October 2016

Celebrate the Winners of MassChallenge on 11/2!


Every year, we are thrilled to support MassChallenge in shining a spotlight on the world’s most promising entrepreneurs. In Boston, we directly support MassChallenge participants through our Scholarship for Civic Innovation, guiding startups in the MassChallenge program who are providing civic innovation solutions. To put this in simpler terms, these startups are helping elected officials deliver improved services to citizens, increasing communication with residents and enhancing government effectiveness.

This upcoming Wednesday, we’re excited to see the work of all of MassChallenge’s 128 finalists — including our Civic Innovation Scholars Donii, apprendis, Fetch Park, Suspect Technologies, and Polis — and celebrate the winners of this round of startups at the 2016 MassChallenge Boston Awards.

At #MCAwards16, you’ll:

  • Engage with all 128 startups showcasing.
  • Hear inspiring pitches from the Top 26 startups.
  • Witness the winning startups revealed and cash awarded! 

Join us at the #MCAwards16!

Do You Want to Know What Really Happens to the Stuff You Donate?

Microsoft is proud to be launching our third year of Civic Tech focus at MassChallenge with the Civic Tech Scholarship. The scholarship recognizes 5 startups as they enter the MassChallenge accelerator with a cash grant to help them grow their businesses. Microsoft’s Civic Tech Scholarship aims to identify startups helping elected officials deliver improved services to citizens, increasing communication with residents and enhancing government effectiveness. The ultimate goal is to identify solutions that foster citizen engagement and transparency between government and constituents. This blog post highlights the work of one of the 2016 Civic Tech scholarship recipients.

— Aimee Sprung


For many of us, donating is the most socially conscious way to offload the things we no longer need. You don’t want to throw away that perfectly good sweater you never really loved, or the baby toys your toddler doesn’t play with anymore. The best thing would be to give them away… right?

The answer is a little more complicated. Most people think that by donating items they are gifting them to someone in need. The reality is that the majority of what we donate is ultimately resold for profit. The Council for Textile Recycling estimates that only 20% of donated clothing items end up in thrift stores. The remaining 80% is sold to wholesalers who then resell them largely in underdeveloped countries at marked up prices, or into industrial processing streams.

The used goods trade is a multi-billion dollar industry, based almost entirely on our charitable donations.

donii-infographic-verticalThis unfortunately isn’t great news for developing economies. As countries in regions like Africa and Central America are flooded with used clothing from the US and Europe, their native textile industries are unable to keep up. It’s a cycle that puts manufacturers, factory workers, and even skilled laborers like tailors, out of work. It’s gotten bad enough that many African countries are banning imports of secondhand goods outright.

Even considering the clothing and household items that are sold in thrift stores, our donations are generally not getting to the individuals and families in our community with the most urgent needs. Large donation and thrift centers in the US are not in the business of outfitting or equipping the needy. Rather, the sale of our donated items finances their operations (often worthy programs like employment for the disabled, but in some cases shady operations which barely qualify as non-profit). The result is that our stuff rarely makes its way to people living in shelters, to single mothers struggling far below the poverty line, or to teenagers living on the streets: namely, people for whom even thrift store prices are out of reach.

Donii is a social enterprise whose mission is to get the stuff you donate directly to the people in your community who need it most. Donii works with local charities like homeless shelters and youth welfare programs so that, through them, you can give to people with critical material needs. Simply tell Donii what you want to give, and select from a list of local human service organizations that need it. Donii picks up the donation for you, and you get a personal note telling you how it will be used and a tax receipt when the charity receives it. Each organization on the Donii platform gives the items they take in directly to a person or family in their programs.


Boston’s most socially innovative companies, like Microsoft New England, are partnering with Donii to empower their employees to give better. Rather than waiting for the perfect time to drop your stuff off at a donation center, bring them to work with you… you’re going there anyway! Donii will pick up and deliver for you, giving you the confidence that your items are being put to their best possible reuse.

Donii partners with companies looking for creative and effective ways to engage employees in a year round social impact effort. Companies get ongoing impact metrics and dynamic stories about how their donations have helped people in their community. They build meaningful connections with nonprofit organizations throughout the city. And they join a growing list of companies dedicated to having a positive impact in Boston, putting them visibly at the vanguard of local poverty alleviation.

Residents of Greater Boston donate millions of items a year. If every donation were matched to a person in need, we could wipe out material need as effectively as food banks and soup kitchens have minimized hunger. Isn’t it time to start giving better?

A Conversation in Civic Innovation: Broadband Equity


*Update (1/23/2017): This event has been postponed to February 8, 2017. Susan Crawford will not be available on this date for a keynote.

Broadband has become an assumed service, and yet in some parts of the state – and even the city – high-speed internet access is limited, unavailable, or unaffordable. Broadband access is necessary to help our students learn, to build small businesses and to enable residents to engage as citizens.

As we type, click, and swipe, it is easy to forget about the underlying infrastructure that supports our online activities. This critical infrastructure is complex and in order to provide equitable access to broadband, physical considerations like fiber infrastructure and broadband readiness of buildings are critical to how we expand access.

In addition, we need to buy service from someone. Should cities pursue Muni Networks like Chattanooga, TN and Westminster, MD or should cities pursue strategies that promote competition and choice. Whether it is provided by a company or a local government, the service that we buy needs to be fast, affordable, and reliable.

Please join us on Wednesday, November 16, for a discussion on Broadband Equity. Panelists will include:


  • 5:30 – 6 PM – Registration and networking
  • 6:00 – 7:00 – Panel Discussion
  • 7:00 – 7:30 – Q&A
  • 7:30 – 8:30 – Post event networking

Register now at this link.

The Conversations on Civic Innovation is a regular series, co-convened by the Venture Café Foundation and the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center New England.

Developers Experienced Innovation in Action at New England Beyond //build Event

Microsoft’s Beyond //build event hosted at the brand new Burlington office, bringing Microsoft’s latest developer news to local area developers

Microsoft’s Beyond //build event hosted at the brand new Burlington office, bringing Microsoft’s latest developer news to local area developers

We recently opened the brand-new Microsoft Technology Center (MTC) facility in Burlington, underscoring Microsoft’s continued commitment to driving technology advances that benefit the broader Boston-area business community. As one of more than 40 such centers around the world, the Burlington MTC provides a collaborative environment where commercial and public sector organizations alike can come together to explore and experience innovative new technologies and learn how to put them into action.

To showcase the new facility and bring the local business community together, Microsoft hosted a Beyond //build event on Oct. 4. More than 100 developers, architects and technology enthusiasts converged at the Burlington MTC for the one-day event, which featured some of the “best of” innovations from //build, provided an insider’s view to some of the hottest innovations that have arisen since spring, and showed off what’s next for cloud development.

Microsoft’s Partner Director of Program Management John Montgomery keynoted the event, sharing Microsoft’s overall developer story Microsoft’s Partner Director of Program Management John Montgomery keynoted the event, sharing Microsoft’s overall developer story

In a compelling keynote, Microsoft Partner Director of Program Management John Montgomery talked about Microsoft’s commitment to creating open and flexible solutions that support any developer, any app and any platform. He walked attendees through some of the most significant transformations in Microsoft technology that are enabling developers to do things they’ve never been able to do before.

“With Microsoft’s intelligent Azure cloud, powerful data platform and flexible developer tools, it is easier than ever to design, build and manage breakthrough apps that work across platforms and devices,” said Montgomery.

From the power of SQL Server to the cutting-edge AI features in Cortana Intelligence, Montgomery explained how Microsoft is making it much easier for developers to create intelligent, predictive apps that surprise and delight customers.

Next came the deep-dive sessions that let developers experience how to put Microsoft’s innovative technologies to work:

  • Technology architect Timothy Baggs from the Microsoft Technology Center in Cambridge led a demo-heavy session framed around the latest Microsoft AI technologies. Developers experienced how Microsoft Cognitive Services and machine learning can expand Cortana’s understanding of the world, and also learned how to use the Microsoft Bot Framework and Bot Builder to build their own bots that connect meaningfully with users using natural language processing and deep learning. Baggs also dove into the Universal App Model and demonstrated code that runs apps on Xbox, Windows and HoloLens.
  • Rich Ross, an architect at the Microsoft Technology Center in Philadelphia, guided attendees through the key steps for developing hyper-scale and mobile applications using the power of Azure App Service. He showed ways developers can use Microsoft Cognitive Services to interact with users in a natural way, as well as how to integrate computer vision, face recognition and speech processing into their web, mobile and desktop applications. Developers also came away with a deeper understanding of how the Azure Service Fabric and built-in programming models can help them build and manage applications at scale.
  • Microsoft developer experience expert Chris Bowen took attendees on a deep dive into DevOps. They learned how building a thriving DevOps culture can break down the barriers (and sometimes conflicting priorities) between development and operations teams. Using Team Services and Azure as a backdrop, Bowen demonstrated how DevOps can fuel the ongoing creation of innovative applications that accelerate the transformation of their business.
Microsoft developer experience expert Chris Bowen took attendees on a deep dive into DevOps.

Microsoft developer experience expert Chris Bowen took attendees on a deep dive into DevOps.

Overall, the event showcased just one of the many ways the new Burlington MTC serves the regional community.

If you missed out, it’s not too late to join in on the learning experience. We invite you to come and experience the many ways the Burlington MTC can help you find the right solutions to transform your business in a mobile-first, cloud-first world.

Our beautiful new state-of- the-art facility provides a collaborative environment where you can lay hands on the latest technologies and meet with Microsoft experts who can guide and inspire you. The facility is equipped with an Envisioning Center, an Interactive Center and a Device Bar as well as a few briefing rooms. Our expert staff will show you the latest in Microsoft and partner solutions and guide you through anything from optimizing your investments in Microsoft software to planning a right-sized move to the cloud. We’ll work with you to envision how emerging technologies can help you innovate, find new customers, expand into new markets and build a successful future for your organization.

We hope to see you soon at our new Boston MTC!

Microsoft New England MTC
5 Wayside Road 
Burlington, Mass. 01803

Celebrate the Day of the Girl with FLOTUS and Glamour Magazine


In honor of the Day of the Girl this coming Tuesday, Skype will be teaming up with Glamour Magazine to host a live Skype call with First Lady Michelle Obama and Glamour’s Editor-in-Chief, Cindi Leive, as they lead a global discussion on education inequality. Head over to the Skype Blog for more information.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, October 11, you can hear updates on pre-stream discussions and activities from Clara Tsao, White House Presidential Innovation Fellow, on our Twitter channels at @Skype and @MSNewEngland.

Microsoft New England Picks: Not-To-Miss Events This October


Fall is, quite literally, in the air — crunchy leaves, cool breezes, and pumpkins galore. Help us celebrate the new season with these top picks for events this month:

October 4-7

Biotech Week Boston

Biotech Week Boston is the destination where passionate scientists and innovators converge to partner and share ground breaking data, research and ideas

October 5

Talk Data to Me

What exactly is Data Science? How does it differ from analytics?

We live in a world with seemingly infinite data, and if you can learn the right balance of skills, there are lucrative opportunities available to you. During this panel we are bringing together professionals across all areas of the data industry. You will hear about their career paths in data engineering, marketing analytics, and business intelligence.

SBIR Pre-Conference Session for Women in STEM

Fostering and encouraging participation from women is a key goal of the SBIR/STTR program. This pre-day conference event will address the issues and challenges women have in running or working in technology focused small business through a series of interactive panels. It will include panelists who have moved technology from the lab to market, played key decision making roles in financing small businesses or have a keen interest in making a difference in this area.

October 6

MassTLC D3: Data, Development, & Drive Software Dev Conference

The D3 Conference is your opportunity to gather with and learn from some of the most innovative designers, developers, product, and process people in the country. This one day conference will feature tracks for managers and hackers with inspiring keynotes that will push you to innovate in your projects and products.

October 8

Building Better Products: Software Development Summit

There’s always a trade-off in the world of software development: do you release products rapidly – or do you take a little bit more time and ship more robust products with as few bugs as possible? During this ½ day summit we will dig into strategies that organizations are using to achieve their ultimate goal of Building Better Products.

October 12

Boston New Technology October 2016 Startup Showcase #BNT70

Free event! Come learn about 7 innovative and exciting technology products and network with the Boston/Cambridge startup community!

The Future Of Voting In Your Hands

Voatz is hosting a community voting day via its award winning mobile voting platform. Potential voters and various local stakeholders will be able participate in live voting focusing on several current events and issues of importance (including a mock version of the upcoming Massachusetts State Primary) via a compatible smartphone (or via a Voatz Ballot Station in case you don’t have a compatible smartphone).

October 13

3rd Annual DisruptCRE Boston

The DisruptCRE conference series showcases the best and brightest ideas from the most innovative minds in technology and commercial real estate. We bridge the gap between the built environment and technological innovation.

October 14

Fast Forward

Fast Forward: The Technology Revolution in Transportation and What It Means for Massachusetts is a half-day event that will bring you up to speed on changes in mobility, while introducing our new Fast Forward report.

October 17

Coding 101: HTML & CSS

HTML and CSS are the fundamental building blocks of the web. Whether you’re a beginner who wants to get started in web development, a designer looking to hand-code their concepts, or a marketer who wants a little more control over their CMS, you’ll need to know HTML and CSS to get the job done!

October 17-19

IoT Security Summit

The Only Conference Dedicated to IoT Security, Privacy, and Blockchain

October 18

PULSE@ Check Digital Healthcare Meetup

Healthcare, with its complicated regulations and procedures, is an industry ripe for innovation. How can partners, providers, and digital healthcare startups collaborate more closely to make sure that we’re achieving the right outcomes for patients while remaining profitable?

Join the Massachusetts Digital Health Community for showcase demos from over 30 startups and emerging technologies followed by a lively debate on healthcare partnerships October 18th!