February 2017

Making Memories — A #NERD10 Celebration

We love making memories with you. As part of our #NERD10 anniversary, celebrating the 10 years we’ve been in Cambridge, MA, we headed an Xbox giveaway where our Twitter friends shared their favorite memories at our Microsoft New England R&D Center (NERD)

Some of our favorite memories shared in our #NERD10 Giveaway:

Thank you to all who participated — and congratulations to our winner!

Our #NERD10 celebration isn’t over! Stay posted for upcoming giveaways, events, and more.

MassChallenge Startup Bootcamp Series: Application Due March 1, 2017

Last year, MassChallenge brought its mission to help all entrepreneurs win to South Boston, Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan with an intensive mini-accelerator. Thirteen companies participated in an immersive startup bootcamp with curriculum catered to their individual needs, industry mentors, and access to 24/7 office space. The bootcamp cumulated with a pitch competition where Minus the Moo and BeautyLynk ultimately received two fast-track spots into Round 2 of judging for the 2016 MassChallenge Boston accelerator program.

This year, MassChallenge has partnered with the E.M. Kauffman Foundation to expand the startup bootcamp and provide entrepreneurs and innovators from the Greater Boston Region. This mini-accelerator will once again be dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.

The startup bootcamp will run over the months of March and April and is open to early-stage, high-impact and high-potential underrepresented entrepreneurs and innovators (Women, minorities, veterans, immigrants, etc…) from the Greater Boston region.

Applications are due on March 1 — Apply here to take part in this opportunity!

Calling All Early-Stage Startups — Apply to 2017 MassChallenge Today!

Do you have a great startup idea?

Applications for Boston’s 2017 MassChallenge Accelerator, “the most friendly startup accelerator on the planet,” are open until March 28. MassChallenge is a not-for-profit committed to helping entrepreneurs succeed by providing them with the resources they need.

Since 2010, MassChallenge has had a proven-track record of taking startups to the next level. More than 1,200 MassChallenge alumni have raised over $1.8 billion in funding, generated over $700 million in revenue, and created more than 60,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Any early-stage startups across all industries are encouraged to apply. Selected startups will receive support form top mentors and experts, free co-working space, access to MassChallenge’s network of corporate partners, tailored workshops, and the opportunity to win a portion of more than $2 million in zero-equity funding globally.

2017 Timeline

February 8 — Applications open
March 28 — Applications close
March 30 – April 20 — Round 1 Judging (Online)
May 10 – May 17 — Round 2 Judging (In-Person)
May 24 — Finalist Notification
June 21 – November 1 — Boston Accelerator Program

Microsoft is a proud MassChallenge partner committed to supporting Boston’s entrepreneurial spirit. MassChallenge finalists seeking solutions for the world’s most critical problems, especially in civic innovation, are encouraged to apply for scholarship money from Microsoft. Last year’s winners of The Microsoft Civic Technology Scholarship were committed to helping public officials deliver improved services to private citizens.

Create your startup profile and apply to MassChallenge today to join the next class of startups solving the world’s biggest challenges! 

Women in Data Science Conference & Pre-Event @NERD: “Hacking Bias Ideation”

On February 2, the Microsoft New England Research & Development (NERD) Center hosted and sponsored the “Hacking Bias & Discrimination Ideation Session,” a precursor to the Harvard-MIT chapter of the Women in Data Science Conference.

This six-hour event was designed to tackle the presence of bias in data science models and algorithms through discussion and brainstorming of the following topics:

  1. Gender Bias in Word Embeddings:  http://www.wordbias.org/
  2. Identifying Gender Bias in Performance Reviews
  3. Neuroinformatics Research Group Understanding Response Bias
  4. Bias in ML algorithms applied to healthcare
  5. Bias in Law Enforcement Predictions
  6. Consumer Protections in a Digital Age
  7. Hiring and Selection Models
  8. Who Has Political Power and How Do You Measure It?

If you’d like to attend an upcoming Hacking Bias and Discrimination event, please consider:

The following day, more than 200 participants attended the Women in Data Science Conference held at NERD. Cathy Chute, Executive Director of the Harvard Institute for Applied Computational Science, and Elizabeth Sikorovsky, Executive Director of the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, delivered the opening remarks, followed by Elizabeth Bruce, Microsoft’s University Relations Lead, who presented a summary of the pre-event outcomes. Our very own Jennifer Chayes, Managing Director of Microsoft Research NE & NYC, delivered the keynote presentation, followed by talks from Microsoft Researcher Jennifer Listgarten, MIT professors, and data science industry professionals. Click Here for the conference agenda, abstracts and slides.

A recap video, via Zac Carpman:

RECAP: #CivicTechBos — Broadband Equity

What’s the importance of broadband equity?

Last night, our latest Conversation in Civic Innovation (#CivicTechBos) explored new technologies in broadband, ways to make internet accessible, and the importance behind it all.

Speakers included:

Miss out on our event? Catch up with us on Twitter Moments (below):

Celebrating #NERD10 — Microsoft New England’s Xbox Giveaway

Have you heard? It’s our anniversary! This year, we’re celebrating 10 years in our New England R&D Center (NERD) in Kendall Square, Cambridge. Over the past 10 years, we’ve been lucky enough to engage with the local community, attending (and hosting) events from Hubweek to the Kendall Square Eatup to our own #CivicTechBos nights. We’ve worked one-on-one with local startups, tech leaders, and individuals who care about New England and are helping us work forward through civic tech. And now, we want to give back. We’re celebrating in a big way by offering one lucky reader an Xbox One!


Entering is easy — we’ll be posting a pinned tweet on February 20 (which we’ll link in the space above!) that will run until February 24. Once that is live, you can enter by logging in to your legally registered social media account on Twitter and post a publicly viewable message that includes sharing a memory of NERD from the past 10 years and the hashtag #NERD10. The entry limit is one per person per day during the Entry Period and each entry must be substantially unique and different.

Thanks for celebrating with us — and good luck!

NERD10 Xbox Giveaway Sweepstakes Official Rules (PDF)

Bringing Broadband Equity to the Forefront — #CivicTechBos, February 8, 2017

As technology progresses, our need for it becomes more and more apparent. The right to internet access is important in our advanced society, but access is still not guaranteed worldwide — or even in our city.

While the City of Boston has made incredible advancements to making the internet accessible, the need for high-speed internet access has never been so obvious. That’s why our upcoming Conversations in Civic Innovation event, held this Wednesday, is centered around broadband equity — a necessity that helps our students learn, to build small businesses and to enable residents to engage as citizens.

Anne Schwieger, Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate for the Boston Department of Innovation and Technology, will be speaking on this week’s panel, and sat down with us to explore broadband equity within the city — and the world.

What does equity mean to you?

To me, equity looks like the institutions of our civil society and government acting in a way that protects all of our rights and actively affirms and enables the ability of all among us to derive benefit from the educational, economic, and civic spheres of our world.

Digital equity will be achieved when all people have the digital skills, digital tools, and Internet connectivity that they need to engage with and continually evolve these civil society and government institutions so that they respect and affirm our rights to thrive as individuals and as communities in the 21st century.

In the context of our work on broadband and digital equity, our thought here is equity across the board as well as equity within specific areas such as equitable access to education opportunities, access to great jobs, access to healthcare — increasingly, that type of access depends upon great access to digital skills, connectivity and tools.

Our thought is that digital equity is (not the only), but one of the key foundational pieces to enabling equity in all other areas.

Why specifically broadband?

In the most basic sense, ‘broadband’ is a term ascribed to Internet service that meets or exceeds a given data transmission speed. It becomes super interesting when we begin to look at it from a human angle.

People need broadband Internet in the places where they live, work, learn, and engage in civic pursuits, etc to pursue the things that are important to them, their families, and communities.

Infrastructural elements of broadband, various types of broadband services providers, and the institutions that we work with and for to create the future are also part of this broadband ecosystem.  

What are some ways that we’re making technology accessible in the city of Boston? What are some steps that we can take?

Boston has had a commitment to digital equity for a long time. For over a decade, we’ve provided support to local organizations such as Technology Goes Home, we have worked hard to connect public buildings like schools and libraries to fiber. It’s something that the City is working to expand to all public schools as we speak.

Home broadband adoption is not at a level that we believe it should be — we need it to be at a higher level in order for people’s goals, family goals, community goals, and city goals to be actualized.

Home broadband adoption is not at a level that we believe it should be. Over 1 in 5 people in Boston do not have broadband in the home, primarily for reasons of cost. That’s approximately 140,000 people in a city of just under 670,00 people. We are working with a number of partners to facilitate people who do not presently have broadband in the home in accessing low-cost offerings.

Ultimately though, the reason that 1 in 5 people are not connected to broadband in the home stems in large part from the reality of the broadband market in Boston. For a long time there has not been the type competition to drive down prices. We are hopeful that recent and prospective changes to the Boston broadband market will create the array of high quality, affordable service offerings that will serve the needs of all Bostonians.

The broadband market in Boston is shifting from 90% of households having a single choice of broadband service provider to an increasing number having 2 or more options. Our goal is for every household and business in Boston to have 2 or more options of wireline or fixed wireless service. The ‘or more’ is key there. It’s a pretty exciting time for broadband in Boston, and we’re really pleased that there is a community of providers that seem to be committed to offering services that households and businesses need, increasingly at a price point that is affordable for more people. A recent article in the Boston Globe took at look at recent changes in the Boston broadband market.

While not itself a regulator of broadband services, the City believes it has a role to play in enabling a broadband marketplace that works for all Bostonians. One thing we are very focused on is looking at ways to streamline processes and permitting where possible and making city owned assets such as shadow conduit more available to broadband service providers. This can decrease their cost of expanding service and conceivably bring greater broadband choice to all Bostonians more quickly. Here is a publicly available map of city owned shadow conduit.

I think that there is an ethos of shared ownership running through a lot of our broadband and digital equity work citywide, and this allows our priorities to be reflected in the day-to-day work that we do with one another across many departments. Here’s an article with info about the ways that colleagues across the City of Boston have collaborated on broadband and digital equity initiatives.

What should we discuss on February 8?

I would love to hear what the audience and panelists think the city can do and what they think they can do that perhaps they aren’t already doing to contribute to and enable outcomes we’re all committed to. The City of Cambridge has a broadband task force; we have a metro area that more or less is all facing similar challenges. What can we do to learn from each other? We basically have a shared metro-wide workforce, where someone lives in Cambridge and work in Boston or vice versa. We depend upon great connectivity metro-wide to reach our own goals. This is an area that is good for everyone. It would be interesting to see how people think municipalities ought to work together on some of these goals. Theo Hanna would be a great person to talk about that, because Tech Goes Home is starting to work with community organizations in Cambridge.

Join us Wednesday, February 8, from 5:30pm-8:30pm at Roxbury Innovation Center. RSVP here and join the conversation online by following @MSNewEngland and @VentureCafe and using the hashtag #CivicTechBos.

Anne Schwieger works for the City of Boston Department of Innovation & Technology as Broadband and Digital Equity Advocate. In this role she supports the City in creating a comprehensive broadband policy framework that addresses existing and new broadband  infrastructure and the ease with which Bostonians can use this infrastructure to harness the full power of internet connectivity to pursue educational, professional, health and wellness, and civic endeavors. Anne also serves on the City of Cambridge Broadband Task Force and is the producer of Cambridge Broadband Matters on Cambridge Community Television. She holds a Master in City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT and a BA in Biology and Society from Cornell University.

Microsoft New England Picks: Not-To-Miss Events, February 2017

It’s February, and love is in the air… A love for civic tech, that is! We’ve got heart-eyes for the many civic tech events New England has to offer.

Here are our top picks:

February 4

Women Engineers Code (WECode) Conference 2017

It’s the fourth iteration of Women Engineers Code: the largest student-run Women in Computer Science conference, held at Harvard University each February. Join in the effort to cultivate the next generation of technical leaders, foster a network and community among collegiate engineers, and promote more female representation in the technical industry.

February 7

Making Open Data Open for All

Join one of NYC’s leading open data advocates and learn how they disassemble an open data set! For this workshop, you will learn how to bite into the big apple and digest one of the world’s most valuable skills — navigating and arguing with open data.

Due to high demand, preference will be given to HKS Students.

February 7, 14, 21, 28

Code for Boston Weekly Hack Night

Code for Boston’s weekly Hack Nights are a time to meet in person to work on and discuss civic tech projects. Come by to say hi and hack!

February 8

Conversation in Civic Innovation: Broadband Equity

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. Please join us for a discussion on Broadband Equity. Panelists will include:

Anne Schwieger, City of Boston
Damon Cox, The Boston Foundation
Chris Mitchell, Institute for Local Self Reliance
Theo Hanna, Tech Goes Home
Moderator: Sharon Gillett, Microsoft

CODE Documentary: Debugging the Gender Gap

Featuring the documentary movie CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap at the Boston CSS meetup. CODE examines the reasons why more girls and people of color are not seeking opportunities in computer science and explores how cultural mindsets, stereotypes, educational hurdles and sexism all play roles in this national crisis.

February 13

Patient Stories: The Reason We Care About Health

Digital Health is at the forefront of innovation and through all the fast-paced changes it is critical to remember why we do what we do: to help entrepreneurs win and to help patients win! Join PULSE@MassChallenge for the 2017 inaugural #PULSECHECK and circle back to the heart of the healthcare ecosystem featuring a panel of experts.

February 16

Code & Coffee

Code & Coffee is a monthly opportunity for you to practice your skills, meet new friends, and get help if you need it. Bring your laptop, your recent projects, and your programming problems! All are welcome regardless of gender or skill level, whether or not you’ve attended past Girl Develop It events.

Christi Kaes: Introduction to Hololens (BostonAR partner event)

Last year Microsoft released the Hololens developer editions. Some of the unique features of the Hololens are the spatial mapping and the spatial sound that it has. Christina, Senior Software Engineer at Vistaprint, will introduce the Hololens and show how to build a simple real world application with it that uses both the spatial mapping and sound features.

The Future of Transportation, a Boston View

Boston is growing! In the last four years it has added as many residents as it did in the previous 20. This growth has brought many opportunities but also highlights some challenges. None are more evident than in the area of transportation. Presentations and discussions will include a global view of mobility in cities, Boston’s challenges and next steps, North/South connected rail, shared modes of transportation and public/private partnerships, new transportation technology, and automated vehicles.  Come hear about the vision and future of transportation in and around the city.

February 18

2017 MIT Tech Conference

The MIT Tech Conference is an annual event hosted by the MIT Sloan Tech Club at the MIT Media Lab. Open to the general public, this conference features interactive expert panels, keynote speakers from the biggest names in tech and a showcase of the world’s most innovative technologies. This year’s conference will focus on the world’s most innovative Exponential technologies like Internet of Things, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Synthetic Biology.

February 21

Boston Imaging & Vision Presents: Driverless Cars

6 – 6:30: Networking and pizza
6:30 – 7:30: Three speakers:

(1) Nutonomy

(2) Lex Fridman, MIT: Driveless cars and safety

(3) Ro Gupta, Carmera: 4D/HD Mapping

7:25 – 7:35: 1 min pitches from audience
7:35 on: More networking

February 22

Cybersecurity & Industry Vulnerabilities Tech Talk

Join Tech in Motion Boston for a tech talk on cybersecurity. Cybersecurity has been making headlines for quite some time. For this discussion, our expert panelists will provide an in depth look into this industry and its increasing importance.

February 24 – 25

2017 MassDiGI Game Challenge 

The MassDiGI Game Challenge is a one-of-a-kind pitch competition that helps aspiring game developers launch new games. The 2017 MassDIGI Game Challenge will be held at Microsoft New England. The MassDiGI Game Challenge features industry mentors, veteran judges panels and keynotes and great prizes – you don’t want to miss it!

February 28

Café Night at Roxbury Innovation Center

The monthly Café Nights @ RIC are energetic and dynamic events where innovators and entrepreneurs can find one another and collaborate to bring their dreams to reality. These regular gatherings provide a space for conversations and scheduled programs to inspire a wide range of attendees from different backgrounds and industries to connect, share ideas, and grow their ventures.

#NERD10: Microsoft R&D Celebrating 10 years in Kendall Square

2017 marks ten years that Microsoft has hosted one of its Global Development Centers in Cambridge. The Microsoft New England Research & Development Center, fondly referred to as NERD, is celebrating its anniversary with stories and events year-round. Please join us in the celebration on the ground and online using #NERD10. Below, T.K. “Ranga” Rengarajan, CVP – Engineering, kicks off #NERD10 with a look inside our Global Development Centers.

This year, we celebrate Microsoft’s New England Research & Development Center’s (NERD) 10-year anniversary—and what a 10 years it’s been!

NERD is home to one of Microsoft’s vibrant Global Development Centers, or GDCs, that are integral to the success of Microsoft. The company has six GDCs across the globe: Silicon Valley, India, China, Israel, Vancouver, and Cambridge, MA (NERD).

I liken GDCs to the roots of the banyan tree: these aerial roots elevate and strengthen the primary trunk and, over time, can become very strong supporting trunks themselves. Similarly, each of Microsoft’s GDCs cultivates an environment that yields innovation in engineering (AI, robotics, Azure and Hololens); health; education; gaming and augmented reality. Having research and development arms in various cities and countries is critical to having a diverse, global engineering workforce: they provide the company with access to top talent, different and exciting ecosystems, and dynamic markets.

I am honored to say I started my career in New England. My first post-grad job was at Digital Equipment Corp. in Nashua, New Hampshire. There, I was able to witness technology booming out of the Boston metro area during the minicomputer era, with great engineers creating industry-leading technologies, both in hardware and software. I have a profound respect for the workforce in the area–and that respect only continues to grow.

There are many reasons why we chose Cambridge as one of our strategic locations. The New England area exemplifies the interconnection and influences between academia, industry and technology. Cambridge, Boston and the Northeast are known for its universities, professors and research programs. For this reason, Microsoft NERD was built next to MIT and minutes away from several, other renowned institutions. Given this highly educated and skilled talent, Boston has a long tradition of starting and building great technology companies focused on software engineering, application engineering, medicine, health, finance… the list is long! In particular, Kendall Square (where NERD is located) has become a major hotbed for tech, biotech, and start-ups and has been called the most innovative square mile in the U.S! Having NERD in the middle of this ecosystem is important — not just to Microsoft, but to the community as a whole. Microsoft is proud to stand with our neighbors in such a robust community.

If you aren’t familiar with the work being done here, I encourage you to explore this site and to review the job openings we have here. Great technologies and research have emerged from NERD in its first 10 years, and we look forward to even greater contributions to Microsoft and to the community in the next 10 years.

To find out more about Ranga and Microsoft’s global development strategy, follow Ranga on Twitter @trengarajan.

T.K. “Ranga” Rengarajan, a Corporate Vice President within Artificial Intelligence and Research (AIR) in Microsoft is responsible for global aspects of engineering. Among his responsibilities are all Microsoft Global Development Centers located in China, India, Israel, New England, Silicon Valley and Vancouver, the Garage program to drive grass root innovation and advanced technology projects in the areas of system and performance. Ranga and his teams are responsible to ensure Microsoft attracts, trains and retains the best talent in the world. Previously, Ranga led engineering for Microsoft’s Database and Big Data businesses driving significant cultural transformation in the Data Platform team, notably in focusing on execution, faster innovation and delighting customers. His leadership was instrumental in growing the service culture in SQL DB and launching and growing the full complement of Azure data services – Data Lake, DocumentDB, Search, SQL DW, HDInsight on Linux. 

Before Microsoft, Ranga held senior leadership positions at SAP, Wily, Sybase, Digital Equipment Corporation and at several Silicon Valley startups. At SAP, he was responsible for the Business Analytics and Hana applications. Before that, he ran Wily’s application management solutions. He also has held executive positions in engineering, operations, and support at Silicon Valley startups focused on customer experience management, wireless, security, and internet messaging services. Earlier in his career, Ranga ran database server development for Sybase, Inc. At Digital Equipment Corporation, Ranga was among the youngest individuals elected as a Distinguished Engineer and set the world record in transaction processing with Oracle Rdb product in the TPC-A benchmark, resulting in papers and patents.

Ranga holds a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin. He lives in Silicon Valley with his wife and two daughters.