When we first met John Harthorne, Akhil Nigam and David Constantin (the founders of MassChallenge) in June of last year it was hard not to become instantly inspired by their individual passion and grand idea of catalyzing a start-up renaissance right here in Boston. Their timing was spot-on, as the region reeling from the effects of the economic downturn needed a new cause to get behind, something to lift our spirits and most importantly lift the sagging economy. After they detailed their vision and plans for MassChallenge we knew that this was something special that Microsoft had to participate in. At the end of that first meeting, Microsoft joined 3 other initial founding sponsors (The Commonwealth of Massachusetts, The Deshpande Foundation, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation) by providing early stage boot-strap capital to enable the MassChallenge team to put their plans into action.
Why does Microsoft care? Why would we get involved in the MassChallenge? It’s simple, actually – it’s a core part of our DNA and since the opening of NERD we have had an ongoing dialogue with the local community about the biggest areas of need and where Microsoft can add the most value. The constant thread in these conversations has centered around the local innovation economy and lack of sustained progress. We have responded to this need by opening NERD as a rallying point for technologists and investing in people and programs like the MassChallenge that the community feels are important. We’ve taken a ‘rising tide will lift all boats’ approach and we feel that it’s vital to everyone’s collective success to have a thriving innovation ecosystem in their back-yard.
Fast forward a year later- John, David and Akhil have been able to boot-strap the MassChallenge despite the tough economic times and today have officially launched one of the largest global start-up competitions. Today, we are excited to announce that Microsoft has doubled down on its investment in MassChallenge through a new 2 year partnership where we will create the Microsoft-MassChallenge Seed Award, provide technical mentoring and access to software through our BizSpark program for all MassChallenge entrants . Through this expanded partnership, the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center will become the largest private sponsor of the MassChallenge.
We’re excited and honored to be able to contribute to this fantastic Massachusetts initiative and look forward to seeing each of these promising start-ups reach their full potential.
To view photo’s from today’s MassChallenge launch event, click here.