Boston-born startup accelerator, MassChallenge, will soon be setting up its first Bridge to MassChallenge program in Australia with Microsoft as its founding partner. The Australian government today announced the news along with Pip Marlow of Microsoft and Kara Shurmantine of MassChallenge.
MassChallenge is one of the world’s top accelerators. It was founded as a non-profit organization by John Harthorne and Akhil Nigam in the aftermath of the global financial crisis as a way of focusing on those who were creating the new jobs, and finding creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems.
As a company built on empowering every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more, it was a natural fit for Microsoft to become MassChallenge’s first corporate partner. Our relationship with the Boston accelerator has grown over the past seven years under the guidance of our Technology and Civic Engagement team in New England and particularly the efforts of Cathy Wissink and Aimee Sprung.
MassChallenge made a pledge with the Clinton Global Initiative to take its program to 10 cities around the world by 2020, and in doing so to directly create 30,000 new jobs and another 150,000 indirect jobs. It is now running full programs in the U.K., Israel, Switzerland, and Mexico, and has run Bridge to MassChallenge programs such as the one planned for Australia, in Colombia, Morocco, France, Spain, Korea and Russia, among others.
The expansion to Australia and Microsoft’s role as the founding partner of Bridge to MassChallenge was announced by Christopher Pyne, Australia’s Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, at Microsoft’s offices in South Australia.
I am proud that this outcome has evolved from a partnership between Microsoft’s New England team and our Australian subsidiary that has been running for more than 18 months. This has seen a rich sharing of ideas, knowledge and relationships to the benefit of the innovation ecosystems in both markets.
What started as a job shadow opportunity for Belinda Dennett from Microsoft in Australia sparked an idea that developed into a full-fledged partnership. This partnership aspired to answer the question: What is the role of government in building a thriving innovation economy? To that end, Microsoft convened an Australian delegation of leading politicians, policymakers, academics and business people who spent a week with their counterparts in Boston, sharing ideas, best practices and potential next steps for the Australian innovation ecosystem. As part of the tour, the group spent an evening at MassChallenge, learning about the role MassChallenge plays in the local, national and international innovation space.
The Australian team also released a report discussing Boston’s approach to innovation and economic renewal. This has proven to be just as compelling for our stakeholders in Boston as it was to our stakeholders in Australia. Not only did it provide an opportunity to share best practices, the report also provided a compelling external perspective of what makes the ecosystem so successful – which may have surprised some of those who are so central to it.
Of course these announcements don’t just happen. There has been a mountain of work behind the scenes to generate support from the federal and state governments and within Microsoft, and to show how Australia is well placed to support a Bridge to MassChallenge program.
“Microsoft has been an invaluable partner for MassChallenge. They share our vision for helping support entrepreneurs and improve ecosystems around the world, and aren’t afraid to do the work with us that it takes to make that vision a reality,” said Kara Shurmantine, Senior Director for Global Partnerships at MassChallenge.
According to Belinda Dennett, “What started out as an idea to shine the light on Boston as an example of a thriving innovation ecosystem has ended up shining a light on what is happening in Australia and putting Microsoft in a great position to be part of – and help drive – some really exciting changes.”
This is the start of something very exciting for MassChallenge and for Microsoft, especially in Australia. It is also evidence of the potential of our Technology and Civic Engagement team to work outside of the U.S. and shows the key role Microsoft can play in being a facilitator and convener of the innovation ecosystem.
Congratulations to everyone involved.