REDMOND – Five years ago, Microsoft Corp. launched the TechSpark program with a goal to accelerate economic growth in six communities across the United States and Mexico. TechSpark works with local community organizations to develop digital skills, support nonprofits and create jobs. Microsoft is now expanding this program to all 50 states via a new TechSpark Fellows model.
The expansion beyond eight existing locations to communities across the United States means Microsoft will supply a grant to support a TechSpark fellow, along with hands-on mentorship and training. The program will remain hyperlocal and partner-driven with a focus on four key issues:
- Digital access – building broadband infrastructure so people have access to essential online activities.
- Computer science education – helping build computer science classes in local schools.
- Digital skills – helping people learn the skills they need for the jobs of the future.
- Digital transformation – helping nonprofits, startups, and local businesses leverage technology to grow, innovate and compete.
Microsoft is also releasing a playbook and a resource hub to replicate and build on approaches learned thus far, designed for anyone looking to drive change in their community and help bolster the local economy.
Communities across America are facing significant headwinds, especially in this economic environment. The Brookings Institution notes that “digitalization divides across and within places now stand as one of the nation’s starkest limits on the opportunity.” Rural small-business owners feel more uncertain about their future than their urban counterparts. Significant areas of the country either don’t have access to or can’t afford broadband internet, according to Microsoft research. And it’s often tough to raise money for startups outside major, coastal metropolitan areas — venture capital is overly indexed on the coasts.
Since its inception, TechSpark has catalyzed new funding resources for communities, helped create new jobs, helped people gain critical digital skills, and supported new startups and local organizations including:
- Helping create the Grand Farm, a partnership between farmers, businesses, government, and entrepreneurs in Fargo, North Dakota, to create the farm of the future and spur the next generation of agricultural innovation.
- Helping found the Bridge Accelerator, a cross-border technology accelerator in El Paso and Juarez that works with manufacturing companies to help them succeed in this binational economy. To date, this work has helped 78 companies create over 500 new jobs, infusing over $61 million in new sales.
- Helping expand computer science education to 88% of schools in Northeast Wisconsin.
- Helping build a brand-new building in South Boston, Virginia — the first new building to be built in downtown South Boston in over 40 years — now home to the SOVA Innovation Hub, teaching the local community digital skills and entrepreneurship.
- Partnering with the Green Bay Packers to help build TitletownTech, a seed-stage venture capital firm that has secured $25 million in venture funding for the region and sits across from historic Lambeau Field, now home to over 25 growing startup companies.
- Helping launch CoBuilders in Jackson, Mississippi, the state’s first startup accelerator, guiding 21 new startup companies.
Microsoft TechSpark thus far has resulted in:
- $125 million was raised in partnership with community organizations and businesses.
- 471 computer science classes created or supported.
- 1,100 educators trained to teach computer science classes.
- 50,000 people trained in critical digital skills.
- 3,300 jobs created and jobseekers placed.
- 500 startups supported.
Microsoft is holding an information session on March 1 — sign up at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/corporate-responsibility/techspark.
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.