.”

In 2018, MassChallenge Texas will assist the development of up to 100 startups, one of which will then be awarded $500,000.

The program is student-friendly, Millard said.

“We think great ideas can come from anywhere,” Millard said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of bright students across this great state. I would encourage them to apply because you never know which mentor, which resource can actually connect them and help them grow.”

Members of UT’s Genesis Program, a program that provides students with mentors, investment experiences and early stage funding for startups, attended the event to interact with the Austin startup community.

“Our goal is to not only promote entrepreneurship, but promote entrepreneurship in the Austin community,” business honors sophomore Ryan Diebner said. “We try to make it out to different startup events in Austin like this one and network and get our name out there. We’re always looking out for new mentors and sources of capital.”

U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, said he thinks the program will encourage more innovation and economic expansion, and Austin is ready for the challenge.

“Some of the most exciting opportunities for UT graduates in business school, engineering and even liberal arts are in startups,” Doggett said. “A little risk, a lot of reward. Anything that helps those startups grow is good for our local economy, and it’s sure good for UT students.”