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American Airlines Partners With MassChallenge to Accelerate Growth for Small Businesses

Partnership Strengthens Global Access for High-growth Entrepreneurs

FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- American Airlines today announced their partnership with MassChallenge, a $1 million dollar global startup competition and accelerator designed to catalyze the success of high-growth, high-impact new businesses. The competition is open to anyone in the world with any new startup, in any industry.  American will award a total of 260,000 Business ExtrAA® points, the equivalent of more than 130 Plan AAhead® Economy Class round-trip tickets, to 26 MassChallenge finalist companies at the 2011 Awards Ceremony held in Boston on Oct. 24. In addition, all 125 companies that participate in the MassChallenge competition will receive 1,000 Business ExtrAA points after their first qualifying flight.

According to the U.S. Small Business Association, there were 27.5 million small businesses in the U.S. in 2009, representing 99.7 percent of all employer firms. Recognizing that the current economic crisis represents an opportunity to define the next generation of growth industries, American and MassChallenge are providing resources needed by startups – mentoring, networking events, travel, opportunities to showcase start-up company assets and infrastructure, and cash – to accelerate their growth and success. The MassChallenge judges panel will select the top 10 to 20 companies to split $1 million in cash among them. To view the current list of 2011 finalists, visit http://masschallenge.org/entrants/2011. The 111 MassChallenge 2010 alumni raised over $100 million in outside funding and created nearly 500 new jobs in the past year.

MassChallenge is an independent non-profit and does not take equity from startups or place any restrictions on winners. MassChallenge startups represent all industries and levels of development within the early-stage spectrum and with several hundred promising young startups in the mix, MassChallenge organizers expect a significant acceleration of growth and job creation over the next 24 months. That pace will only accelerate as more alumni are created each year. Last month, Ksplice, a 2010 MassChallenge winner, was acquired by Oracle, marking the first exit of a MassChallenge-supported startup. In addition, the Huffington Post recently purchased 2010 team Localocracy.

American Airlines identified MassChallenge as a program that highlights and attracts the top companies from around the world and aggregates resources for their success. American will serve as a partner to promote, highlight and accelerate opportunities for these companies. Entrepreneurs participating in the 2011 MassChallenge Competition will have the opportunity to win travel to stimulate their growth and have the face-to-face meetings so critical in this phase of development. American Airlines designed its Business Suite of products, which includes the Business ExtrAA® program, to serve the needs of entrepreneurs. Business ExtrAA is a travel and rewards incentive program that allows businesses to maximize the value of their travel. Travel expense reporting, newsletters, and rewards points that can be redeemed for flights and other rewards deliver additional value for entrepreneurs. There is no cost to join Business ExtrAA and enrollment is easy and convenient at www.aa.com/business.

"However you look at it, we will need to create a lot of new high-growth businesses to revitalize the economy," said John Harthorne, Founder and CEO, MassChallenge, Inc. "MassChallenge is the world's largest and, we believe, most effective private-sector platform for accelerating the launch and success of high-growth businesses. We are excited to begin a relationship with American Airlines and helping entrepreneurs win across the globe."

"American Airlines is focused on providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, especially in this tough economy," said Derek DeCross, American's Vice President - Sales. "We understand the importance of face-to-face meetings in building relationships that lead to new customers and growth. Survey results of our small business customers revealed that a significant majority of them believe face-to-face meetings are essential to their business' success. Our partnership with MassChallenge provides the opportunity for entrepreneurs worldwide to travel and have those critical meetings necessary to accelerate their growth and success."

MassChallenge Finalist Testimonials

MassChallenge-supported startups are among the most satisfied customers of any organization on the planet. Following the 2010 MassChallenge Accelerator, MassChallenge asked the 111 finalists how likely they were to recommend MassChallenge to other startups on a scale of 0-10. Nearly 80 percent answered 9 or 10 out of 10, and less than 1 percent answered 6 or lower. That results in a "Net Promoter Score" for MassChallenge of 87.3 percent, placing MassChallenge among the highest-rated brands in the world, slightly above Apple Computer based on 2010 data from: http://www.netpromoter.com.

Below are selections of testimonials collected during surveys from the 236 startups MassChallenge has accelerated over the past two years. For additional customer testimonials, contact MassChallenge. See the MassChallenge website for more about the 2011 class of 125 finalists.

"MassChallenge helps entrepreneurs that think big to think bigger. I thought Samanta Shoes could be a $10 million dollar business, but MassChallenge showed me how to make it into a $100 million dollar business." - Kelvin Joseph, Founder, Samanta Shoes (MassChallenge 2010 $100K winner).

"MassChallenge is, without a doubt, the best program of its kind. The mentorship, learning, and marketing opportunities available through the MassChallenge program are unparalleled." - Noetzel, Founder & CEO, Pintley (MassChallenge 2011 Finalist).

About American Airlines

American Airlines, American Eagle and the AmericanConnection® carrier serve 260 airports in more than 50 countries and territories with, on average, more than 3,400 daily flights. The combined network fleet numbers more than 900 aircraft. American's award-winning website, AA.com®, provides users with easy access to check and book fares, plus personalized news, information and travel offers. American Airlines is a founding member of the oneworld® alliance, which brings together some of the best and biggest names in the airline business, enabling them to offer their customers more services and benefits than any airline can provide on its own. Together, its members and members-elect serve more than 900 destinations with more than 10,000 daily flights to 149 countries and territories. American Airlines, Inc. and American Eagle Airlines, Inc. are subsidiaries of AMR Corporation. AmericanAirlines, American Eagle, AmericanConnection, AA.com, and AAdvantage are trademarks of American Airlines, Inc. (NYSE: AMR).

About Business ExtrAA®

Business ExtrAA is a program that rewards companies when their employees fly on American Airlines, American Eagle, or AmericanConnection with points that can be redeemed for flights, upgrades, Admirals Club memberships and conference rooms, and more. There is no cost to join and while the company earns points, employees still earn their AAdvantage miles. For details to enroll, visit www.aa.com/business.

About MassChallenge

MassChallenge is a $1M global startup competition and accelerator designed to catalyze the launch and success of high-growth, high-impact new businesses. MassChallenge is a 501(c)(3) (non-profit) and does not take equity from startups or place any restrictions on winners. President Obama honored MassChallenge in January of 2011 as one of the nation's best organizations for supporting high-growth entrepreneurs, and MassChallenge was the youngest inaugural member of the Startup America Partnership.

The second annual MassChallenge Competition launched on March 7, 2011 and received 733 entries by the application deadline on April 11. Ten to twenty winners will be announced on October 20, 2011 and will split $1M in cash awards. MassChallenge does not take any equity from the companies. The competition is open to anyone in the world, with any new startup, in any industry. Physical activities are based in Massachusetts where innovation resources are highly concentrated -- but there is no requirement for teams to create a physical presence in Massachusetts. Every entrant receives training, feedback, PR and networking support via expert volunteers from partner organizations. 125 of the highest-potential startups receive 3+ months of intensive mentorship and other free resources, including office space and targeted introductions to customers and funding sources. The very best startups are identified by expert judges to receive cash awards toward launching their businesses along with enhanced PR and privileged access to top investors seeking to place seed capital to work in high-growth firms.

This is an ideal means for America to harness and showcase the expertise and collaborative strength of our universities, investors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and businesses.

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SOURCE American Airlines

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