James Testa, BSBA ’17, has had a caffeine-fueled year.
He started delivering his WarmUp Protein Coffee to customers. He launched the product on Amazon last winter. And in May, MassChallenge chose this young innovator for its prestigious accelerator program.
That’s a lot of success only two years out of his “Crowdfunding the Venture” class, where Testa developed the idea of a coffee-cum-protein beverage. Crowdfunding the Venture—one of the only crowdfunding classes in the nation—acts as a mini-incubator for undergraduates, who develop their own ventures and launch them on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. For budding entrepreneurs, there couldn’t be a better class.“
James and WarmUp Protein Coffee are a great example of what entrepreneurship is,” says Professor Jenni Dinger, who co-teaches the course with Professor Chaim Letwin. “It obviously took a lot of hard work but also a lot of patience. It's been a number of methodical steps for him: raising initial funds through Kickstarter, developing professional heat-sealed packaging, launching as Amazon Prime item, promoting the coffee at fitness events—and now MassChallenge. The whole process only started about two years ago, and it is incredible how well he’s done.”
Taking it to the next level
To be selected by MassChallenge, which dubs itself “the most friendly start-up accelerator on the planet,” is an honor for any start-up. For this newest cohort, the MassChallenge Boston office alone received more than 1,600 applications from around the world and chose only 128 start-ups. It can be an incredible boost to a fledgling product or service.
This wasn’t the first time Testa had tried to get his foot in the door at MassChallenge. He applied unsuccessfully last year, but this go-round, it was a different story.
“I spent all year getting the product out there, building the business, and getting some sales,” Testa says. “So when I went back to MassChallenge this year, I feel like I had a much better grasp of my business and who my customers were. And because I had real sales, I was a lot more confident about it. The proof of concept was already there.”
Start-ups chosen by MassChallenge get free office space, connections to industry-specific mentors, advice from venture capitalists, and the chance to win up to $1.5 million to help launch a business. But even with his latest success, Testa hasn’t forgotten the good old days.
“People remember me setting up in the library at 73 Tremont, and I would ask them to try this coffee I’d created. It’s kind of crazy to have come that far.”
“I spent all year getting the product out there, building the business, and getting some sales. So when I went back to MassChallenge this year, I feel like I had a much better grasp of my business and who my customers were. And because I had real sales, I was a lot more confident about it. The proof of concept was already there.” —James Testa
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