Welcome to Publicyte!
Publicyte is Microsoft’s corporate blog where technology, entrepreneurial principles, and pop culture inform us about innovation in the public sector and civic progress.
Publicyte is published by the Microsoft Office of Civic Innovation in Washington, DC. Our goal is to provide inspiring opinion and commentary about how the entrepreneurial spirit of America is changing government, politics, education, health, and the not-for-profit space. We’re tech-savvy but our material is written for a general audience. We hope to inspire the next generation of American entrepreneurs, makers, thinkers, and creatives to leverage innovation to change our country for the better.
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Tonight at a private invite-only event, Startup DC will launch a new initiative named “Reboot America” with the strategic goals of creating local jobs, improving the DC regional economy, and increasing innovation in America. Reboot America, created by Startup DC in partnership with their national mothership Startup America, is a year-long program connecting large corporations in key regional industries with emerging startup companies for the purposes of collaboration and partnership.
How will Reboot America engage key stakeholders?
Reboot America's engagements during 2012-2013 will involve large corporations in DC-prominent verticals like education, defense, biotech, media, and politics explicitly learning about the DC entrepreneurship community, and startup companies -- and people thinking about creating startup companies -- learning about the substantial challenges of big business, potentially becoming their partners in new projects and business ventures.
These engagements between big business and startups will happen both online through new digital platforms to be revealed at different times throughout the year, and offline at a series of events which will culminate in a national conference on November 8 -9 during the 10,000-attendee Digital Capital Week, or DC Week, festival.
This new series of engagements from Reboot America will also give startups novel opportunities to network with each other and discuss innovative solutions to further the growth of businesses in America. This capitalizes on the burgeoning DC technology scene as evidenced by large events like Entreprelooza (also a Startup DC initiative) and the monthly 1000-person+ DC Tech Meetup, and new community resources like Foster.ly.
Microsoft sponsors Reboot America
"Startup DC's new Reboot America initiative aligns directly with Microsoft's commitment to provide emerging startup companies the tools and technologies they need to tackle societal challenges and drive the growth of the DC and national economies," Dan Kasun, Senior Director of Platform Evangelism at Microsoft Public Sector, one of the corporate sponsors of the Reboot America initiative, related to me. "Empowering entrepreneurs of all kinds is vital for economic growth, and we are proud to be a sponsor and partner in this new initiative."
This is just one of the ways that Microsoft interacts with and empowers startup companies. For example, qualified startups are eligible for certain kinds of free software and support for three years under a program called Bizspark. Microsoft's commitment to Reboot America continues our commitment to empowering entrepreneurs of all kinds with the latest technologies.
Reboot America focus areas
During 2012, three specific Reboot America focus areas will be:
Each of these focus areas, plus additional ones to come in 2013, will be co-chaired by two people: one from big business, and one from a relevant startup.
I can announce here that I will be co-chairing the National Challenges effort, which will involve a modest event before DC Week in November, and then a portion of the larger conference. I am currently assembling a diverse host committee working across the areas of education, health, energy, and other areas involving the grand challenges of keeping America competitive in the world.
Additionally, as part of our overall sponsorship Microsoft will team with Startup DC and Startup America to launch a "digital think tank for young civic innovators" in order to increase collaboration and the spread of knowledge between business, academia, and the startup community in the key verticals outlined above. Microsoft has been running a "beta" version of this called the National Piggy Bank for about eight months.
Connecting with the Reboot America mission
During 2012, Reboot America will launch some new digital assets, including the aforementioned "digital think tank" and a new blog. Meanwhile, you can "Like" their Facebook page, and follow the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #RebootUSA.
This is a guest post by Ashish Jaiman, a platform and development evangelist with Microsoft Public Sector based in the Washington, DC area. See photos from this event on Ashish's Skydrive.
Last weekend, Microsoft hosted Startup Weekend Gov in our Chevy Chase, MD offices, featuring speakers like U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, and Deloitte's thought leader in the government technology space Bill Eggers. The event also featured budding public sector entrepreneurs. Here are some of our photos from the event.
Startupweekend is a non-profit organization that organizes and facilitates weekend long workshops to pitch ideas, form teams, and start companies. We had more than 100 entrepreneurs registered and with mentors, judges, participants and educator around 150 people took over entire 7th floor of our offices.
Journalist Alex Howard has an excellent writeup of the event's opening night here, including a highlight of this quite remarkable statement from CTO Park:
Park...made an “ask” of the attendees of Startup Weekend DC that I haven’t heard from many government officials: he requested that if they A) use the data and/or B) if they run into any trouble accessing it, to let him know.
“If you had a hard time or found a particular restful API moving, let me know,” he said. “It helps us improve our performance.” And then he gave out his email address at the White House Executive Office of the President, as he did at SXSW Interactive in Austin in March of this year. Asking the public for feedback on data quality — particularly entrepreneurs and developers — and providing contact information to do so is, to put it bluntly, something every city and state official that has stood up and open data platform could and should be doing. In this context, the US CTO has set a notable example for the country.
Here's a video of Bill Eggers speaking at the event:
The rest of the weekend consisted of attendees pitching ideas and working on new projects. There were 30+ pitches for ideas made during the "pitch fire," including a pitch made by four 11 year olds (see slideshow above) to improve education and classroom participation via gamification. Attendees voted for their favorite pitches and the “gamification of education” won the most votes. The top 11 ideas moved to the next stage of team formation and product development.
As is typical for hackathon-type events, we provided plenty of food, caffeine and energy in our offices during the next two days for the teams to get their solutions and pitches ready for the judges on Sunday evening. Teams were allocated office space on Friday evening and began heads down planning, brainstorming, designing and coding solutions. The energy, passion around was unbelievable and each team worked so hard and so long that it was commendable what they produced.
We had a great panel of judges working to rate and comment on the new projects that emerged during Startup Weekend Gov:
During the pitching session, each team was given five minutes to pitch and allocated three minutes for Q&A by the judges. The projects/teams were:
The final results were:
Related to this event, Microsoft BizSpark is an entrepreneur startup acceleration program for software startups. BizSpark offers free Microsoft platform software and development tools to create your software, build your business and run your software in production BizSpark also helps a software startup with sales and marketing. The eligibility criteria to be a BizSpark startup are:
Microsoft supports Startup Weekends like this government-oriented one and our recent education-oriented one, as well as many other hackathons and similar engagements with the public sector and entrepreneurial communities.
Large nonprofit organizations and multinational corporations have one major problem in common: While they have many initiatives for social impact affecting local communities, it has traditionally been difficult to visualize the efforts within a coherent framework for storytelling. Today, Microsoft has partially solved this problem by launching the Local Impact Map, a cloud-based application designed as a rich storytelling platform to help organizations around the world display their vast community investments.
The tagline of the Local Impact Map is, "Show the World the Good Work You Do."
This "white-label" version of the Local Impact Map is offered by Microsoft Corporate Citizenship. By combining Bing Maps technology and with the power of self-service cloud computing in Windows Azure, nonprofits and corporations can create a unique visual experience of their global philanthropic work. A robust content management system, or CMS, allows users to enter and manage an organization's community impact information. The CMS employs a sophisticated workflow allowing a manager to assign users different publishing roles through a Windows Live ID login.
The Local Impact Map is for:
Microsoft conducts a wide variety of corporate social responsibility efforts in over 100 countries around the world, and the Microsoft Local Impact Map was originally designed for our own use. But when other organizations and companies took interest in what Microsoft was doing with geointelligent storytelling, we ran pilots with some groups, leading to today's decision to make the Local Impact Map available to everyone. As Dan Bross, Microsoft's senior director of citizenship, relates in his official blog post on the Local Impact Map:
We’ve had a lot of interest in the Map from nonprofit and for-profit organizations, so we’ve taken the decision to make it available by subscription and enable organizations to create their own Map to tell their stories and show their impact.
We’ve already been working with a number of organizations, such as UnitedHealthcare (UHC), that have been piloting their own Local Impact Map and are using it internally for their 80,000 employees to contribute stories of their volunteer work. Volunteerism is one of their CSR pillars and Kate Rubin, UHC’s vice president, Social Responsibility said, “The impact map fits extremely well into our culture of innovation at UnitedHealth Group. We continually strive for new ways of doing things better, including making systems more intuitive and more engaging for our employees. Just months after introducing it, more than 130 volunteering and giving stories have been added to the map. With the use of this tool, we’ve been able to replace old, time-consuming processes with an interactive, visually interesting and exciting tool.”
In addition to commercial companies, we have piloted the map application with our longstanding software donation nonprofit partner, TechSoup. Marnie Webb is one of their co-CEOs, and she has been an enthusiastic advocate for how technology can help nonprofits do more with less.
“Before implementing the Local Impact Map, we had case studies in different formats, such as PDF files, Word documents and PowerPoint presentations, scattered all across the organization. It made me nuts,” Marnie said. “The Local Impact Map gave us the ability to put all these case studies into one place. Some of the features on it, like Snapshot, allow us to create a customized trail for those stories with a single link. So if I want to show one of our corporate partners how their technology donations made a difference in the lives of certain organizations, I can choose six stories I think they’ll be most interested in, and get a single link to share with them. So, it’s a very robust tool.”
The Local Impact Map is just one example of how Microsoft is committed to bringing the benefits of new and sophisticated technology platforms to the nonprofit sector and to private-sector organizations conducting activities for public good.
The prominent startup blog TechCocktail.com recently published a piece titled, Startup Weekend e-Government DC Produced 13 Innovative, Public Sector-Focused Startups. DC-based technology journalist Alex Howard publicly commented that presentations by teams at the end of a 54-hour startup weekend hosted by Microsoft do not constitute "startups," and that TechCocktail's headline was misleading. Are the products of startup weekends and hackathons actually startups? What exactly is a "startup," anyway? And how are rapidly-failing startups good for America?
I posit that there is a spiritual value contained within the very act of creating a startup -- beyond business goals like finding a market for a product and generating revenue and creating jobs -- and that young innovators generating such spiritual value is critical to a strong American future.
Is an idea enough to constitute a startup?
According to Wikipedia, "A startup company or startup is a company or temporary organization designed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model. These companies, generally newly created, are in a phase of development and research for markets." This definition is sufficiently broad to include newly formed, temporary groups conducting "research and development" (which could mean almost anything) in order to determine if an idea has the potential to be a business within some market.
The entry goes on to point out that the term "startup" is most commonly used in tech circles among programmers, hackers, investors, and similar, implying that this particular industry has a unique culture and norms of thinking about where ideas come from and how they become, or don't become, businesses.
(For those readers who abhor Wikipedia, even for simple terms, here's the definition from Steve Blank / ReadWriteWeb: "a startup is an entrepreneurial-driven organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.")
By this simple definition alone, I think it's fairly clear that groups of individuals hacking on a tech-oriented project at a multi-day hackathon or similar competition under a unique name/brand could reasonably constitute a "startup," however temporary or ultimately successful. In fact, within the tech community, calling your group a "startup" (and getting credit in a publication like TechCocktail) is not only not misleading, it is a badge of pride, a way to proudly represent your achievements to your peers, and a shorthand for relating what you're passionate about.
The author of the original TechCocktail article, Jeff Tong, tended to agree via Twitter.
What Jeff points out, I think correctly, is that the 54-hour process of forming teams, creating names and brands, brainstorming ideas, and designing a novel product or service within a vertical (in this particular case, the government vertical/industry) and then presenting your efforts to a panel of distinguished reviewers/judges prior to having a revenue model can be considered a "very early stage startup."
Another way to think about it is this. If that isn't considered a very early stage startup, at what point does this...idea? concept? storyboard?...become a "legitimate startup"? Alex Howard had some thoughts on that. I refute them here.
Must a startup be formed as a legal entity to be real?
In his first attempt at a critique of Startup Weekend GOV entities being called "startups," Alex Howard posited that an...idea? concept? storyboard?...becomes a startup when its founders register as a business entity with a state.
In my opinion, that's an unnecessarily stringent definition of a startup. Must something be registered as an LLC or Inc. to be considered a startup? Most any startup spends quite a decent amount of time as an unregistered entity; in effect, a...demo? project? hobby?...of the creators.
Further, there is no particular pressure to register as a legal entity in many cases unless one is (1) selling a product or service, or (2) taking investors' funds in a formalized manner. And technically, an entity can sell and make revenue without formalizing itself; it can actually make quite a lot of money while existing as (say) just an app for sale by an individual person.
It seems like an entity does not necessarily have to be registered as a business entity with a state to be a "startup," nor is that in the spirit of the definition of the term as stated above.
Must a startup have an "actual product or service" to be real?
In his second try at a critique of Startup Weekend GOV entities being called "startups," Alex Howard posited that an entity must have created an "actual product or service" to be considered a startup.
I don't know what an "actual" product or service is. Do you?
To me, if someone designs an app, website, or something along those lines during a 54-hour hackathon, that is an "actual product or service" that can constitute the foundation of a tech startup. If it is not "actual," what would make it actual? Having a business plan involving it? Monetizing it?
When "The Facebook" first launched, was it an actual product or service? Initially, it was just a website that Mark Zuckerberg put a lot of effort into designing, with one initial profile. Slightly later, hundreds of people used it. Later, thousands, and still later, millions. At what point did it become actual?
Must a startup have revenue to be real?
Alex Howard's third attempt at a critique of Startup Weekend GOV entities being called "startups" required that startups understand and estimate their "expected revenue."
Is generating revenue, or even having a model for generating revenue, a prerequisite for having a startup? That's an interesting criterion, considering the very platform he's using to type the critique - Twitter - spent years not talking about revenue, not expecting revenue, and certainly not generating revenue. And I think we can all agree that Twitter was a legitimate "startup" long before it began projecting revenue.
Clearly, generating revenue or even knowing how your new entity will do so is not necessary for having a startup.
Must a startup exist for a long period of time to be real?
Finally, O'Reilly Media reporter Alex Howard suggested that if an entity ceased to exist roughly a week after a hackathon, then it was not a legitimate startup. He had an interesting back-and-forth with TechCocktail writer Jeff Tong about this, copied below.
If your startup only exists for the duration of a hackathon and for a few days after, was it never a startup? Does its short duration of existence somehow diminish the value of it?
If one agrees with the premise that entities emerging from hackathons and similar events are startups at that moment, it seems to me that the duration of their existence is somewhat beside the point. Of course, startups can only blossom and create new products, jobs, and opportunities over a duration of time (certainly one longer than a week). And it's impossible to build a successful startup in a weekend or in seven days. But there is a huge difference between meeting the definition of a "startup" and being a successful startup.
Most startups fail anyway - is it somehow more valuable to postpone that failure? Is it more "honorable" to work harder and longer and then fail in exactly the same fashion, for exactly the same reasons (see exhibit: extinct giant sloth, left)? "Fail early, fail often" is a common saying in startupland. I say, "Fail very early, fail very often" is equally legitimate. It certainly doesn't, in my view, make your startup illegitimate.
I don't think there is a minimum period of time that a startup has to be a startup to be a startup.
What is the spiritual value in starting a startup?
Is the value of a startup designing a new product or service, creating jobs, or generating revenue?
Each and all of these are valuable, of course. New products and services can be valuable to society. They can also generate revenue for a company and its employees and/or shareholders. Successful companies also create jobs and internships, which is great for the jobholders, and presumably also adds value for their employers.
But I think the true spiritual value of a startup is very simple: mastering how to start something new. This quality is rare in society. Most people follow. Few lead. Starting something new is scary. Doing something no one has done is challenging. Designing something no one has conceived of before is difficult. There is value in this. This skillset is not taught well in school, if at all. It is the basis of entrepreneurship, innovation, and America's place in the world.
What is a startup? A startup is a person's raw idea struggling to become a reality.
The kind of person who spends 54 hours locked in a Microsoft office building on a beautiful weekend should be celebrated. They are the ones who will build the next revenue-generating, job-creating, valuable American brand. Why discourage them? That spirit needs to continue to burn, and burn strongly in America.
Not every startup has to be a 3,000 pound marlin.
Right now, the most important skill a young person can have is the ability to learn new skills. Whatever they ultimately go on to do, I suspect that the people taking chances on building new startups are some of the best prepared of all to deal with an uncertain American future.
Post title borrowed from Guy Kawasaki's book, The Art of the Start. Here's a link at Barnes & Noble.
This is a guest post by Tony Tai. who's part of the Office 365 team, and he regularly blogs for the Why Microsoft site.
Whether you are a school’s tech decision-maker, an educator, a parent, or someone who values learning, you know students and care about their success. Successful students are excited about learning, are well-organized and make good use of their time. We prepared an infographic that shows how productive students can maximize learning and output with Office 365.
With Office 365 for education, a student can work productively from anywhere. He can print an assignment at home without worrying about formatting issues, and review a presentation on his way to school, even without Internet access. At school, he or she can jump right into learning, taking notes in all of their classes within a digital notebook. Group projects are a breeze, because the entire group can easily share information from their Office 365 desktops, brainstorm with an online whiteboard, and interact fast during video call discussions.
Download this article's infographic here.
This is a guest post by Deanna Pogorelc, a staff writer at MedCity News, where this article first appeared. Reprinted with permission.
Over the next few years, we’ll likely be seeing more stories along the lines of Merck’s $90 million translational research center for scientists, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists; Sanofi’s partnership with Third Rock Ventures to launch a new biotech company; and Johnson & Johnson, GSK and Index Ventures’ new investment fund. According to a new report from GBI Research, that's because open innovation and cooperation in the pharmaceutical industry will continue to gain traction as patent losses and R&D cutbacks force drug companies to look outside of their own walls for promising technologies.
As an industry, "big pharma" has become more receptive to cooperative alliances, partnerships and joint ventures with R&D specialists over the last decade, the report says. They’ve also refined their therapeutic focus, invested in biologics and taken some prescription products over the counter to accommodate.
The report predicts that this is expected continue over the next decade, with more companies redirecting some of their investments into scientific hubs in China and India, like CROs Quintiles and IndiPharm already have. And increased awareness of open innovation will continue to lead academic institutions to pick up their tech transfer efforts.
In addition, the report echoes expert commentary that pharma will need to become all-around more collaborative in filling its pipelines. Last month, a Quintiles report suggested that healthcare payers will also become increasingly involved in early drug development.
As Sanofi CEO Chris Viehbacher told reporters during the recent CED Life Sciences Conference: “The days when we locked all of our scientists up in a building and put them on a nice tree-lined campus are done.”
This is a guest post by Dean Halstead, a visualization architect for Microsoft Federal based in the Washington, DC region. You can follow him on Twitter at @DeanHalstead.
The number of dangers for children on the Internet is continually multiplying, making parenting harder -- and increasingly requiring a parent to be tech-savvy. The latest tech category to present a danger to children is sometimes nicknamed "mobile social" -- in other words, mobile device-based social media, games, and apps that enable children to do social networking with each other. Below are some of the dangers with mobile social, and some suggested preventative measures that parents and teachers might take.
Graphic: Fictitious data used for a realistic example of mobile-social dangers for children.
Online safety from a parent's viewpoint
Being a parent, a tech-savvy guy, and an Assistant Scout Master of a Boy Scout troop, I recently volunteered to teach the Scout Computer Merit Badge, for which one of the requirements concerns online safety. However, having a child that recently (1) got his first phone, and (2) joined Facebook, I thought adding an additional topic about mobile safety would be prudent.
Mobile usage is exploding. According to some terrific articles on social media usage (like this and this), the percentage of people using social media from their mobile gadgets is between 30-60%. Even at the low end, that's a very high number.
More people using mobile-social suggests more avenues for threats, particularly with less experiences younger users. There is now a cottage industry in tracking information about you online -- where you live, what your interests are, where you frequently hang out, and even when you are likely to be alone. Last weekend, the New York Times called this collection of information about you (which can then be used, traded, or sold) the "Consumer Genome." Users themselves are enabling the collection of their consumer genomes through public "Likes" or commentary on sites like Yelp or enabling device GPS features, sometimes without knowing it.
What's a parent to do?
Specific dangers of mobile-social for parents and children
While your first reaction to features like being able to locate specific people's tweets on a map might be something along the lines of "cool," when you put your parent or teacher thinking-cap on you probably realize that this kind of functionality for good and bad reasons.
Here are some things happening when a child uses social media on mobile devices:
This is the new normal. What can you do to allow children to utilize the positive aspects of social media and mobile devices while shielding against some of the downsides of using such mobile-social technology?
Four steps to protecting children from mobile-social dangers
Here are a few helpful, preventative steps: