WGBH News and Media Relations


May 20, 2014

WGBH’s Jon Abbott Joins MassChallenge Board of Advisors

Innovation powerhouses join forces to boost Boston’s startup community

BOSTON, Mass. (May 20, 2014) – Heralding WGBH’s innovative approach to mission-driven broadcasting and the public broadcaster’s leadership to advance technology that has made media accessible to more people, MassChallenge, the world’s largest startup accelerator, has named WGBH President and CEO Jon Abbott to its Board of Advisors. MassChallenge also selected WGBH as the site of the announcement of its latest finalists.

On Wednesday, May 21, WGBH will host MassChallenge at its Brighton studios as they unveil the 128 finalists selected to join their four-month startup accelerator program. More than 300 experts, including executives from WGBH, will choose the 128 highest-impact startups to participate in MassChallenge’s four-month accelerator program that will begin in June. MassChallenge cofounders John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam will participate along with Kara Miller, host of WGBH/Public Radio International’s Innovation Hub (Saturdays, 10am on 89.7 WGBH), and WGBH’s COO Ben Godley in the private event that will also feature presentations from three of this year’s finalists. The event is scheduled to start at 1:30pm on May 21.

“WGBH has an innovative vision for public media that makes me proud to have them in Boston and to count as a fellow nonprofit and partner,” said Harthorne. “Jon Abbott's leadership and experience is a welcomed addition to our board of advisors, as MassChallenge continues to support entrepreneurs in Boston and around the world.”

WGBH is the nation’s leading producer of television and digital content for PBS and has long been one of public broadcasting’s most innovative producers. More than 40 years ago, WGBH created American television’s lifestyle genre when it originated The French Chef with Julia Child, as well as popular science programming through the production and distribution of Nova, America’s first science television series, that opened the door for other popular science television programs.

In April, MassChallenge announced that more than 1,600 startups from 50 countries and 41 states submitted applications to participate in the 2014 accelerator program – its largest applicant pool ever. Since launching its first class in 2010, 489 MassChallenge alumni startups have raised over $550 million in outside funding, generated a more than $350 million in revenue and created more than 4,000 jobs, including 2,500 in Massachusetts.

“WGBH is excited to partner with MassChallenge and support our region’s dynamic and growing startup community. We are proud of our own innovative tradition that created new genres of American television entertainment, and we look forward to working alongside many of the most creative entrepreneurs in the world,” said Abbott. “As the media landscape continues to evolve and offers viewers and listeners more choices on more platforms, this partnership will help WGBH maintain its pioneering role in public broadcasting’s future.”

Beyond its broadcast commitment, WGBH has embraced the startup culture to develop technology and support research that makes media accessible to more people. WGBH developed closed captioning for television, making media accessible to people with hearing disabilities. In 1993, WGBH established the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media to address barriers to media and develop emerging technologies for people with disabilities in their homes, schools, workplaces and communities. NCAM was a MassChallenge finalist in 2011.

WGBH is also a leader in digital content production for public media. Last month, WGBH and PBS Kids unveiled Plum Landing, a new digital-only production produced in Boston by WGBH that teaches 6- to 9-year-olds environmental science. The web production and companion app use interactive technology developed in a way that allows children to share user-generated content at scale in compliance with federal requirements that protect children’s identity. Since launching in late April, Plum Landing has received 40,000 submissions from users and streamed more than 24 million videos across its various platforms.

About WGBH:

WGBH Boston is America’s preeminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the Web. Television channels include WGBH 2, WGBX 44, and the digital channels World and Create. WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH, Boston Public Radio; 99.5 WCRB; and WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® Station. Find more information at wgbh.org.

About MassChallenge:

MassChallenge is the world’s largest startup accelerator and the first to support high-impact, early-stage entrepreneurs with no strings attached. Over $1 million in cash prizes is awarded to winning startups, with zero equity taken. Additional benefits for startups include world-class mentorship and training, free office space, access to funding, legal advice, media attention and over $10 million of in-kind support. MassChallenge is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. All proceeds support the startups via the accelerator program. MassChallenge does not take equity or place any restrictions on participating startups.

MassChallenge top partners include: Jamestown, Fidelity Investments, Verizon, the Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation, CASIS, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The Deshpande Foundation, Microsoft, American Airlines, iNNpulsa, Colombia, Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, Mass Tech Collaborative, Pfizer, Henkel, Turnstone, Zapopan and now WGBH Boston.



WGBH Media Relations

Emily Balk

Catherine Burke