A Shawnee woman is preparing for a temporary change of residence after finding out that she — along with some other entrepreneurs from around the world — has been chosen for an accelerator program that will jump-start her dream.

A Shawnee woman is preparing for a temporary change of residence after finding out that she — along with some other entrepreneurs from around the world — has been chosen for an accelerator program that will jump-start her dream.

Local resident Rebecca Roach, 24, just received word that her business start-up has been accepted by MassChallenge for a four-month accelerator program in Boston beginning this month.

Fifteen hundred businesses applied and 128 were accepted — Roach's startup, Trubadour, was the only one from Oklahoma accepted.

“I'm very excited to be joining early stage, high impact startups in Boston starting June 20,” Roach said.

Of his next door neighbor, Joe Hall said Roach's business is one which promotes exchanges of poetry among poets, using recent computer technology to help communication.

Roach said her idea for Trubadour began when she was studying poetry in an MFA program at Purdue in late 2015/ early 2016.

“I wanted to know what a 'Pandora for Poetry' would look like — a way to access content and recommendations that you could thumbs up or thumbs down according to your tastes” she said. “I wanted to see what my peers were writing, in a way that quickly allowed me to determine if I wanted to read more or not.”

She said after talking to more than 40 emerging poets across the country, the concept shaped into a social engagement platform (like LinkedIn for poets) and a marketplace for vibrant, contemporary poems, while still retaining content and recommendations at the core.

Roach said she learned about MassChallenge when visiting Boston in February to co-host an interdisciplinary event for poetry and technology.

“This year, my designer/developer, Linus Lee, and I entered various accelerator competitions, and we won second place in the Purdue Boiler Business Competition,” she said. “As we were at work in the Boiler — Lee in Lafayette, Indiana; me working remotely from Shawnee, I decided to apply to MassChallenge.”

The entry fee guaranteed individual feedback on each application, and with a 50-percent discount promo code from an entrepreneur friend, it seemed like an opportunity she couldn’t afford to miss.

“I spent around 24 hours on my written application, making sure every character was used to maximum effect, and met the deadline March 29,” she said.

She said she will be in Boston for at least the duration of the accelerator — from June 21 to Nov 2.

“My hunch is, though, that the rich literary scene and strong startup ecosystem in Boston will result in a longer stay, though it’s uncertain at this point where development will take me,” she said. “Maybe Trubadour will call Boston home-base.”

She said she believes MassChallenge will help her achieve at least three major goals for Trubadour:

• Team: find the right people and put them in the right places 'on the bus,' to decide where to drive it.

“I am especially looking for a developer or software engineer who can serve in a Chief Technology Officer capacity,” she said.

• Converge on the business model: determine the best way to serve three core segments (poets, non-poet readers, and literary journals/magazine editors) and how to monetize Trubadour's offering to create a sustainable venture.

• Develop a recommendation algorithm to make finding good poetry easy and more accessible for readers.

“To inform the algorithm, we are beginning to experiment with a new framework for assessing poems. I’m calling it the Poem Genome Project, similar to the Human Genome Project or Pandora’s Music Genome Project, where we’ll use certain characteristics and stylistic elements to chart a poem’s DNA,” she said.

About being the only Oklahoma finalist, Roach said she feels extremely grateful — not only for this rare and invaluable opportunity, but also that others would believe in Trubadour’s mission.

“It seems even people in the business world are intrigued,” she said, “and that encouragement fuels me even more to prove something that I know to be true —that poetry has real, concrete value as well as subjective value as art.”

She said her guess is that her acceptance into MassChallenge is unfortunately rare for the region and state because not many local startups (beyond the few in Texas that were also accepted) know about programs like this offered in the New England area.

“I was just fortunate to have a budding network there, alerting me of the opportunity,” she said. “In the future, I hope more startups from Oklahoma and the Midwest apply, especially high-impact, early-stage startups.”

About Roach

She was raised in Shawnee. She attended Casady High School and later, William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri, where she studied music history in the Oxbridge Honors Program. She attended Oxford University for her junior year, and after graduation, pursued a Masters in Fine Arts degree for poetry before deciding to shift directions to focus on Trubadour full-time.

“As an artist, I never anticipated becoming an entrepreneur, much less a future founder and CEO,” she said. “But then again, in both music and writing, one must learn the core principles of creating something from scratch and continually adjusting and refining to reach your end-objective.”

She said she took a risk in starting Trubadour, but the effort could not have continued without the support she's received from her communities — her next-door neighbors, Joe and Ronda Hall (retired OBU faculty), English and Business professors at OBU, local poets in Shawnee and in Edmond at UCO, and mentors at Purdue and in Boston.


Just 8 percent of the 1,500 globally competitive applicants to the program have been accepted into the summer-long program that culminates on Nov. 2 at the MassChallenge Boston Awards Ceremony with participants competing for more than $1.5 million in equity-free awards. The program’s 128 participants are from 12 countries and 16 U.S. states.

“The quality of this year’s applicant pool is a real testament to the community’s efforts to inspire and support individuals who are working to solve some of the world’s biggest problems,” said Kiki Mills Johnston, Managing Director, MassChallenge Boston. "I’m excited to welcome the 2017 cohort to Boston this summer. This is just the beginning.”

Since March, top investors, serial entrepreneurs, corporate executives, academics, and more have evaluated over 1,500 applications based on each startup’s ability to demonstrate impact and potential, which ranges from scientific breakthroughs to industry disruptions. Many of these judges remain actively involved throughout the four-month MassChallenge Boston program as mentors, speakers, and even potential partners.

Of the 128 startups selected:

• 30 percent are healthcare and life sciences

• 29 percent are high tech

• 20 percent are general, retail and consumer goods

• 16 percent are social impact

• 6 percent are clean tech and energy

As part of the 2017 cohort, startups will have unrivaled access to top corporate partners, expert mentorship, tailored curriculum, and more than 26,000 square-feet of co-working space in Boston’s dynamic Innovation and Design Building — all at zero cost and for zero equity.

“Over the past seven years, MassChallenge has graduated more than 1,200 entrepreneurs from our intensive accelerator, enabling them to create enormous impact around the world,” said John Harthorne, Founder and CEO of MassChallenge. “We are proud to welcome such a high-potential class of startups to MassChallenge, and are excited to help them define their future and maximize their impact.”

About MassChallenge

MassChallenge is a startup accelerator. No equity and not-for-profit, MassChallenge helps entrepreneurs across any industry. It rewards the highest-impact startups through a competition to win a portion of several million dollars in equity-free cash awards. Through our global network of accelerators in Boston, the UK, Israel, Switzerland, and Mexico, and unrivaled access to our corporate partners, we can have a massive impact — driving growth and creating value the world over. To date, 1,211 MassChallenge alumni have raised more than $2 billion in funding, generated approximately $900 million in revenue, and created over 65,000 direct and indirect jobs.

For more information, visit masschallenge.org.

Roach has a GoFundMe page to help offset the cost of moving to Boston for the program. She has to reach a $5,000 goal (she has 10 percent as of June 6) to make it financially possible to live in Boston and work full-time on the venture for the duration of the accelerator. To make a donation, visit her page at www.gofundme.com/poetryatMC.

Supporters also can sign up at www.trubadour.com to receive bi-weekly updates and poems by emerging artists.

You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.