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    MassChallenge reveals 125 start-up finalists

    After their family home in Monson was hit by the tornadoes last June, Caitria O’Neill and her sister Morgan decided to launch, a website platform for towns needing to rebuild after disasters.

    Now is one of 125 finalists revealed on Tuesday by MassChallenge, the Boston-based nonprofit that offers more than $1 million in annual prizes and services to promising start-ups from all over the world.

    “We’re trying to start a business, but we’re not business people,” Caitria O’Neill said. “What we’ve got is a social mission, a really awesome set of tools, and now we have to make it something sustainable. That’s what MassChallenge represents to us.”


    This year’s MassChallenge class will participate in a three-month “accelerator program” that includes mentoring services, free office space, access to funding, and legal advice.

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    The start-ups will also compete for $1.1 million in cash prizes, to be split between the top 10 to 20 start-ups in the class. The funding, which will be awarded in October, is funded from multiple sources, including grants from the John W. Henry Foundation and the Perkins School for the Blind. The winning companies will also receive “privileged access” to investors looking to fund “high-growth” companies, according to a statement released by MassChallenge.

    The finalists were chosen from among 1,237 applicants from 36 states and 35 countries -- up 69 percent from last year. Ninety of the 125 finalists are based in Massachusetts; the rest included start-ups from, among other places, California, Texas, Israel, India, and Russia. Applications were open to any start-up, anywhere in the world, that has the potential to invigorate the economy and create new jobs.

    Many of the start-ups are categorized as high tech, life sciences/health care, or social impact companies.

    MassChallenge launched its first accelerator in 2010; the nonprofit said the first class of finalists has collectively raised more than $100 million in outside funding and created at least 500 jobs.

    Gail Waterhouse can be reached at