June 2011

Tech Support is Important. So is Community Support.

Today, in partnership with the City of Cambridge, we are sending over 140 NERD-based Microsoft employees into the community to volunteer at 10 outstanding Cambridge organizations. Our teams of employee volunteers will be helping with a wide range of projects including IT support, tutoring, general street cleanup, painting, gardening and more.

Being a good neighbor is one of our top priorities. From software grants to free use of our conference center for local tech groups to employee volunteers, giving back to the community is a platform we always operate on.

“CitySprouts is thrilled to partner with Microsoft in their upcoming Employee Day of Caring. The projects that we are able to accomplish with Microsoft volunteers will sustain and nurture our gardens.  We can’t wait to sign them all up for the next day of service!”
Kimberly Green Goldstein, Program Manager – CitySprouts

“We are honored to be part of Microsoft’s Day of Caring and thank all volunteers in joining us to create brighter tomorrows for our children.”
Mechilia Eng, Executive Director – Boys & Girls Clubs of Middlesex County

Since 2003, Microsoft has donated over $78M in cash and free software to Massachusetts not-for-profits. As part of our “Microsoft Day of Caring” we are making donations in the amount of $1,000 to each of the below organizations where our employees will be volunteering today:

Boys & Girls Clubs of Middlesex County
The Boys & Girls Clubs mission is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need it most, to become productive, responsible and caring citizens. Microsoft volunteers will be painting and beautifying the walls of the Boys & Girls Cambridge Clubhouse gym.

Sometimes bits and bytes just dont cut it

Breakthrough Cambridge
The mission of Breakthrough Cambridge is to prepare underserved, high-achieving middle-school students to enter and succeed in college-preparatory high school programs. Microsoft volunteers will be helping to transform a relatively empty schoolroom into the hub of educational activity for Cambridge middle school students.

City of Cambridge Public Works
The Cambridge Department of Public Works provides high quality services to maintain and expand Cambridge’s safe, healthy, attractive and inviting physical environment. Microsoft volunteers will be working with the Parks and Urban Forestry department cleaning up tree planting areas and removing winter debris, as well as pulling unsightly weeds in areas including Fresh Pond, Alewife Brook and the Charles River waterfront.

City Sprouts
City Sprouts mission is to develop, implement and maintain beautiful, resource-rich school gardens in collaboration with public school communities. Microsoft volunteers will be planting seeds and flowers, weeding, shoveling, raking, pruning, composting turning, shed organizing, painting and installing shelves.

East End House
The East End House is a not-for-profit, multi-service community center and social service agency with an on-going commitment to a diverse population, providing programs and services to strengthen family and community. Microsoft volunteers will be helping to stock the food pantry, and working with young children during the afternoon.

Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House
The Margaret Fuller Neighborhood House (MFNH) focuses on building relationships and connecting people with opportunities that will strengthen our community, eliminate violence and gain access to basic human service and educational needs. The MFNH has evolved to address the changing needs of the Area IV community and provides needed services to over 4,000 constituents—many of the most vulnerable residents of Cambridge. Microsoft volunteers will be working on painting projects, organizing the MFNH school programs room and helping staff the community BBQ event.

Root Cause
Root Cause is a nonprofit research and consulting firm that partners with nonprofits, philanthropy, government, and business to advance solutions to today’s toughest social issues. Microsoft volunteers will be helping to prepare for the Social Innovation Forum 2011-2012 selection process.

Science Club for Girls
Science Club for Girls mission is to increase K-12 girls’ self-confidence and literacy in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) through free programs, including hands-on learning, mentorship and leadership opportunities. Microsoft volunteers will be doing feasibility testing and quality assurance with new science and engineering activities for the K-6 grade club curricula.

The Community Art Center
Founded in 1932 by a group of local parents, the Community Art Center’s mission is to nurture children and young adults with limited access to financial resources so they achieve personal and cultural growth, and have a positive impact on their world through joyful experiences in the arts. Microsoft volunteers will be creating signage, framing and hanging artwork, and helping during homework time.

The Community Learning Center
The Community Learning Center helps adults improve their lives and increase their community participation through educational programs and services. Microsoft volunteers will be helping to setup recently donated computers.

Startup Weekend Boston

Over 130 people – half techies, half business folks – converged on NERD Startup Weekend at Microsoft NERDthis weekend to start their own companies, have fun & make a difference.

Friday night, 50 of them stood up and pitched their ideas in quick 60 second spots, interrupted only for a quick game of multiplayer rock-paper-scissors.

Pitches ran the gamut from gamifying entrepreneurship to games to solve the world’s biggest problems. From help with dating to help finding babysitters. Helping investors forecast small company returns to a game that lets you invest in twitter hashtags.

One pitched a jokeI’m going to create a double rainbow – I mean, a Double Game Layer around the world!”. Some just sounded like it – DidWeShag.com for sharing those vital date details. And a guy named Sting pitched something about the Police (PayYourTicketsOnline.com).

There was some voting, but at the end of the night all that really mattered was weather you were willing to move forward with your idea. The 50 ideas dropped to 27, which eventually dropped to 16 – although part way through Saturday one of the entrepreneurs split from the startup he’d joined to return to his initial idea… And then there were 17.

Startups ranged in size from 2 to 15 people composed of everything from hard core techies to designers, business folks, Whiteboards!even a doctor who came to build a startup for helping other doctors. Mentors came in on Saturday to help startups with their ideas. Several teams got out of the building to validate their ideas with potential customers. One even got a paying customer!

There was much use of the ample whiteboards (we actually wiped NERD out of flip charts!) in brainstorming and sketching out designs. Much head’s down coding. And unbelievable levels of creativity, passion, and energy – which was good, as there wasn’t a whole lot of time for sleep over the weekend.Coding!

By Sunday things got real as teams worked towards the 5pm deadline when they’d get 5 minutes each to demo their startups & compete for some pretty swanky prizes including a day at MassChallenge bootcamp, meetings with angels, an XBox/Kinect for the team with the best use of Microsoft technology, and… a Keurig coffee maker for the most energetic team!

Startup Weekend Demos

I’m not sure which was more entertaining – the demos themselves, including MapMyPad who actually broke out into the Hokey Pokey (forward to 2:10 in this video to see for yourself), or the twitter back channel.

1st Place: CaseReportal. Vital insights for atypical cases.
“WebMD for doctors”
“CaseReportal is sooo gonna win the XBox360 and Kinect” @scottefein

2nd Place: SellerCrowd. Salespeople working together to make contacts quicker.
“Quora for sales weasles” @JoshSamBob

3rd Place: CashTag. The Global Hashtag Exchange
”Twitter stock market for hash tags” @YoungImpact
“I own $16K worth of #SpongeBob on @playcashtag. It’s kind of embarrassing” @JoshSamBob

Oh You Kids. Ensuring your inheritance.
“I named this company. In exchange for 25% equity or a mojito” @JoshSamBob

My Hobby Hub. Everyone has a talent to share.
“Does Hobby Hub have a Pirate I can sail with?” @scottefein

VidWheel. Create video channels of anything you could watch online.
“Pandora for video.” @412clifton

VidWheel

IdeaPhy. Turn your ideas into action.
“Lets founders get crowdsourced feedback on their ideas. momma always said to share.” @412clifton

Farora. Stay beautiful.
“Built for booking [hair] salons!” @marshsutherland
“Unfortunately, not enough hair to use Farora, but interesting idea!” @BrienBuckman

PrescribableApps. Leveraging collaborative care for doctor-patient synergy.
“Need to monitor your mental health? Now there’s an @rxapps for that” @412clifton

HereHello. Making pickup lines obsolete.
“No more pickup lines? That’s half the fun!” @jtagen

eForecqst. Forecasting tomorrow’s gems.
“An interesting idea, which might be helpful for individual investors like myself.” @BrienBuckman
“I’d use this service.” @scottefein

HereHype. Connecting merchants downtime with students free time.
“Seems to be a flash groupon with lots of high-fives” @jtagen
“I wonder if they realize they look kinda like the Winkelvoss Twins…” @scottefein

PocketRoster. Always keep your members at your fingertips!
“A roster in your pocket.” @scottefein
“Probably one of the most immediately useful things introduced at #SWBoston” @JarrettGoetz
“Hard to say the name with a straight face, but the app is fantastic” @jtagen

And, yup, CaseReportal won the XBox/Kinect for most awesome use of Microsoft technology – CONGRATS!!

StartupWeekend winners: CaseReportal

See More: Boston Startup Weekend Photos

Celebrating Social Innovation

For the second year in a row, we had the pleasure of hosting Root Cause’s Social Innovation Forum Showcase to support local non-profit organizations positively impacting our communities. As a Cambridge based organization, the mission of Root Cause is to advance solutions to today’s toughest social issues surrounding the Greater Boston Area and beyond.

A core element of Root Cause’s programming is The Social Innovation Forum, an initiative that provides high-potential, socially focused, non-profit organizations with consulting and executive coaching services from industry experts. This year, Root Cause selected five Social Innovators from a competitive pool of 137 applicants to receive more than $107,000 in cash and in-kind services from Root Cause and its partners. According to Root Cause, such support enables the organizations to grow at an average annual rate of 31%, far exceeding the average national non-profit growth rate of ~5%.

During this flagship event, the Social Innovators pitched their core social issue and discussed their plans to impart meaningful change in New England.  Here’s a snapshot of their projects:

Fiscal Health Vital Signs
Located in Dorchester, Fiscal Health Vital Signs is a proactive approach to assessing and improving financial health. The program puts individuals and families on paths to economic success and, by doing so, improves physical health.

Future Chefs
With a mission to prepare motivated youth for quality early employment and post-secondary educational opportunities, Future Chefs inspires approximately 100 underserved high school students and recent graduates annually through their high-impact school to career program.

Mass Senior Action
Mass Senior Action is a statewide, senior-run organization that empowers more than 1,000 low and moderate income seniors to use their voices and experiences to create positive change and solutions to the problems that affect them.

MathPower
Based in Boston, MathPower is dedicated to improving proficiency in mathematics for urban youth. Its mission has taken on greater significance based on recent studies that suggest that the best predictor of college completion within four years of graduating high school is proficiency in advanced mathematics.

Smart from the Start
Smart from the Start is a community engagement and family support initiative, of the City of Boston, that empowers vulnerable families, with children ages 0 to 5, by providing them with early learning opportunities and support programs.

In addition to highlighting these local innovators, The Social Innovation Forum also celebrated for-profit entity, Zipcar for its commitment to environmental sustainability. Founder and CEO of Root Cause, Andrew Wolk, presented the first-ever Business Innovator Award to Scott Griffith, Chairman and CEO of Zipcar.

Scott shared the history of Zipcar, highlighting how the company  expanded from  just 5,000 members to becoming the leading car-sharing company in the world—with current membership surpassing half a million. As Zipcar achieved its record growth,   they continued to drive positive social change in the communities where they operate. Zipcar has not only provided instant, affordable car service to its members, but they have also reduced pollution and congestion that constantly surrounds cities.

“Our work continues to help widen the bridge between those who have time, talent and resources to give and the innovative, results-oriented nonprofits that need their help.” Susan Musinsky, Director, The Social Innovation Forum

We are so thankful to host such a meaningful program and applaud the impact that the 2011 Social Innovators are making in our local communities.

Click here learn more about the 2011 Social Innovation Forum Showcase.

Root Cause attendees enjoying networking with peers prior to program

Fiscal Health Vital Signs presents their 10 minute pitch

Root Cause key themes from the evening