Brandeis International Business School

MassChallenge founders encourage global entrepreneurship at 2015 Asper Awards

‘Entrepreneurship in Latin America’ event highlights innovation centers abroad.

Professor Charles Reed poses with John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam.

John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam were the 2015 recipients of the Asper Award for their success with their startup, MassChallenge.

Brandeis International Business School honored MassChallenge co-founders John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam on April 2 with the 2015 Asper Award for Global Entrepreneurship. 

Held at Boston’s Seaport Hotel, the event was co-hosted by the Asper Center for Global Entrepreneurship and the Latin America Initiative at Brandeis International Business School and attended by business leaders, faculty, alumni and students. 

Asper Center co-director and Brandeis International Business School faculty member Charles Reed presented the awards, highlighting MassChallenge’s recent success as the largest-ever startup accelerator with world-class mentorship and training, free office space and access to funding. MassChallenge alumni startups have raised more than $700 million in funding, generated $400 million in revenue and have created nearly 4,800 jobs. Reed also noted MassChallenge’s recent commitment to expanding the accelerator program to 10 additional cities throughout the world in the next four years. Harthorne, CEO of MassChallenge, and Nigam, former president of MassChallenge, spoke of their successes with the company as well as their plans to foster a new generation of entrepreneurs and dreamers in Latin America.

“A lot of entrepreneurship is happening in Latin America,” said Nigam. “Ten or so years ago, it was a different kind of entrepreneurship, like family businesses or people who didn’t have enough resources. Today, we have a brand new class of entrepreneurs being created in Latin America with global ambitions.”

Later in the evening, panelists from Colombia, Brazil and Mexico joined Aldo Musacchio, Brandeis International Business School professor and Director of the Latin America and Brazil Initiatives, in a panel discussion on the evolution and current state of entrepreneurship in Latin America. 

Panelists included Juan José Álvarez López, deputy consul for the Consulate General of Colombia in Boston; Dr. Karin Breitman, general manager of the R&D Center at EMC Brazil; and Carlos Martinez-Vela, president of Venture Café Foundation Mexico. They discussed innovation centers and entrepreneurial challenges in their countries and ways Latin American entrepreneurs can be bridged to Boston’s resources.

“These companies need role models, success stories,” said Dr. Breitman. “We don’t have enough of those in Brazil.”

Stressing the importance of global reach and collaboration, Martinez-Vela said, “The key is not what we are here to buy or sell, but what we can do together.” 

Entrepreneurship in Latin America is one of many Brandeis International Business School’s efforts dedicated to building alliances in the region across business, academia, and government. Additional activities include partnerships with four schools in Brazil, Colombia and Mexico and an upcoming Hassenfeld Fellow Immersion trip to Panama and Colombia.

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