October 2015

Congratulations to the 2015 MassChallenge Award Recipients!


We’re in the middle of a revolution.

Around the world, innovative minds are coming together to collaborate on the next great idea. In Boston in particular, we seek to elevate these great minds — and that’s why MassChallenge is so important. This year, hundreds of startups approached MassChallenge for the chance to make their great idea the next big thing. And last night, we honored the final 26 MassChallenge startups in the culminating MassChallenge Awards Ceremony (#MCAwards15), where 16 of the finalists were awarded their share of $1.5 million.

Among the top four winners (receiving $100,000 each) was Sanitation and Health Rights in India (SHRI), named a 2015 Microsoft Civic Tech Scholar.

The full list of winners:

$100,000 tier

$50,000 tier

A recap of the Awards Ceremony:

5 things I learned at the NEC Talent Pipeline Event

A few weeks ago I was part of a terrific panel of speakers convened by the New England Council for a Talent Pipeline Forum. Jamie Merisotis of the Lumina Foundation delivered a keynote address highlighting his new book, America Needs Talent.

This is a topic of great interest to me and Microsoft as we are facing a shortage of talent with Computer Science and Programming skills.  According to code.org, in Massachusetts there are currently 21,665 open computing jobs (3.2x the state average demand rate) but only 1,334 computer science graduates.  Through support of Hour of Code, Coder Dojo, TEALS and more, Microsoft is working trying to innovate in this space and think about new ways to encourage students to pursue education and careers in technology.

In our conversation, my fellow panelists made me aware of a few programs that could also help to address this talent shortage.  Here is what I learned from the panel:

  • Jamie Merisotis, Author and CEO of Lumina Foundation
    With falling wages and rising inequality, persistent unemployment, failing schools, and broken cities, have America’s best days come and gone? In America Needs Talent, Jamie Merisotis, a globally recognized leader in philanthropy, higher education, and public policy, explains why talent is needed to usher in a new era of innovation and success, and why deliberate choices must be made by government, the private sector, education, and individuals to grow talent in America.


  • Julian Alssid, Chief Workforce Strategist, College for America at Southern New Hampshire University
    College for America is an accredited, nonprofit college dedicated to making a college degree achievable for every working adult: flexibly scheduled, uniquely applicable, competency-based education for just $2,500 a year (or less).


  • Dr. Carla Brodley, Dean of the College of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University
    As career goals can shift and interests expand, new opportunities arise, industries change, and technology advances. Whether your undergraduate degree was in the sciences or liberal arts, and whether you’re a recent college graduate or an experienced professional, ALIGN offers you a transition into some of the most dynamic industries across the globe. Our one-of-a-kind ALIGN (Accelerated Link to Industry through Northeastern’s Global Network) master’s degree programs provide you with the knowledge and experience necessary to shift your career into this high-demand field.


  • Cathleen Finn, IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, New England Manager
    Now serving four classes of students, P-TECH continues to chart new territory in the reform of secondary and postsecondary education in the United States. As the first school in the nation that connects high school, college, and the world of work through college and industry partnerships, we are pioneering a new vision for college and career readiness and success. With a unique 9-14 model, the goal for our diverse, unscreened student population is 100% completion of an associate degree within six years.


  • Dr. Karen Wosczyna-Birch, Director of Connecticut Community Colleges’ College of Technology and Executive Director of the Center for Next Generation Manufacturing
    The Center for Next Generation Manufacturing creates a seamless pathway, with no barriers or loss of earned credits, for students transitioning from a two-year college to a four-year program at partnering colleges and universities. The center is directed by the Connecticut College of technology, which itself is an online learning platform serving all 12 of Connecticut’s Community Colleges. The Center identifies skills and practices in the manufacturing sector and ties curriculum directly to the needs of industry in order for students to be prepared to enter the workforce or continue to their education and learn the skills that Connecticut employers value.


In his welcome remarks, Jim Brett of the New England Council also highlighted a recently released report on Advanced Manufacturing and referenced the opportunity for talent in this field as well.

Recap: 10th Annual EdVestors Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize Ceremony


This week, we were excited to join EdVestors for the 10th Annual Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize Ceremony. The prize celebrates innovative, headstrong schools in Boston that are moving education forward, improving education for all the students. This year, the $100,000 prize recipient was Dorchester’s Jeremiah E. Burke High School, honored for “providing ample time for teachers to work collaboratively in teams, strategically leveraging external partnerships, and creating a school culture that puts students’ social and emotional needs first.”

See our recap of the event in tweets below:

Microsoft Top Picks: 6 Not-to-Miss Events This Week

Events 10-26

We may love Halloween, but we have no scares for you — no tricks, all treats! This week is one to celebrate startups and STEM! Here are our top picks for six not-to-miss events this week:

1) Boston WordPress Meetup, October 20151439758848
Monday, October 26, 6:30pm — 9pm

Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @bostonwp

We provide exciting talks for beginners, intermediate and expert users of WordPress, the world’s largest Content Management System platform. We are the region’s largest resource providing free videos, talks, job boards and forums for any who are interested.

logo2) 10th Annual Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize Ceremony
Tuesday, October 27, 8am — 10am

Boston Harbor Hotel | 70 Rowes Wharf, The Wharf Room | Boston
Twitter: @edvestors

EdVestors’ School on the Move Prize is Boston’s premier annual award for public schools and is a coveted  honor among teachers and school leaders across our city.

BSJFVacare1small3) Boston Startup Job Fair
Wednesday, October 28, 12pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @StartupJF

The Boston Startup Job Fair aims to connect talented job seekers with the best Boston-based startups. The event is largely run by volunteers looking to foster a thriving startup community and to raise awareness about startup jobs in Boston.

masschallenge4) 2015 Boston MassChallenge Awards Ceremony
Wednesday, October 28, 5pm — 9pm
Boston Convention & Exhibition Center | 415 Summer St | Boston
Twitter: @MassChallenge

The MassChallenge Awards Ceremony is the grand finale of the Boston startup accelerator program, shining a spotlight on the world’s most promising entrepreneurs.

GBCC-TOYL-Logo_WEB1-300x2095) Ten Outstanding Young Leaders Awards
Thursday, October 29, 5:30pm — 7:30pm
Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel | 425 Summer St | Boston
Twitter: @bostonchamber

In 2012, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce revived the Ten Outstanding Young Leaders (TOYL) Awards to continue the tradition of honoring Greater Boston’s current and future leaders.

The TOYL awards were presented by the Boston Jaycees from 1952 to 2006 to identify and celebrate the region’s young leaders. Since its inception, more than 500 young leaders have been honored for their professional, personal, and civic commitment to improving the quality of life within our community. Past recipients include such diverse figures as President John F. Kennedy, conductor Leonard Bernstein, business leader Jack Connors, Jr., and community advocate Carol Fulp.

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 12.03.18 AM6) 8th Annual Catalyst Awards
Thursday, October 29, 6pm — 8pm
Genzyme Center | 500 Kendall Street | Cambridge
Twitter: @SCFG

The Catalyst Awards event is an annual recognition of outstanding leadership, both individual and institutional, in advancing the mission of Science Club for Girls to foster excitement, self-confidence and science literacy in girls, particularly from minority and low-income communities, by maximizing meaningful interactions with women mentors in STEM.

Recap — Harvard Ash’s #Tech4Democracy Showcase & Challenge


On Friday October 9th, entrepreneurs, technologists, social scientists and academics convened in an effort to promote technology implementation into government services. The event, titled #Tech4Democracy Showcase and Challenge, occurred at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government and was sponsored by The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, a subset of HKS, in collaboration with HUB Week.

During the two-hour long showcase, 28 competing presenters actively displayed their projects with showmanship and eloquence to a boisterous crowd. Members of the crowd were then asked to “cast their vote” for their favorite projects. Simultaneously, the #Tech4Democracy team employed “professional judges” to survey the quality of the projects and give tangible feedback. The projects ranged in scope from “VetTrack”, a civic tech project that is working to navigate a broken system for our nation’s veterans, to “DoneGood”, an app that makes it easy to find business who share your values (i.e. going green, stand with workers, etc.). Each project was unique in so far as the project derived its origin from a different sector: housing, energy, voters’ rights, community engagement. This “uniqueness of projects” provided the audience with an unparalleled experience of understanding all of the ways in which civic tech can be implemented.

The most impressive part of the evening was the earnestness with which the Ash Center delineated the importance of investing in nascent civic tech ventures. While ‘investing’ traditionally has a monetary connotation, in this scenario ‘investing’ referred to the act of giving the civic tech ventures a place to share their ideas, learn from one another and receive feedback from a politically active and engaged audience. As avid civic tech enthusiasts, this message resonated strongly with the Microsoft New England team and affirms the approach we have taken towards encouraging the fusion of tech, government and democracy.

EdTech Developer Camp coming to Boston Nov 2-3


Microsoft is hosting a FREE Developer Camp for EdTech ISVs, Publishers and education solutions focused organizations in Boston (Nov 2-3)! This event is focused on assisting developers to help integrate EDU solutions with Office 365.  The Office 365 productivity cloud platform offers a rich set of APIs to further enable your solutions to take advantage of our rich offerings that are installed in thousands of schools Worldwide. Click here to register.

Microsoft New England Picks: 8 Not-to-Miss Events This Week

Events 10/19
The weather’s cooling down, but we’re not. We’ve got a jam-packed week up ahead and we don’t want you to miss a single thing! Here are our picks for eight events you shouldn’t miss this week:

Interaction Design Foundation1) Interaction Design Foundation Boston/Wakefield Mash-Up Monthly
Tuesday, October 20, 6:30pm — 9pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @interacting

The Interaction Design Foundation – the IDF – is a ten year old transformative non-profit enterprise focused on educating, informing and stimulating the global design community. IDF -Boston and IDF-Wakefield are local chapters that get together on a monthly basis focusing on providing providing stimulating  but fun discussions, insightful information, and face-to-face networking opportunities.

bmtg42) Boston Marketing Technology Group October Meeting
Tuesday, October 20, 6pm — 6:30pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @Bostonmartech | #BMTG4

Calling All New England Marketing Technologists! #BMTG4

Let’s keep the momentum going! Join us on Tuesday, October 20th from 6:00 to 8:30pm network, learn and discuss marketing approaches and the technology to support them.

KSA_eatup_logo_large3) Kendall Square EatUp
Wednesday, October 21, 5pm — 8pm

The Atrium | 100 Technology Square | Cambridge
Twitter: @kendallnow | #KSAEatUp

Join us for the Kendall EatUp to celebrate the culinary delights and flavors of the most innovative square mile on the planet! A night of food and fun, EatUp 2015 has a whole new list of ingredients and we are already drooling over all the potential!

python-boston-sq_400x4004) Boston Python October Presentation Night
Wednesday, October 21, 6:30pm — 9pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @bostonpython

Boston Python presentation nights are a chance for Python developers to explore new topics in depth. Members or outside experts prepare presentations at a variety of levels, on any number of Python-related topics. By giving Python developers a chance to expand and hone their skills, Boston Python is enriching and strengthening the Python community.

VsFYWVCo_400x4006) The 2015 New England Council Annual Dinner
Thursday, October 21

Seaport World Trade Center | 200 Seaport Blvd | Boston
Twitter: @NECouncil

Held each fall in Boston, the Annual Dinner brings together business, non-profit, and academic leaders from throughout New England to celebrate the New England Council’s accomplishments, and to honor those who have made significant contributions to the region with the New Englander of the Year Award.

MassTLC-Logo7) Innovation unConference 2015
Friday, October 23, 8:30am — 5pm

Hynes Convention Center | 900 Boylston Street | Boston
Twitter: @MassTLC | 

The one-day conference where hundreds of folks throughout the tech ecosystem –CEOs, founders, investors, developers, marketers, strategists, and more – come together to exchange ideas and get advice to take them – and their business – to the next level. It’s about giving help and getting help, in an open and collaborative environment.

blogcamp8) New England’s Blogger Convention
Saturday, October 24, 8:30am — 5:15pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge

Join passionate bloggers from around the region this fall to share all there is to learn about blogging today. Experts guide you through the ins and outs of personal and professional blogging with hands-on sessions, lively networking, food, and fun. Sessions range from building a B2B corporate blog to how to monetize that food blog you’ve always thought about. Whatever your style of blogging, you’ll find the resources you need to make it better. You will learn how to be a more effective blogger, grow traffic, create revenue, and have more fun.

Are You Ready for the Civic Tech Challenge?


Generation Citizen (www.generationcitizen.org) is an innovative education nonprofit that is in its second year of hosting the Civic Tech Challenge, a unique youth-centered hackathon and celebration for Greater Boston’s innovation community. The Civic Tech Challenge will occur on Saturday November 7th at Microsoft New England. 

Gillian Pressman, the Greater Boston Site Director of Generation Citizen, explains more about the organization and this inspiring event:

What is Generation Citizen?

Generation Citizen (GC) is an “action civics” education nonprofit. GC believes that every young person has the right to civics education that prepares him or her to effectively participate in our democracy. In particular, young people need to experience hands-on, action-oriented civics, or what we call “action civics.” GC provides action civics programming in partnership with 35 Greater Boston middle and high schools (and over 120 nationally) while also building demand for the concept of action civics nationwide.

Generation-Citizen-2In contrast to traditional civics, which attempts to teach the democratic process through rote memorization of the three branches and how a bill becomes a law, action civics calls on students to engage in the democratic process hands-on and in real time. In our in-school course, students identify a relevant, pressing local problem (i.e. gang violence, public transit, youth unemployment), analyze the problem to identify a specific policy-level root cause, and then take real action, reaching out to local government leaders to collaboratively address that root cause. The students begin to understand their community and local power structures by immersing themselves in experiential learning, and more importantly, develop a sense that they have a voice in the community and a real role in effecting change. At the end of the semester, students present at our inspiring capstone event, Civics Day at the MA State House.

We have had some exciting successes in Boston since we launched here in 2009. Our first year, we served 300 students per year, and now we serve 3,000 students per year. We have also made some significant investments in evaluation which have allowed us to prove our impact – we are increasingly collecting hard evidence that our students improve in the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that predict both long-term college and career success and long-term democratic engagement. Further, our testimonials are overwhelming – GC gives students a feeling that they are NOT powerless; that they DO have a hope of improving their lives and communities.

Why does Generation Citizen’s work matter?

America’s democracy is failing. Out of 179 democracies worldwide, the participation of our voters puts us at 139th – this is the bottom 20th percentile. We have a less active democracy than countries like Iran and the Congo. America actually gives out foreign aid using democratic health indicators as criteria, and we would fail our own standards of foreign aid!

Generation-Citizen-3This is problematic because if decision-makers attempt to tackle society’s biggest problems, especially those related to inequity and justice, they need a fully engaged citizenry. Indeed, coverage of the Ferguson, MO riots last year focused on the importance of a robust democracy in preventing a repeat of this tension and violence.

Action civics education can rebuild our democracy by inspiring and equipping our young people to become active citizens.

Further, civics education is one of the most effective ways to build students’ 21st century skills such as collaborative decision-making, persuasive communication, and critical analysis. Indeed, evidence suggests that effective civics education can both prevent school dropout and positively impact a young person’s ability to attain college and career success. This means that civics is important to the skill development of every individual student, as well as critical to the health of our society as a whole.

Why the Civic Tech Challenge?

We at GC are incredibly proud of our students – by taking action and collaborating with local leaders they have been able to advance major systemic changes, like adding anti-bullying to their school districts’ curriculum, passing legislation to provide more services to at-risk students, and adding permanent youth liaisons to police precincts.

But we know they can be even more effective. The process our students use is very analog – they hand-write letters on school notebook paper, circulate fill-in-the-blank surveys in their school cafeterias, and make presentations to decision-makers using notes scribbled on index cards. What if our students had access to innovations that enabled them to make their case more compellingly and inspire more people to get involved? Thanks to new civic innovation groups like Code for America, government agencies that nourish innovation, like the Office of New Urban Mechanics (who will be honored at 2015’s Civic Tech Challenge), and research and best practices disseminated by groups like the MIT Center for Civic Media and the Emerson Engagement Lab, citizens today can and do engage with their government and advance new civic ideas much more efficiently than in the past. The example of these groups shows us that new innovations can also accelerate our students’ abilities to be changemakers. This is why we created the Civic Tech Challenge.

Generation-citizen-4At the Civic Tech Challenge “hackathon” on November 7th (9am to 5pm), student representatives from some of our GC classes will team up with developers, designers, marketers, data scientists, and creative problem-solvers from Greater Boston’s top tech companies and technology education programs. The students attending will be 7th and 8th grade Boston Public School students, and they will currently be in the midst of GC action projects that address such issues as homelessness, gang violence, and public transit facility maintenance. They will collaborate with technologists to take their action project to the next level by adding in tools in one of our three hackathon tracks: Data Visualizations, Information Communication Technologies, and Digital Storytelling. The hackathon is structured so that the tools created meaningfully advance the students’ action projects (while also being open-source and accessible to future young people and citizen activist groups).

At the evening presentation and reception (5pm to 9pm), our hackteams of technologists and students will present their projects in front of our Host Committee and Judging Panel of leading Greater Boston innovators, as well as 250+ guests from Greater Boston’s tech and innovation communities. The evening will celebrate the power of innovation and civic engagement, and give us a glimpse into just how vibrant our community can be when the two are combined.

How do I get involved in the Civic Tech Challenge?

Generation-Citizen-5You can register for the hackathon: If you want to collaborate to design data visualizations, ICTs, or digital storytelling tools alongside Greater Boston students, register for the Civic Tech Challenge hackathon HERE. Participation includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, and will culminate in the evening reception with more great food and drinks.

Or you can celebrate at the evening reception: Join event Honorees the New Urban Mechanics and an illustrious Judging Panel and Host Committee (chaired by Microsoft Civic Engagement Manager, Aimee Sprung) at our evening reception. Open beer and wine bar, and appetizers will be served! Tickets available HERE for $50 each, and if you’re a Microsoft employee, contact Aimee for a special Microsoft promo code.

I really look forward to seeing some of you there and continuing the conversation!

#HUBweek 2015 — Told in Tweets!


Photo via 617 Images

The first annual HUBweek took Boston and Cambridge by storm from October 3-10, 2015. A storm of creativity — each day marked a new celebration of art, science and technology in our city. Our city is full of the top scientists, teachers, doctors, data scientists, artists, and musicians, and it’s very important that we collaborate across fields to ask questions and build our own answers together. HUBweek this year was something to be proud of. We’re proud to be in a city that cultivates such inclusive innovation, where all neighborhoods and all fields participate in creating the future.

Here are some top moments from the hundreds of tweets!

Microsoft Top Picks: 6 Not-to-Miss Events This Week

Events 10-12

With an easy Monday, it can be hard to keep up with the rest of the week. Luckily, we’ve gathered the 6 not-to-miss events for you this week:

Boston TechBreakfast1) Boston Tech Breakfast
Tuesday, October 13, 8am — 10am
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @techbreakfast

Based on the popular TechBreakfast format, the Boston TechBreakfast is a “show and tell” format event where up to five different technologists will demo their technologies from a wide range of industries ranging from software to hardware, IT to Biotech, robotics to space tech. The event is “triple agnostic”. We don’t care if the technology is from a start up, a large company, a university, a government agency, or someone’s hobby. We are also agnostic as to the industry of the tech – it could be IT, biotech, robotics, aerospace, materials sciences, anything tech and innovative is cool. And we’re also region agnostic – even if you’re not from where we’re hosting, we want to see you and your technology!

logo2) Positioning Your Edtech Product
Tuesday, October 13, 6pm — 8pm
First Republic Bank | 160 Federal Street | Boston
Twitter: @learnlaunch

There is an industry problem, and you believe that you have a new and innovative solution. You’ve done your due diligence in assessing your audience, addressed basic branding questions, but you want to know more about how you can position your startup to enter the market with the biggest bang. Come learn how to assess whether you are friend or foe in the system, what stakeholders are buying your product/service, who’s using your product/service, and how to spin your story to the public.

3) hack/secure UX Designer Happy Hour
Wednesday, October 14, 6pm — 9pm
Accomplice | 25 First Street, Suite 303 | Cambridge

A viable, early stage, Cybersecurity product might be the most difficult of all startup products to build. Cybersecurity products must be flawless and exude a high level of credibility to the customer. This puts an immense amount of pressure on the design team to bring a disciplined and thoughtful approach to early stage product design and development.

global_199438674) How I started the first billion dollar software company
Wednesday, October 14, 6pm — 9pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @bostonphp

John Cullinane formed Cullinane Corporation, the first successful software products company in the computer industry, the first to have an IPO, the first listed on the NY Stock Exchange and the first to reach a billion dollars in valuation.

However, in reality what he did was be the first to figure out how to sell enough software as a product to make a profitable company out it. No one had done it previously, and very few have done it since. This is the same problem facing every software company today. Nothing has changed in the industry. All software companies would like to know how to sell their products more effectively. This is what he will focus on in his talk with particular emphasis on product messaging with the unique process he has for creating sales messages that work.

Code for America Summit5) Code for America Summit Recap & Mixer
Wednesday, October 14, 6:30pm — 9pm
Microsoft New England R&D Center | 1 Memorial Drive | Cambridge
Twitter: @CodeForBoston | @MSNewEngland

Please join Code for Boston and Microsoft for a special evening of discussion as we recap the 2015 annual Code for America Summit.

In case you missed it, Code for America’s Annual Summit was held in Oakland, CA on Sept 29 – Oct 2, and – as you might imagine – the Boston area was well-represented by a number of local civic technologists, including representatives from the cities of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, MassIT, and more.

In order to share what we all learned at Summit with the larger community and to build on the great momentum from that event, we invite you to join us for an informal evening at NERD featuring a “flash panel” and Q&A with Summit attendees, breakout sessions with members of the Boston civic technology community including representatives from the City of Boston DoIT, 2015 Code for America Fellowship City Somerville, MassIT, Microsoft New England, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and of course, your Code for Boston core team.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 10.30.23 AM6) Fall for Tech Mixer
Thursday, October 15, 6pm
Blazing Paddles | 82 Lansdowne St | Boston
Twitter: @Tech_in_Motion

Join us at Blazing Paddles for a night of networking and drinking to celebrate the fall season! This event will be the perfect chance for you to wind down before the hectic holiday season. Whether you’re looking to pitch that idea you have wanted to start for a while, network with others in the tech community to advance your career, or even to just get more involved in the Boston tech community—this is your opportunity!