July 2012

The Next Big Thing in High-Tech was at TechCocktail’s Startup Showcase Tuesday

We love to see a bustling NERD Center.

If you were wondering why the streets of Boston were so empty last Tuesday evening, it’s because everyone was across the river at Microsoft NERD for Tech Cocktail’s Summer Mixer and Startup Showcase.  The event drew hundreds of people from students, to VCs, to entrepreneurs and all the fans that come along with that.


TechCocktail Founders Jen and Frank were working in Chicago when their professional lives crossed paths back in 2008. They were active, passionate and influential in the start-up community and formed TechCocktail as a way to help entrepreneurs network, grow, and create an identity.  TechCocktail hosts monthly speaker sessions in DC, San Francisco, Chicago and yours truly, Boston. Last month Boston featured HubSpot’s Laura Fitton and Punchbowl’s Matt Douglas.  Next month the Boston session welcomes Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Founder & CEO of Care.com on August 21st at Massachusetts’s favorite venue, NERD.  Register now!

The super fabulous TechCocktails team.


But I digress.  Yes, monthly TechCocktails are cool, and I hope you’ll all attend, but this post is about something bigger than monthly, summer! The summer mixer and startup showcase was AWESOME.  The 10th floor of One Memorial Drive was bustling with personality and brains.  Sixteen startups in various stages of existence shared their products in expo style on cocktail tables.  The event was informal and conducive for schmoozing.  The only structured part was when a lucky company, Traackr, won the popular vote privilege to capture everyone’s attention with a 60-second pitch.


I had interacted with Vsnap earlier that day via everyone’s favorite blue bird, twitter.  I followed VSnap and immediately got this video thank you note.  (Nice touch, Trish!)  VSnap was born when co-founder Dave’s cousin was living in Ireland.  Sure they could keep in touch with instant messaging and Skype, but the time difference was an issue. With video messaging they could stay in touch more personally at any time.  I encourage you to check it out and send someone a message. The video is free and it will live on the interweb forever.  Vsnap could very well be the NEXT BIG THING and you could be one of those ‘oh ya, I used that way back when’ people.

Part of the Myster Gift Machine Dream Team.

Boston Start-Up School students enjoying the event, preparing for startup life.

Another useful tool present on Tuesday was So, Pick a Party.  The website launched 10 months ago as a result of founder Mike Miller’s experience moving around and traveling after college.  One of his biggest challenges was finding things to do.  There was no central platform to search all kinds of events in one place- so he created it.  Whether you’re looking for parties, networking events, arts, culture, club nights, or something else, you can find it all here.  The website is partnering with promoters, event organizers, club venues and socialites to create a one-stop-shop for evening options.  In some circumstances you could even pop free bottles and get line cutting privileges at your birthday party.  As an avid party goer, I’d like to personally thank you Mike!

A pseudo-famous start-up in the house Tuesday was Abroad101, Mass Challenge’s inaugural winner.  Created by Tufts and MIT alums, Abroad101 is the first of its kind for reviewing study aboard programs.  Before you judge a destination, let other peoples’ real life experiences shape your judgment.  The website has helped thousands of students make better decisions in at least one aspect.  Where were you during my college years?  Oh yea, the internet was barely alive.

Part of the awesome Abroad101 crew.

Every single company and person participating was innovative and enthusiastic.  They were honored to be there and it showed as they interacted with the crowd.  I wish I could talk about all 16, but this post is already a borderline novel.  I’m excited to stay on top of Mystery Gift Machine,  RecoVend, SecPanel, Bakepedia, Lingerie Planet, Mixer, Be, Slide Seed, Renda and Viral Gains.  When one or all of them become THE NEXT BIG THING, I’m totally going to say ‘I told you so.’

The showcasing Entrepreneurs. Take a close look- these people are THE NEXT BIG THING!

Citizens Schools’ 2012 National Expanded Learning Summit comes to NERD

Over 200 educators, from across the country, gathered at NERD this past weekend for the second annual Citizen Schools’ Expanded Learning Time Summit, which featured presentations by, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Citizen Schools CEO Eric Schwarz, and Peter Gorman of News Corp.

Founded in Boston in 1995, Citizen Schools’ key mission is to bring more time, more talented individuals (teachers and professionals), and more relevant learning opportunities to middle-school students from low-income neighborhoods to expose those students with opportunities, that they otherwise, may not have had.

One of the many ways that Citizen Schools fulfills this mission is through their Expanded Learning Time (ELT) program. The ELT program extends the traditional learning day by three hours and provides further enrichment and instruction for students to help them meet today’s high academic standards.  In its second year, ELT partnered with ten struggling middle schools, from five different states, to bring their students a better learning experience. By doing so, ELT was able to significantly raise both Math and English proficiency rates in each school.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick

The 2012 Expanded Learning Time Summit gathered educators from both ELT schools and non-ELT schools, to discuss the future of education with expanded learning time. This two day conference kicked off with words from Massachusetts State Governor Deval Patrick. Governor Patrick spoke of the widening class-based achievement gap and how programs, like ELT, can enable the poorest students from the poorest neighborhoods to achieve academic success through more learning time with high-quality educators and professionals.

Governor Patrick also highlighted the two ELT partner schools that reside in Massachusetts—Orchard Gardens and Edwards Middle School. “Thanks to the Extended Learning Time the Edwards School in Boston has transformed itself from being the lowest performing middle school in Boston to the highest performing.—which is pretty exciting stuff,” spoke Governor Patrick.

A variety of sessions followed the Governor’s welcome speech. These gave attendees the opportunity to learn more about how the ELT program has developed in its first year and how students and teachers alike have benefitted from it.

Citizen Schools also unveiled, Expanded Opportunities: How Ten Middle Schools Lengthened the Learning Day with Citizen Schools, a first year report on their national initiative to lengthen the learning day. This report outlines how Citizen Schools was able to replicate their successful partnership with Edwards Middle School, the first ELT partner program, with other schools to produce strong results.

“Expanded learning time offers a powerful way to address America’s growing class-based opportunity gap and to provide all children with the extra learning time and successful experiences that their wealthier peers may take for granted,” said Eric Schwarz, Co-Founder and CEO of Citizen Schools. “Citizen Schools now has a national track record of teaming up with district public schools to dramatically improve schools serving some of the highest need students in the nation.”

For more information on Citizen Schools and their ELT programs click here.

We are thrilled to have hosted Citizen Schools’ 2012 Extended Learning Summit and look forward to 2013!

Microsoft Executive Lisa Brummel Visits the Foundry Students


Presenting to Lisa

In a company with over 90,000 employees, it’s okay if you don’t know everyone.  Actually, it would be extraordinary if you did.  What is equally extraordinary is that in a company this big, interns would have the chance to interact with executives. Well, guess what!?  That happened at Microsoft NERD last week. Chief People Officer Lisa Brummel traveled all the way from Redmond, Washington to meet our Foundry Students.

Chief People Officer, Lisa Brummel

”It’s really cool that Lisa wanted to meet us and see us demo our apps.  We think executives are so busy managing the company, but this is part of their jobs.  Without her support we wouldn’t be here,” said Sue Yee, a rising junior at MassArt.

During Lisa’s 23 years with Microsoft, she has contributed to marketing initiatives, worldwide  development, consumer products and technical innovation.  She understands the importance of attracting the next generation to Microsoft’s team and thus The Foundry was born.  Microsoft’s Cambridge location was selected for the first Foundry because of the proximity to top universities.  The Foundry, focused on building Windows 8 apps, is comprised of 22 students from all over the northeast including Harvard, Wellesley and Wentworth.  These students are exactly the type of next-generation talent Microsoft is looking for.  Well done, Lisa!


App demo.

Lisa spent her day at NERD meeting the students and learning about their summer experience so far. Each team welcomed Lisa into their work space and presented their projects at their own desks! If you put yourself into intern shoes, you might be nervous presenting to a Microsoft Big Wig.  But Lisa’s down-to-earth approach put everyone at ease.  She was here to observe and learn, not to grade or judge.


“It felt good to have someone important validate our work.  She gave us valuable feedback that will help as we continue to develop our apps. She was easy to talk to and she asked about our career goals and what attracts us to a company,” said Rishabh Kabra, a computer science major at MIT.

Despite her big deal status, her presence instilled comfort and confidence in the students.  Each presentation was more of a discussion and everyone walked away feeling good about themselves and their work. The presentations were followed by a delicious lunch with more conversation and storytelling.  Lisa’s time at Microsoft has been nothing short of exciting and The Foundry assures it will continue to be so!

Lunch with Lisa!

Microsoft Celebrates America’s Birthday With Style in Cambridge

The view from One Memorial Drive’s first floor patio. WHOA!

What would you look like if you were 236 years old?  I’m no doctor, but I predict you’d be rather BLUE. Red, white and blue that is, like America!

Glitter tattoos were a hit for all ages.


Wednesday the City of Boston hosted the country’s biggest Independence Day celebration with The Boston Pops, Jennifer Hudson and local rock stars The Drop Kick Murphys.  Even people in Kansas were watching this celebration on CBS.

Go Big or Go Home.

Go big or go home right? Well, that’s how we feel.  800 guests celebrated at One Memorial Drive with family, friends, food and fun!  DJ Jasper from Siagel Productions provided an upbeat and family-friendly atmosphere with music and dancing.  Bakers Best and Kickass cupcakes enabled us to indulge because a holiday without overeating just becomes a regular ol’ boring day.  LMPK Marketing and Affiliates brought us loads of entertainment in the form of face painting, glitter tattoos and Great Scott Balloon Productions.  Tophat provided instant souvenirs with their ever-so-popular photo booths.

Happy patriots!

As hundreds of thousands of people assembled with blankets on the esplanade, boats on the Charles and chairs along the river, party goers migrated to windows and patios for prime viewing of the fireworks.  See more pictures from the party on Facebook!

Family bonding.



Would you like to attend this party next year?  Fill one of our open positions and get a VIP invite to celebrate America’s 237th birthday with our family!

Boats and people lining up in the afternoon to get a good spot for the show.

Baker’s Best setting up for the festivities.

Playing Dance Central II on Xbox Kinect.