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The Silver Lining (continued)

BELIEVE IN YOUR IDEA

Among the more recent additions to CIC is MassChallenge, a new venture capital competition co-founded by Akhil Nigam, David Constanine, and John Harthorne, MBA '07, inspired by MIT's own $100K Competition, which Harthorne won in 2007. Their premise: to promote the development and growth of startups in Massachusetts by providing grants of $50,000 and seed funding for winning business plans to launch immediately in the Commonwealth.

As the team of three refined the pitch on their idea and began networking, they found support in the right places, including an endorsement from Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, SM '07, co-founder and chairman of Sycamore Networks. Deshpande's support of the MassChallenge idea led not only to the provision of free office space at CIC, but ultimately paved the way for a $100,000 planning grant from the John Adams Innovation Institute of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

Within 48 hours, notes Harthorne, the $100,000 state grant was converted into $325,000, thanks to additional contributions from Deshpande, Microsoft, and the Kauffman Foundation. This builds a base of support for the significant fund raising that still lies ahead to reach their goal of more than $25 million.

“Entrepreneurship is a contact sport … it can't be learned in a classroom,” says Harthorne, citing a quote from Joe Hadzima, former chair of the MIT Enterprise Forum. “You have to have perseverance and you have to believe in your idea.”

You also have to convince funders and customers alike that your idea is as good as or even better than you think it is.

“It's very important to care about your idea and to think about it all the time,” stresses Harthorne. “You have to be able to say, ‘This is going to change the world,' and you have to believe it.”

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