Q&A with MassChallenge's Natalie Cantave

Natalie Cantave is a Marketing & Communications Coordinator for MC HealthTech, MassChallenge's digital health accelerator. Prior to MC, she worked in communications and product marketing for organizations like Dimensional Insight.

What drew you to an accelerator and working with startups?

I’ve always enjoyed working on small teams, where I can see the impact of my work, and I also enjoy working in fast-paced environments. These are important to me in an ideal work environment, which drew to an accelerator. I enjoy working with startups because they are risk-takers and unafraid to innovate, which I think is fascinating. It’s great to work such intelligent entrepreneurs who are coming up with solutions and products that can will impact the world.

Why MassChallenge?

MassChallenge is more than an accelerator. Being part of MassChallenge means joining a global community of innovators who are working together to solve some of the world’s massive challenges. MassChallenge is an organization where you can see the impact from a global scale. For example, over the last 10 years, MassChallenge has supported almost 2,000 startups that have generated $2.5B and created over 121K jobs, as mentioned in the recent 2018 Impact Report. We are supporting entrepreneurs and corporate partners and helping to make the world a better place, which is so fulfilling.

From your previous marketing roles and majoring in global health at Dartmouth, what are some key skills/competencies that have helped you for MassChallenge?

From my previous marketing role, I’ve gained the ability to work independently and in a collaborative setting, which has helped me at MassChallenge greatly. I am also able to ask for help when I need it, and I can support my team whenever anyone needs it. My psychology degree from Dartmouth has helped me keep in mind the need to create messaging to cater to the unique needs of various audiences (at MassChallenge: startups, partners, community). My certificate in Global Health helped me have a general understanding of the healthcare industry, even though I am still learning everyday about the innovation ecosystem.

Talk to me about the digital health accelerator. Why should a digital health company choose MassChallenge HealthTech over another accelerator program? How do you scout/source companies?

MassChallenge HealthTech, MCHT, is MassChallenge’s digital health accelerator, which was established in 2016. A digital health startup should choose MassChallenge HealthTech over another program because we offer them the opportunity to be a part of the digital health ecosystem in Boston. We also have access to amazing partners who are excited about working with startups. We scout/source companies in various ways – we look to meet digital health startups at conferences, we conduct research on the top startups, and we look to our partners and community to recommend startups.

What are the program benefits? What role do the partners play in the program (innovation hubs, etc.)?

Each digital health startup in our program receives a partnership offer through our matchmaking process. Startups get free office space in our Seaport office, and they have access to our community of experts, partners, and innovation enthusiasts. At the end of the program, startups are eligible to win more than $200K in equity-free, cash prizes. The partners, Champions, in our program (hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, technology companies, etc.) have the opportunity to work with startups for 6 months in our structured goals and milestones project management process.

What responsibilities are you taking on with marketing and communications? How do you collaborate with the startups in the program?

As the Marketing & Communications Coordinator for MassChallenge HealthTech, I am the marketing lead at the digital health accelerator. I direct the marketing and communication strategy and initiatives, so I have a lot of responsibility and get to wear different hats, which is exciting. I manage the marketing budget, PR and media relations, MCHT blog and social accounts. I am responsible for content direction and creation (case studies, research initiatives, etc.) and internal and external communications. Additionally, I support and execute events to integrate startup and partners into our digital health and innovation community. And so much more! During the program, I get to support startups with marketing resources; I schedule “office hours” to meet with entrepreneurs to help them with their marketing needs, which I’ve been enjoying since our 2019 program kicked off.

You get thousands of applicants each year. What are the main ways MassChallenge identifies finalists? In HealthTech specifically, are there certain trends your team is paying attention to like diagnostics or monitoring or preventive care?

MassChallenge gets thousands of applicants each year, and MassChallenge HealthTech gets hundreds of applicants. I can speak to how MassChallenge HealthTech specifically identifies finalists. We source and match startups based on the strategic initiatives and challenges of our Champion partners. Our Champion partners’ strategic initiatives and challenges are based on certain trends we are observing in healthcare, such as chronic disease management, access to care, artificial intelligence, consumer devices, etc. After two rounds of judging following the application data, we enter a matchmaking process to create the best startup-Champion partnerships.

What kind of post-accelerator support does MassChallenge offer? What visibility do you have to venture and other types of investors?

Startups have access to MassChallenge’s global community of alumni, mentors, and partners following the program. Startups also have the opportunity to work out of our Seaport office following the program, if they choose so. MassChallenge works with community partners, such as the New England Venture Capital Association, who have access to venture and the investor community. We also work to increase our visibility with the investor community by attending conferences and engaging with them at various events.

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in this accelerator role?

Such a big question. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is fighting the idea that there is always so much to do yet so little time especially being on a small team. Thankfully, I work with such a great team, where we are able to collaborate and support each other when times are busy in the office. The team I work with inspires me to be challenged and work hard every day.

What advice do you have for young women who want to enter VC – on the investing, operations, of platform side?

My advice for young women who want to enter VC/work with startups/be an entrepreneur would be: don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith when opportunities are in front of you. Be open-minded, and don’t hesitate to say yes – you never know where it will take you!

Rapid 🔥

An interesting MassChallenge HealthTech finalist? All the MCHT finalists are so interesting because of the work they are doing, so it’s hard to name one. However, if I had to pick one, it would be pumpspotting, a female-founded startup that uses technology and community to support breastfeeding mothers. They are interesting to me because they are innovating the way companies and society think about women’s health and motherhood. As a young woman and future mom someday, I’m inspired by the work they are doing to connect and support women.

A mobile app you can’t live without? I can’t live without Twitter because I get everything from cat videos to interesting news.

Way to destress? I enjoy listening to music or reading (currently reading Brotopia by Emily Chang) as a way to destress during my daily commute on the MBTA.