The 26 Coolest Startups in Massachusetts

If President Obama and Mitt Romney agree on one thing, it’s that America needs more job creators. If they wanted to see a few in action, they should have attended last night’s awards ceremony for MassChallenge, the Innovation District-based business accelerator and competition. Twenty-six finalists from the 2012 class showed off their work, and were awarded with a total of $1.1 million in cash and $9 million in other benefits, like office space at the Fan Pier and flights on American Airlines.

John Harthorne, the MassChallenge Founder and CEO, mentioned the presidential debate’s near singular focus on the economy and jobs in his opening remarks. He also honored Mayor Menino with the “Innovation Catalyst of the Year” award for the mayor’s work on the Innovation District in the Seaport neighborhood. Keynote speaker Governor Deval Patrick, meanwhile, delivered a rousing speech on Massachusetts’s leadership in education and innovation, a potent reminder. Both Patrick and Menino deserve credit for their contributions to the group, but they also are smart to affiliate themselves with the startups, which have been an economic success: Since 2010, the 361 startups that have entered the competition have created nearly 3,000 jobs and are closing in on nearly $100 million in revenue.

About those job creators: The 26 finalists are a diverse group, with businesses focused on everything from dental implants (Guided Surgery Solutions) to disaster relief ( to clothing design (Ministry of Supply) to food-focused nonprofit (Lovin’ Spoonfuls).

The most compelling companies, though, were the four diamond winners, which each took home the big prize of $100,000. Strong Arm Technologies designed a vest to help workers lift objects and RallyPoint created a LinkedIn for the military. LiquiGlide, meanwhile, is run by those MIT geniuses who invented that super slippery coating inside the ketchup bottle—you may remember the viral video:

Finally, Global Research Innovation & Technology (GRIT), another $100,000 winner, ought to win the most inspiring award, for designing and building wheelchairs that are capable of handling tough off-road terrain: