Big companies are part of Kendall Square’s mix

Sara Spalding
Sara Spalding

As a global technology company, we are only successful because of people — the people we hire and the people we partner with. For us, this means making connections is fundamental.

When we opened the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center (NERD) here in Kendall Square in 2007, we knew that New England was home to an incredible concentration of the best technical and engineering talent in the world. Since then, we’ve grown nearly 1,000 percent in total employees from one small team of engineers at One Memorial Drive to a second location at One Cambridge Center, where our sales and marketing team is now located.

Microsoft is a big company, but it is nonetheless a critical component of Kendall Square’s community of start-ups and culture of innovation. Since we opened NERD’s conference center in 2008, making it freely available to tech and community groups, we’ve hosted more than 150,000 people at 2,400 events — from national academic seminars on Machine Learning to developer groups (Azure, PHP, or R, anyone?) to a weekend Hackathon to help local nonprofits. Having a place to meet and convene has helped our tech ecosystem thrive.


We’ve worked with our Kendall Square neighbors such as the accelerator program TechStars, the business incubator Cambridge Innovation Center, and numerous start-ups and university partners.

Get Talking Points in your inbox:
An afternoon recap of the day’s most important business news, delivered weekdays.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

We’ve provided funding, coaching, equipment, no- or low-cost office space, and the expertise of our employees. And we’ve been able to do all this because we are here.

In addition, as a large and growing employer, Microsoft is attracting, hiring, and developing top tech talent in Kendall Square — the type of people who might well launch their own companies someday.

The density and proximity of Kendall Square certainly enriches our lives, but more importantly, it catalyzes and accelerates the collaboration that fosters true innovation. Here, I can walk next door to talk to a Nobel Prize winner. I bump into my friend, a designer at The Hot New Start-up, on my way to lunch. I have coffee with a venture capitalist to talk about how to get more women into tech. I attend a lecture given by a famous scientist downstairs in my building.

After all, Kendall Square’s “secret sauce” is the special blend of academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators, venture capitalists, start-ups, and everyone in between, all compacted into a mere square mile. Microsoft and other big companies are important ingredients.

Sara Spalding is senior director of the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge.