Boston-based startup incubator MassChallenge launched a 5,000 square-foot maker space today called Made @ MassChallenge to allow participants to create prototypes onsite. The new area is adjacent to the MassChallenge offices in Boston and enables those folks developing hardware prototypes to move easily between the two spaces during the day.
The environment was created with the help of sponsors including Lightspeed MFG, Jabil and Continuum, which donated $250,000 worth of equipment and design expertise to help build and equip the room with everything an entrepreneur might need to build a prototype. It includes basic tools like soldering irons and drills, as well as more sophisticated equipment like a Formlabs 3D Printing System and a Conceptions Convection Reflow Oven.
Scott Bailey, the Managing Director of MassChallenge Boston says prior to building Made@, participants who were looking to create a prototype had no central place to go. They had to work with mentors in the program and try to navigate the various resources across the state they needed to work with to build their device, a process that took time and limited their ability to iterate.
With the space onsite, yet separate from the MassChallenge office, participants can move easily throughout the day from the Made@ area where they might be working on their prototype to the offices where they might be meeting mentors or investors.
And Bailey says they have designed the new area, so someone on the phone in the offices won’t be bothered by the sound of equipment from across the hall.
For starters, the new program is open to the 2015 class and any MassChallenge alumni who want to participate. They hope to be able to coordinate its usage to balance the needs and timing of the various groups who will be using it.
“What we are seeing is alumni need access for a day or two. 2015 finalist coming in for the summer will have access to it for the four months [they are participating in the MassChallenge program],” he said. He anticipates they will be in there every day tinkering, but they can still have access it once the program is over, as with all alumni, to continue their work.
Continuum, a design and innovation firm in West Newton, Mass helped design the space. Lee Moreau, principal at Continuum says he met the MassChallenge founders several years ago, but they saw the new project as a place that made sense for his firm to get involved in helping with the layout and mentoring around the prototyping process.
“It’s a 5000 square foot experiential prototyping lab, which is similar to what we have in West Newton [on a smaller scale]. We tried to model the equipment and signage cues in the workflow of what we do,” he said.
Moreau says just having a place to work onsite is going to be invaluable to participants in the program.
“They will understand in learning by doing, trying to build things with their own labor, and become more educated and sophisticated about what happens next. It will accelerate prototypes and conversations and that’s what an accelerator should be doing,” he said.
MassChallenge is a startup incubator founded in Boston in 2009, which uses a contest model to willow each class down to 128 members, of which 26 enter finals for prizes and cash with the winner taking home $100,000. As part of the program, it provides each team with mentorship, office space, education, access to their resources network.
MassChallenge reports its program is equity free, meaning it takes no company equity in exchange for participating. According to numbers provided by the company, 617 startups have gone through the program since 2010, raising $706 million in funding, generating $404 million in revenue and creating 4,800 jobs.