Over the past few days some of the best and brightest minds in Boston gathered at the office of the world’s largest startup competition otherwise known as MassChallenge (or BostInno HQ). The reason for the gathering was to kick off the MassChallenge 2011 startup competition with a once in a lifetime education workshop or bootcamp.

The bootcamp is divided into five sections and spans five days. It is currently in the middle of day three and as I write this piece I am listening to Ken Morse, cofounder of 3Com, deliver his talk on selling globally.

The first day was all about the launch and how to win at MassChallenge and entrepreneurship. During the morning session founders of MassChallenge John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam spoke along with Chief Mentorship Officer Karl Buttner. The finalists were also treated to an alumni panel featuring companies from last year, Zyrra, Rentabilites, Locately, Osmopure and Abroad101.

After lunch the finalists were treated to a few incredible talks from well known Boston entrepreneurs. Speakers included Scott Griffith CEO of Zipcar (The Most Important Innovation of All), Jeff Taylor CEO of Monster.com (Go Hard or Go Home) and Bill Warner serial entrepreneur and angel investor (How to Build Your Startup From the Heart).

The second day was all about marketing specifically pitching and gaining influence. Speakers included Chris Colbert CEO of Holland-Mark (Finding Your One Simple Thing), Howard Kogan Chief Tech and Strategy Officer of Communispace (The Most Underrated Marketing Strategy), Emily Green Chairman of the Yankee Group (Presenting with Impact), Stan Dolberg Founder of Carriage House Consulting (Understanding and Impacting Others) and Laura Fitton founder of oneforty (Social Media).

Our intern Ayla had the privilege of sitting in on a few of these presentations and here are our favorites so far.

Bill Warner

When starting a company or developing a product it is more important to focus on meeting an unmet and not filling an emotional void. Focus on invention versus intention; know who your people are and how you are going to help them. Stay true to your intentions and you can have it all.

Chris Colbert

Things have changed. In order to be successful you have to have customers that LOVE your product or service not just like it and are willing to promote it. It is very important to have a clear message and that you must have One Simple Thing. The criteria for OST are that it has to be true, relative, motivating and distinct. Make your OST into a one page plan which will help you grab people attention so they want to know more about your company and what you are doing.

Howard Kogan

LISTEN. When people feel like companies are listening and they feel comfortable, they are likely to share. Companies have many listening tools at their disposal; a few examples are Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. Use them to get feedback before it is too late. Use the feedback to help you decide whether to make changes (example Gap logo), Improve products or services, or create products and services together with your customers.

Emily Green

“Good speakers are made not born. Plan, practice, polish.” For a speech to be great it must be both memorable and impactful. To prepare a speech plan with a clear goal in mind, budget your time, and know your audience. Prepare yourself by planning your style, PRACTICING, and managing your nerves. For your slides keep it simple, balance text and graphics, and “stay away from cute unless you’re Disney.”

As I mentioned earlier, today is only day three of this five day bootcamp. Day four resumes after the holiday with a full day of war stories and advice from serial entrepreneurs. Speakers and participants include Christopher Austin Partner at Goodwin Procter, David Cancel CEO of Performable, Gina Ashe CEO of Krush, David Friend CEO of Carbonite and Iqbal Qadir Founder/Director, Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship at MIT.

The last day of the bootcamp and certainly not the least is all about finance, “Show Me the Money: How to Finance Your Startup.” Speakers and participants during this day include
Jean Hammond Angel Investor, Dan Allred Senior Relationship Manager at Silicon Valley Bank, Ed Mallen CEO of TimeTrade, Paul Sweeny Partner at Foley Hoag, Jeff Bussgang Partner at Flybridge Capital and Colin Angle Founder and CEO of iRobot.

One of the greatest parts of this bootcamp is my ability to eavesdrop on the talks and panels. I had absolutely no idea that this type of entrepreneurial knowledge dropping existed in Boston until now. These 140 finalists have an incredible opportunity to learn from some of the best and brightest minds here in Boston and coupled with the mentors from the program, I know that we can expect tremendous growth from all of these companies.

Check out some of the pictures from the first three days from Jodi-Tatiana Charles.

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