MassChallenge and Abroad101: A Recipe for Success

Art on the wall of the MassChallenge office

Inspirational Wall Art at the MassChallenge Office

Last week, our President and Co-Founder, Mike Stone, wrote a great piece for the MassChallenge blog on how Abroad101 was born and what has helped the success we’re enjoying today. “Listen, Tweak, Repeat” he wrote, on how to build a successful business. The MassChallenge startup accelerator may not have been mentioned in that post, yet their support and assistance  has been integral to our growth. Below, Mike elaborates on how winning the first MassChallenge competition in 2010 has contributed to our progress as a company.

The following was written by Mike Stone, President and Co-Founder of Abroad101

How did you hear of MassChallenge?

My business partner Adam Miller had met John Harthorne at various Boston start-up events, and I remember sitting down with John and David Constantine several years ago when it was in the very beginning stages. Even at that point of inception, I left that lunch incredibly impressed with John and David’s passion for providing unprecedented access to key resources for start-ups like ours.  However, I was most amazed that, opposed to other “incubators” that I was familiar with, they were planning on establishing a non-profit that would demand no equity in the companies they were supporting.  The spark in their eyes and enthusiasm around this concept really intrigued us, and the launch of the competition in 2010 could not have been more perfectly aligned with Abroad101’s evolution. The entire MassChallenge team has exhibited social entrepreneurship at its best, and we are so honored to have been a winning team in the first year of a program that continues to gain more prominence over time.

How has MassChallenge helped Abroad101?

Whenever people ask me to describe MassChallenge, my response is always prompt and enthusiastic: “It’s like start-up boot camp.  On steroids.”   In the metaphorical “Path to Entrepreneurship,” MassChallenge helps you navigate around traffic, gives you access to luxury digs, and provides you with unlimited gas…for your state-of-the-art spaceship.  I love it here.

I think one of the greatest assets of MassChallenge is that it expedited our progress by providing time sensitivity and deadlines around achieving milestones.  The combination of the 3-month “competition” with the incredible support from mentors and the other teams is any entrepreneur’s dream.

When I reflect on the value MassChallenge has provided, I think about the excitement to wake up every day and work in a space with such motivated, bright, and fun entrepreneurs. I recall the incredible guidance from our mentors, like receiving expert advice on how to write a press release from a neighbor in the space, Jodi, who happened to be an award-winning producer of Matty in the Morning (and is now a dear friend).  And I remember the Press Night (also organized by Jodi) when we were sitting at our cube and approached by journalists from The Economist, leading to an amazing mention.  MassChallenge continues to help us win, and a conversation with any alumni will reinforce the strong commitment that we all feel to support this extended family of entrepreneurs.

What are your goals for the next year?

Our founding team frequently discusses how every time we look at the year ahead we are overwhelmed by the ambitious goals that we set.  Yet, looking back at the previous year, we realize our past targets have been fulfilled, and we continue to set a precedent for more aggressive goals moving forward.

This is going to be a huge year for Abroad101.  We are so excited to continue to expand our team, which has been one of the most rewarding aspects of our growth.  We also look forward to the approaching milestone of reaching profitability.  Since starting Abroad101, we have dreamed about scaling our software globally and we plan to take the successful tools that we have developed for outbound study abroad students and expand into other verticals.

What was your favorite memory of being abroad?

Yikes! This is a tough one…I feel like I’m a parent being asked which child is my favorite.  The answer is obviously the one who joined a rock band in Melbourne.  When I was studying at The University of Melbourne, I had the opportunity to live in a residential college.  Based on the Oxford system, this living arrangement was a highlight of my semester, as I lived with predominantly Aussies and enjoyed Harry Potter-style high table dinners and late night philosophical discussions with the faculty-in-residence.

At the end of my term, I was invited to be the lead singer in an 80’s cover rock band for an upcoming concert. I immediately accepted, mostly due to the fact that this is something that I would never do back at home, but apparently flying halfway around the world left every reasonable inhibition behind.  Performing with that band was the most frightening, energizing, and rewarding experience. I also recall ad-libbing a full song about pommes frites (French fries), in French, during a jam session with local students at another program in southern France.  I love how, the further you distance yourself from your comfort zone, the more studying abroad allows you to mold a “rockstar” version of yourself.

Thanks, MassChallenge for being the support system we need and we look forward to watching you provide amazing support for the next class of entrepreneurs!

Interested in viewing some of our stellar reviews on programs? Read through them here!