Microsoft and the government bring MassChallenge to Australia

Microsoft and the government bring MassChallenge to Australia

Major boost for startups and innovation industry announced at Microsoft Innovation Centre in Adelaide

Microsoft MD, Pip Marlow; Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne; MassChallenge senior director for global partnerships, Kara Shurmantine. Photo courtesy of Microsoft

Microsoft MD, Pip Marlow; Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne; MassChallenge senior director for global partnerships, Kara Shurmantine. Photo courtesy of Microsoft

Startups in Australia have received a boost with the news that 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 tie-up was announced by the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Christopher Pyne, Microsoft managing director, Pip Marlow, and MassChallenge ‎senior director of Global Partnerships, Kara Shurmantine, at the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Adelaide.

Writing in a blog, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Technology & Civic Engagement, Dan'l Lewin, said MassChallenge is one of the world’s top accelerators. It was founded as a non-profit organisation 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 organisation 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.

"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."

According to 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.”

Lewin said 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 UK, 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.

According to the website Startup Daily, "A typical bridge program includes a national startup competition in the partner region, a startup boot camp, ecosystem leader training, and ecosystem analysis and mapping."

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