innovation

Microsoft’s MassChallenge Scholarship for Civic Innovation Helps Donii Give

Four years ago, Microsoft partnered with the MassChallenge to identify startups with innovative solutions fostering citizen engagement and transparency between government and constituents. The Microsoft Scholarship for Civic Innovation supports up to five civically-focused startups with a cash grant to help grow their business as they apply to the accelerator. To date, the scholarship has benefited nearly 20 startups with innovated civic solutions, such as leveraging big data for automating parking management (FetchPark), using IoT and mobile money solution to bring running water to every urban home (CityTaps), and an online town-hall platform (Agora).

The truth, is we hope that the Civic Innovation Scholarship is only the beginning of our partnership with these startups. In fact, we hope that our collaboration is deepened as the startup continues to grow. This has been the case with Donii – a 2016 scholarship recipient.

Donii is the social enterprise that makes sure your donated goods make it to people in your community that need it most. Founder & CEO Angie Janssen works with local charities like homeless shelters and youth welfare programs to match the organization’s immediate materials needs with potential donors. This eliminates the hopeful guess-work of donating goods.

Have a set of pots and pans to donate? Simply log-on to Donii’s online portal and select from a list of local organizations that need pots and pans. Donii then picks up the donation and delivers back a tax receipt with a personal note detailing how the goods will be used. Each organization on the Donii platform has been vetted to guarantee that the items will indeed go to individuals in their program.

Beyond the Civic Tech Scholarship, Microsoft was one of the very first corporate partners to sign up to host a Donii drop-off in their office.

This idea was introduced after Donii’s time in the MassChallenge helped Angie think more deeply about addressing the needs and challenges of potential donors. The corporate partner model allows employees to bring goods to their office. By having a box in the office with regularly scheduled pickup days, potential donors don’t have to find the extra time in their day to find a drop-box somewhere else in town. Corporate partners receive ongoing impact metrics about how their employees’ donations helped the community. Microsoft now uses Donii in its New England offices to empower year-round employee giving and to build meaningful connections with nonprofit organizations throughout the city.

Earlier this year, Donii introduced tablets and printer kiosks to eliminate the time between giving a donation and knowing its impact. Donors are now able to check-in their donation and print a label for easy delivery right on-the-spot. The new streamlined system also notifies the organization that the ask has been filled in real time.

Once again, Microsoft was there to support Donii in its growth goals. We provided the organization with five Surface Pro 4 tablets – four which will be attached to new drop-off boxes and one for Angie to use for demos.

Donii Founder & CEO Angie Janssen

Angie is quick to note that a year ago the $5,000 Donii received from the 2016 Civic Tech Scholarship went a long way in building out the “bootstrapping young start-up.” However, the ongoing collaboration with Microsoft has provided far beyond a monetary or hardware donation. She notes that businesses are more comfortable and inclined to become corporate partners when they know Microsoft has done the same. The intangible benefits of credibility and access are often the most difficult for startups to overcome. Microsoft is happy to help our Civic Tech Scholarship recipients however we can.

Another round of MassChallenge accelerator applications is now upon us! Applications are now closed and the first round of judging is underway. We can’t wait to see all the innovative civic solutions this year’s entrepreneurs have dreamt up!

Microsoft is excited to once again support civically-focused startups with the 2017 Scholarship for Civic Innovation. We hope the recipients will lean on Microsoft — as Donii has — in a collaborative partner as their startup continues to grow.

#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.

SoundBridge: Empowering the Next Generation of Audio Professionals

Soundbridge Lumit on desktop

Soundbridge LogoThere’s no doubt that music is an integral part of our society. From its early function as a storytelling tool to its modern ubiquitous nature, music is a priority. And with tech growing exponentially, music’s importance has never been more clear. Music technology is transforming music into something that everybody can access. Today, musicians can write, produce, record, and collaborate on Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) that translate everything into a digital format. Tools like SoundBridge’s Lumit are making that process easier and mobile.

Recording Magazine

Lumit is a Full-Featured DAW developed by SoundBridge, an advanced audio technology company founded by Northeastern graduate, Wake Anderson. The software is recognized by Recording Magazine as the first DAW optimized for Microsoft’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP) from the ground up. Post and Recording Magazine have also recognized Lumit as being one of the most intuitive professional DAWs on the market – with a learn-curve of approximately a couple of days. If you have ever used a DAW before, you probably know it can take years to master. Microsoft Surface Pro 4 users will experience fast and agile control over Lumit due to the development team’s implementation of original hand-gestures and creative mobile navigation – technology typically not seen in desktop software. The hybrid mobile/desktop environment opens the doors for creative expression in ways the mouse and keyboard never could.

Soundbridge Lumit on Microsoft Surface

And whether you’re in the studio doing precise editing or recording a street performance to sample – you’re not limited in terms of professional capabilities. For the first time ever, audio engineers can create professional audio assets using virtual studio technologies (VST), USB musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) controllers, and high-fidelity/low latency USB soundcards that run audio stream in out (ASIO) drivers from a device that weighs less than a pound – such as the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. SoundBridge’s Lumit is a true technological achievement by all means – it’s the most mobile professional digital audio workstation on the market.

Wake Anderson and the Soundbridge TeamThe SoundBridge Team is expanding its easy-to-use functionality to the place it makes most sense; schools. Since Lumit is designed for everyone to use, Anderson is hoping to help students embrace music tech with one platform. This program kicks off in Almada, Portugal at Mastering Lisboa where partners will be teaching professional recording and audio production in Lumit for two months with high-school- aged aspiring audio professionals. Through this educational curriculum, Lumit seeks to teach students the basics of audio and music theory all in tandem, bridging tech and music together to get kids to think creatively.

Recently, we’ve seen Lumit in action at Make Music Day Boston, a live celebration of music in the city. Lumit’s DAW was set up in Copley Square, where passersby could contribute to a production and watch live as Lumit put everything together. Recorded entirely on Surface, Lumit presented the Make Music Day “theme” — Veggie Blues:

Design Museum Boston’s Urban Innovation Festival July 29-31

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Want to get a taste of what Boston could look like in the near future? Curious to see urban design in action? Join Design Museum Boston for their 3-day outdoor Urban Innovation Festival July 29-31 under the I-93 overpass at 247 Albany Street in the South End.

During this 3-day design hackathon, you’ll watch as teams comprised of engineers, designers, architects, and innovators compete to design solutions to urban problems. This is the main event of the museum’s ongoing Urban Innovation program, which shows how design can improve the livability of a city.

Each participating team — including Payette, Autodesk, Fidelity Labs, Essential Design, Bose, Shepley Bulfinch, Wentworth Institute of Technology, CBT, MassArt, and Stantec — will be given a challenge related to the overpass, such as improving safety or connecting neighborhoods. You’ll be able to watch solutions being built fro the ground up right before your eyes from under the overpass.

Microsoft New England is proud to be a sponsor of this event, as we’re always striving to support civic tech innovators as they transform Boston and make our city even better.

“I can’t wait to see what the teams come up with, but what I’m most excited about is when we actually install these solutions next year! My goal is to install as many as possible and in different neighborhoods. If the designs are successful, than we will work hard to install even more,” said Liz Pawlak, Associate Director, Design Museum Boston.

NewCo Boston: A Day to See and be Seen

header-NewCo16-BOS-1200pxThere are some 300 colleges and universities within 90 miles of Boston, Massachusetts. Our region has the most educated population in the nation, and the state is regularly ranked as number one in innovation capacity.

Massachusetts is poised to lead the major innovation wave–one characterized by smart, connected machines and devices. Yet, despite a critical mass of education and innovative organizations we are still, paradoxically, coming up short in one critical component: talent. We need to find new ways to get people together to experience what is happening here and to fill them with the kind of pride and enthusiasm that convinces them to keep their talents here upon graduation.

NewCo Boston, debuting in the area on April 27th, can help accomplish this goal. Founded by six-time media and tech entrepreneur John Battelle, NewCo sets out to identify, celebrate, and connect the engines of positive change in our society while fostering trust, storytelling, and true connection between the people driving a new kind of global capitalism. Through intimate, founder-led sessions, NewCo festivals create lasting engagement and deep, critical connections.

NewCo Boston debuts with 80+ innovative companies from across the region opening their doors and inviting the public in for a behind-the-scenes look at companies and conversations with the founders, CEOs and other drivers of innovation in their native habitats. With more than 750,000 possible combinations, each journey can be unique. The day concludes with hundreds of fellow NewCo attendees mingling amid plush velvet banquettes, gorgeous chandeliers, and luxurious wall coverings at GEM Lounge.

NewCoBos_NewsletterWhat makes NewCo so perfect for Massachusetts?

We need to do a better job exposing our many students to the amazing companies, innovators, and inventions in their own backyard. If we did so, one would reason, more of them might take on internships and jobs locally and end up launching their careers here in Massachusetts rather than going to what may seem like greener, more exciting pastures.

As we showcase the amazing things happening locally on the global NewCo media platform, more people across the 16 other NewCo cities – from Istanbul to Barcelona to San Francisco – will learn about the great inventors and inventions here, thereby elevating our innovation brand and drawing additional attention and talent to the region.

Finally, NewCo gives us a glimpse into the future. What is being developed today will be the products and services of tomorrow. If you’re looking to network, to find a better job, or to just get a few new ideas, it’s a day worth checking out. Learn more, and join 1,000+ others for the inaugural NewCo Boston festival, by visiting bos.newco.co.

Tom Hopcroft is President & CEO of the Mass Technology Leadership Council, organizer of NewCo Boston. He can be reached at tom@Masstlc.org.

Tom headshot4Tom Hopcroft is President & CEO of the Mass Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC), the region’s leading technology association and the premier network for tech executives, entrepreneurs, investors and policy-makers. A Massachusetts attorney and former adjunct professor at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration, Mr. Hopcroft founded and led the New England Business and Technology Association which merged with the Mass Software Council in 2005 and later the Mass Network Communications Council in 2009 to form what is today the largest technology organization in the New England with 500+ member companies ranging from early stage start-up to global enterprise across the entire tech ecosystem. Hopcroft serves as Chairman of the Fiscal Affairs and Administrative Policy Committee on the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. He is also on the boards of the MassTLC Education Foundation, MassRobotics, and the Technology Councils of North America. Mr. Hopcroft lives in Winchester, MA, with his wife and two boys.

Voices of Change — Transforming Communities Through Innovation

Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. We are inspired by the local leaders who make diversity a priority in their daily work. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, we’re honored to celebrate women in our community who are carrying out the mission of civic engagement, leadership and empowering other women.

— Microsoft New England

Lourdes

Several months ago I was listening intently to leaders from the City of New Orleans tell me the story of how an important and seemingly unassailable problem known as urban blight was transformed with civic innovation. Urban blight – the process where a functioning city falls into disrepair– was a problem at the center of the daily citizen experience and they were able to change that with civic innovation. I left that conversation asking myself, where are those stories of civic innovation going? If a transformational idea exists in one city, can it apply to other communities? Does knowledge of that invention ever scale to other communities who are facing the same challenge? How does that happen?

These remarkably relevant questions kept appearing in my mind in countless conversations I had with leaders of cities and towns throughout the decade I spent working with communities in various roles. I heard stories of the creativity and innovation in governance and technology being used to address financial management, transportation, schools, land use, the environment, public finance, and so many other challenges at the heart of citizen life. I also realized that healthy functioning cities were also being transformed by grass-roots citizen led innovation. The inspiration for my work began to take form in those moments.

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The Civic Innovation Project began with a simple vision that endeavored to raise awareness of civic innovations that were transforming communities by presenting stories from leaders, citizens, academics, and private sector stakeholders using creativity and civic technology to solve the most vexing problems facing communities. The stories, presented in a Civic Innovation Gallery, live alongside actual technology demos, created with data-rich resources, including access to downloads, tutorials, and instructional materials that provide any citizen or leader of a community with an instant roadmap to innovate around a challenge.

When I asked myself – how could I take my work a step further and empower communities and citizens to bridge the information gap? How could I further create a space that facilitates learning about global innovation? I chose to evolve the platform into a learning lab for cities and their citizens.

Examples of what cities and their citizens will find in the Civic Innovation Project learning lab include:

  • The ability to learn from leaders, like those from the City of New Orleans, who in their own words, share an innovation road-map, alongside other examples of inventions from leaders in the public and private sector.
  • Visualizations that distill the most complex aspects of data to facilitate data-driven decision-making, created with Microsoft tools that help communities begin innovating instantly on their own.
  • Data sets drawn from leading sources, like Morningstar, Inc., that will be integrated in models that can help communities assess and understand key metrics related to the markets they operate in.
  • A virtual classroom that will help citizens and leaders learn from each other’s inventions.

Taken together, these resources are intended to create a learning space where information about civic innovation can exist and be used by citizens and leaders to change the trajectory and narratives of communities and increase transparency in significant ways. I believe that process begins when you empower these various constituencies to share discoveries with each other, build their awareness and capacity as civic innovators, and provide them with access to tools that allow them to turn their vision into realities and engender meaningful change in communities.

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To see a video that helps you learn more about the vision behind the Civic Innovation Project learning labs that will be released later this year, and our development process, please visit www.civicinnovationproject.com/preview.

Lourdes German is the founder and director of the Civic Innovation Project, a national platform focused on emerging government innovation that was recognized with a 2015 State of Boston Innovation Award. Lourdes is also a fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, where she advances the Institute’s global municipal fiscal health campaign. An expert in municipal finance, Lourdes is driven by a deep commitment and passion for communities and civic engagement, made visible by her roles as Governor Baker’s appointed Chair of the Massachusetts State Finance and Governance Board, and as an appointee of the Mayor of Boston to the committee focused on the City’s audit and finance matters. For over a decade Lourdes has held several leadership roles in government finance, including as an attorney at the international law firm Edwards Wildman, at Fidelity Investments where she helped create a new national business division focused on government public finance, and as Vice President and General Counsel at Breckinridge Capital Advisors. Lourdes has also served as an advisor to non-profits focused on urban economic growth and social impact investing; has developed and taught a graduate course in government finance at Northeastern University, and serves on the boards of United Way and Boston Women in Public Finance.

Apply Now for the 2016 MassChallenge Accelerator Program!

masschallenge

Have an idea for your startup, but need a launching point for it? If you’ve familiarized yourself with the startup scene in the past five years, then you’re all-too-familiar with MassChallenge. The Boston-based — and now global — incubator has helped hundreds of startups gain the funding, talent, and business expertise to make their visions a reality. And now it’s your turn. MassChallenge is now accepting applications for its 2016 Accelerator Program in Boston, Israel, and Switzerland.

Any early-stage startup can apply from anywhere in the world to be part of the 835 MassChallenge alumni that have raised over $1.1B and created 6,500 jobs. We’ve been pleased to support local startups participating in MassChallenge through our Microsoft Scholarship for Civic Innovation, a fund that assists startups that address problems in civic life.

The application, which is due by March 31, is live now at masschallenge.org/apply. And the earlier you apply, the better — the 2016 Application Fee increases from $49 to $99 after March 3.

The next success story could be you or someone you know! What are you waiting for? Apply now!

Microsoft New England’s Top Blogs of 2015

New England - 2015

2015 was a year of growth and change for all of us. As we brought new civic ventures and education policy to Greater Boston, we were reminded every day why civic technology is so important. Thanks to our great partnerships, dedicated staff, and driven city, 2015 was one of our most successful years yet. We’d like to thank everyone who was there every step of the way!

Here are some of our favorite blogs of the year, highlighting special moments, special people, and the hard work that goes into civic tech every day:

 

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May 15, 2015
Welcoming Young Inventors to Microsoft

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June 16, 2015
Celebrating Pride in Boston with GLEAM
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Project Square Lets Cambridge Students Take Charge in Community Development
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Citizen Schools Honors Microsoft Employees for Their Service
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Smart Cities Need Smart Addresses
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Fellow Profile: Jackie Lender
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Boston’s The Record Company — it’s not about ownership, it’s about access
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Boston Startup Rejjee Uses Cloud Services to Recover Stolen Bikes
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#CSEdWeek: Students Talk CS — Amanda Westort, Advanced Math And Science Academy Charter School
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#CSEdWeek: Students Talk CS — Evan Przyborowski, Advanced Math And Science Academy Charter School

Our Space, Our Place, Inc. — Introducing Blind Youth to Coding

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Our Space Our Place, Inc. (OSOP) is a nonprofit organization housed at the Tobin Community Center in Roxbury which provides an after school and career exploration program for middle and high school youth who are blind.  OSOP emerged out of the desire of professionals who are blind and parents with children who are blind to improve the employment outcomes for the next generation of blind youth.

Using the Expanded Core Curriculum, a generally accepted framework of nine areas of instructions for youth who are blind, OSOP focused on developing skills in the areas of social interaction, recreation and fitness and age-appropriate career exploration. As a result, OSOP created a program which offers theater, dance, and visits to museums, running and other sports, tours of local companies, work experiences and exploration of careers.

For the last few years, the OSOP students have participated in the Boston Athletic Association 5K race. It is a point of pride that all of the students finish the race. Students have also had opportunities to work at the Museum of Fine Arts and at the Perkins Braille and Talking Book Library. The parents of the student who worked at the MFA expressed their appreciation for the experience, which gave their son a chance to learn about work. For the student who worked at the library, her teacher shared that because of the work experience, she could see a greater confidence in the student.

The most current data indicates only 42.6% of all working age individuals with significant vision loss are employed (https://nfb.org/blindness-statistics).

Recognizing the growing field of technology, we wanted to provide our students with an introduction to the skills needed to pursue employment.  We applied to Smarter in the City, because we wanted to expand our program to offer a coding workshop. Our goals are to introduce forty students who are blind to coding and to build connections with tech companies in the Boston area so as to introduce students to professionals in the tech field and to identify work experiences for students.

Our exploration of a tool which can be used to introduce blind youth to coding has so far shown that some of the tools are not accessible to students using assistive technology. We are nonetheless excited and are pursuing some ideas such as whether there are ways to make tactile the concepts of coding and whether creating games and/or music will allow students to learn code and to explore other aspects of the technology field.

We are seeking collaborators and sponsors. We are looking for people to join our Advisory Group who are curious and are excited to take an idea from exploration to reality.

Learn more about Our Space, Our Place, Inc. via their website and their Facebook page.

Taking a 21st Century Approach to Innovation in Australia

JoinedUp Boston

Governments around the world are grappling with the concept of innovation: what is it? How does it benefit society? And how can the power of innovation be harnessed to benefit constituents? You may recall Microsoft New England had the pleasure of convening an Australian delegation in July to explore these topics and brainstorm the Boston best practices that could be leveraged in Australia.

We are honored to see this work begin to bear fruit “down under”, and are thrilled to see our Australian friends taking steps towards their own 21st century approach to innovation. We hope to continue to share and learn from our Australian colleagues.

See how Australia is leveraging some of Boston’s best practices in innovation:

Adelaide looks to Boston as SA government eyes future as tech startup centre — Australian Financial Review

Boston lessons for Roy, Husic — Australian Business Review

Joined-Up Innovation — Accelerating Australia’s Ecosystem

MICROSOFT: Australia has a lot to learn from startup powerhouse Massachusetts — Business Insider Australia