Thank You, Microsoft

Opinion

This article was written with Michael Greeley, general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners and chairman of the New England Venture Capital Association.

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer is here in Cambridge this morning meeting with community leaders, and presumably also with his own staff to learn how things are going at Microsoft’s New England Research and Development Center (NERD) at One Memorial Drive.

So this would be a good moment to let him know, from the perspective of a couple of us in the local community, that his team here has done a fabulous job.

When Microsoft moved into town, it did two things in particular that have made a big impact: the first was to provide resources for a large and very capable team of people whose mission is to engage with and improve the local community. That team is made up of names and faces that have become very familiar and respected in our local tech scene: Sara Spalding, Gus Weber, Paul Coeburgh, Leah Brunson, and Brian Burke. Each of these folks has taken on significant organizational work for groups seeking to improve Massachusetts. An example is the leading role Gus has taken seeking to create better mechanisms for students to find internships at Massachusetts businesses. Sara has taken on leading roles in the Kendall Square Association and the Massachusetts IT Collaborative.

The second significant contribution Microsoft made was to create a set of community gathering spaces at NERD like none other in Kendall Square. It includes a full floor of conference center space, plus another floor with fun and unusual architecture for soirées of various sorts. They have made this space available to a broad array of outside networking groups, such as the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council, which holds its dynamic Tech Tuesday events there.

Wednesday this week there were two back-to back terrific events at NERD. There was a reception preceding the MIT Enterprise Forum meeting featuring Ray Kurzweil, Bill Warner and Sim Simeonov. Our Lieutenant Governor, Tim Murray, and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Greg Bialecki showed up, and it was a great conversation. Following this the place transformed into party mode, as some 26 restaurants, health clubs, and others in Kendall Square hosted hundreds of “elite” reviewers from the popular online review site Yelp. The place was packed, the music got turned up, and there was an air of festivity and community rarely felt in Kendall Square in the past.

So, thank you Microsoft. You have brought something new and special to our neighborhood.

Xconomist Tim Rowe is Founder and CEO of Cambridge Innovation Center. Follow @rowe

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