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A big part of our Microsoft CityNext initiative is accelerating innovation to help cities modernize now and for the next generation. Our goal is to help cities become safer, smarter, healthier and more modern by harnessing a new era of innovation, reinventing productivity and reimagining citizen services.

Innovation-mattersThe commitment to innovation also is a primary reason that Microsoft became a founding sponsor of 1776, a Washington, D.C.-based startup accelerator that connects startups-especially those focused on the public sector-with the resources they need to excel, prosper and create jobs.

Recently, we sponsored the first 1776 research report: Innovation That Matters. 1776 researchers studied the state of civic entrepreneurship in eight U.S. cities-Austin, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.-to uncover what’s really working in education, healthcare, energy and transportation, and the models that bring together startups, corporations, foundations and government to improve the lives of citizens. Microsoft suggested local government/civic leaders and startups to invite to roundtables in every city, and we had up to 15 employees at each event. I was fortunate to participate in the New York City roundtable.

One of main findings of Innovation That MattersInnovation-matters-1 is that “network connectivity is the ‘secret sauce’ driving (a city’s startup) ecosystem growth.” We strongly agree. Microsoft BizSpark-which supports 30,000 promising U.S. startups with free technology, resources, expertise, visibility and networking opportunities-provides a great network for startups, especially those in the civic sector.

Another way we nurture entrepreneurs is through a physical presence in locations that we’ve created or sponsor. Just last year, we announced the first U.S. Microsoft Innovation Center in Miami. We also foster innovation, collaboration and economic growth in other cities:

  • In addition to our presence at the 1776 campus near the White House, we’re a founding sponsor of Civic Hall in New York City, “a one-of-a-kind community center for the world’s civic innovators.”
  • Last December, we partnered with Philadelphia’s Benjamin’s Desk to host the first-ever Microsoft CityNext Customer Access Program focused on the public sector, providing six startups with the opportunity to pitch their solutions to government attendees and the region’s startup community.
  • Microsoft Technology and Civic Engagement partners with hackers, technologists, academics, governments, nonprofits, and citizens to build stronger cities through technology. Through this team, we sponsor Code for America events in various U.S. cities.
  • Last week, I was pleased to help host the Microsoft-sponsored Personal Democracy Forum, an annual gathering that’s truly the “definitive event in the world of technology and politics.”
  • Microsoft Ventures empowers startups to build, scale and grow an idea to development through accelerators. The Seattle Accelerator is a mentor-driven program aimed at helping entrepreneurs scale up.

I hope you’ll read Innovation That Matters and join with Microsoft, 1776 and our other sponsored organizations to determine what more can be done to harness the power of startups to help solve the biggest needs of our society. For me, the true secret sauce is that startups are the key to making a real impact for a better tomorrow, and helping communities and citizens to thrive.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let us know @Microsoft_Gov. Or email us at ongovernment@microsoft.com. You can also follow Microsoft CityNext on Twitter @MSFTCityNext.