August 28, 2013

Acceleration: The Story of Gentoo (Part I)

Part one of a three-part series

Like many people our age, we find ourselves working in a small cubicle in an office building. This office is different than most, though. The two men sitting behind us are from Ireland and are working on a cure for multiple sclerosis. The people in the cube in front of us are a group doing something called “Live cell in-vitro diagnostics.” The CEOs of Monster.com and Carbonite tell us that we are changing the world and the way they do business. From our little cubicle we can see Blue Hills, Logan Airport, and the Prudential Center. This is life on the 14th floor of 1 Marina Park Drive, the home of MassChallenge, an annual $1 million global startup competition and accelerator program. Approximately 1,200 teams applied for a position and this summer we are part of the final 128 who will pitch for the grand prize in October. Last year we won Accelerate, Wentworth’s innovation and entrepreneurship challenge. This year we’re founders of Gentoo, Inc., a Massachusetts startup corporation that developed the Gentoo Vest, a vest that consolidates equipment and medication for individuals going through outpatient infusion treatments.

The Beginning
It started with Accelerate, on September 19, 2012, in the room in this picture, with an idea sketched out on a piece of notebook paper

This was the introductory meeting to the Fall 2012 iteration of Accelerate. If you don’t know about Accelerate, you need to. It is life changing—trust us. Accelerate is an incubator designed to help students grow their ideas for products or services into start-ups. Workshops are held and speakers give talks on entrepreneurship. At the end of three months, there is a pitchfest where teams compete for grants. MassChallenge is run the same way, only the speakers are people like Colin Angle, CEO of iRobot, and the grants are for $100,000. Most people only see it as a way to win money, but funding is only a small fraction of the value of Accelerate. It’s about the experience. In the beginning, it was difficult to manage the workload. Preparation to pitch in Accelerate is comparable to playing a sport as far as the amount of time, blood, sweat, and tears involved. Just as sports teams have coaches, Accelerate teams are set up with mentors to help them learn how to build their start-ups. Monique Fuchs, associate vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship and the head of Accelerate, seems to know everyone in the world and constantly connected us with people willing to help. Her resources and connections are limitless.

Moving on to MassChallenge
As we prepared for MassChallenge, Monique managed to get us a one-on-one session with the same pitch coach MassChallenge paid to give a presentation to an entire group of teams. Having coaches like that can do wonders for your business plan and help identify weaknesses and encourage strengths. Our Accelerate mentors, plus the support and encouragement from our friends and family, helped us through 11 months of all the challenges that come with starting a business.

After endless design modifications, piles of patent paperwork, and thousands of practice pitches, we’re preparing for the pitch of our lives with MassChallenge in October. Every small victory opens new doors and opportunities. As amazing as it would be to win MassChallenge, we know now that it’s only another step in the journey. We never would have predicted we would be here a year ago. We can’t predict where we’ll be a year from now. What we can tell you is that the last 11 months have been a truly amazing experience.

As Wentworth student Thomas Fuller said during his Commencement speech last spring, “When you finally make it, that satisfaction will feel so good, you’d think it was a dream.”

For more info, visit: http://www.gentooinc.com/

Part II

Part III

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