Microsoft Reactors—in a league of their own
Jeff Friedman, Microsoft Corporation
New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco all have one thing in common: they’re home to a Microsoft Reactor. Dedicated to fostering an ongoing engagement and dialogue between Microsoft and the local developer and startup community, each Reactor provides a community space for connections, resources and talent—and are tailored to their locale. Here’s a brief look at the impact of the Reactors thus far:
Philadelphia Microsoft ReactorOpened right before the Democratic National Convention, I was excited when the Philadelphia Reactor came to my hometown and officially opened Nov. 3, leading Philadelphia Magazine to call the Reactor “in a league of its own.”
Dave Voyles has been based at the Reactor from the start, supporting local developers, building relationships with young companies and providing a vendor-neutral space for civic events. A collaboration of Microsoft, SeventySix Capital, the University City Science Center and Wexford Science + Technology, the Philadelphia Reactor has received widespread praise from the 1,000-plus developers, startups and community members who have graced its doors in its first four months. “It’s been a success largely because of how many people are returning and the value they’re getting,” Voyles said. SeventySix Capital has hosted several events with its portfolio companies, including a half-day session with StartUp Health for healthcare leaders from across the country and a discussion on the impact of technology on sports, with representatives from the Philadelphia Eagles and Whistle Sports. Stimulus, a minority-owned business led by Tiffanie Stanard, was the Reactor’s first startup in residence and drives traffic by helping other young companies find grants and investments for sustainable social impact work. Startups Red Queen Gaming and Philly Dev Night also work out of the Reactor.
Biggest impact? Providing a landing spot for young companies until they find permanent co-working space. “We want to start companies here, and (help them) stay and grow in the region,” Voyles said, calling the Reactor “a space for not only technical communities but also educators, community leaders—for all of Philadelphia. With our partnerships … we can make Philadelphia a truly viable market for startups and technology.”
Microsoft CityNext believes in the value of our Reactors to further civic technology, provide convenient locations for community gatherings, and as an environment to share our latest cloud and platform innovations. Please learn more about the thriving Microsoft Reactor community and how it physically manifests Microsoft’s CityNext ethos.
San Francisco Microsoft ReactorOur San Francisco Reactor opened in October 2015 and has been positively contributing to the local developer and startup ecosystem ever since. In 2016, the San Francisco Reactor:
Hosted over 300 community meetings—including 21 diverse user groups, 12 hackathons and eight special events—attended by more than 12,700 people.
Provided office space and business solutions to more than 50 startup companies.
Partnered with noted entrepreneur Jason Calacanis and his LAUNCH organization to host the 2016 TWiST Live event, attended by 200-plus and resulting in three million Twitter impressions.
Microsoft’s Joe Shirey has been involved from the very beginning and said the San Francisco Reactor, located near Moscone Center, established a clear philosophy before launch: “We decided that this would a place to engage (developer) communities and startups,” he said. “We’re not there to push our products; if you come into the Reactor, we want to connect with you on a technical level. This is our commitment to being part of the community.”
Biggest impact? Working with a lot of developer communities, said Shirey, noting Hackers and Founders, Python, MongoDB, Playcrafting, BAY.NET and others. “We get the opportunity to engage and participate in these communities in addition to hosting them.”
More impacts are sure to come after the Reactor reopens following an April-to-June closure for renovations.
Native New Yorker Andrew Reitano joined Microsoft June 27 of last year—and the next day was assigned to support the new Reactor.
While the second Reactor had a September soft opening, Oct. 19 marked the official launch of the New York site, which is located in the heart of Manhattan at startup incubator Grand Central Tech (GCT). Reitano, who keeps office hours two days a week, said the GCT Hub area is excellent for connecting with the roughly 90 startups based there, with casual conversations and coffee often leading to more engagement: “Maybe we schedule them for an upcoming hackathon or write application-specific sample code demonstrating our Azure offerings to help get their product up and running.”New York Microsoft Reactor
Biggest impact? “I really do believe that we have some of the greatest tech out there,” Reitano said. “It echoes the sentiment that I hear from developers in general that ‘Microsoft is cool again.’” Other Reactor highlights:
A post-Microsoft Connect event, with “a roomful of developers who were keen to learn more about the tech we’re putting out.”
The beneficial partnership with GCT: “We interact with startups in the early phases of design and we’re there to help them architect a solution and solve existing challenges.”
Hosting student workshops to get young people into tech, because “we need engineers, we need computer scientists. Getting students excited about technology benefits everyone in this city.”
For Reitano, one of the best outcomes of the NYC Reactor is personal: “I love the fact that we partnered with Grand Central Tech because they have a specific focus on urban tech. To have my efforts go into enabling these startups to improve the city that I grew up in and love, is such a tremendous opportunity.”