On Tuesday, Microsoft officially opened its newest Reactor hub at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, marking the first Microsoft Reactor centre in Canada.
A global program with locations in more than five countries, Microsoft Reactors operate as a developer and startup community hub for technology professionals. The centres offer free programming from Microsoft as well as other partners, and is open to members of the local community.
“We want to learn from the community. It’s bi-directional.”
– Jennifer Ritzinger, Microsoft Reactor GM
The centres, which Microsoft calls neighbourhood campuses, offer a mix of free workshops, presentations, and networking events customized to each city, and cover a wide range of topics for the developer, startup, and open source communities.
“What I love about the Reactors is that it’s not just Microsoft driving our programming,” said Jennifer Ritzinger the general manager of Microsoft Reactor. “It’s very much community participation type of events, we want third parties to come in … we want to learn from the community. It’s bi-directional.”
The Toronto space marks the seventh Microsoft Reactor location, with the program also operating in New York, Redmond, San Francisco, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and London. Ritzinger noted that Microsoft also recently opened locations in Shanghai and Bangalore, and is set to open in Abu Dhabi, as well.
“We have a set of developer advocates that travel the world, that go to all of these Reactors and other events,” explained Ritzinger.
Ritzinger also noted that Microsoft has become increasingly interested in partnering with local tech hubs like MaRs to facilitate its Reactor centres, and bring about personalized activities and connections for each location.
The Reactor is the latest in a growing trend of global tech and startup programs setting up operations in Toronto. Accelerator program Techstars launched in Toronto in 2018 before expanding to Montreal, while Web Summit relocated its North American tech conference Collision in 2019.
The Reactor is part of a broader partnership between MaRS and Microsoft for Startups, which was announced earlier this year. The partnership includes the Reactor space as well as collaborations on events, showcases, and MaRS Mornings, which are MaRS’ speaker and fireside chat series for the startup community.
To celebrate the Toronto Microsoft Reactor’s official launch, MaRS and Microsoft for Startups co-hosted their first MaRS Mornings. Microsoft for Startup’s general manager and former CTO of Wunderlist (acquired by Microsoft in 2015), Chad Fowler, and Dessy Daskalov, CTO and co-founder of Nudge Rewards, took the stage to discuss challenges faced by CTOs in the startup space.
In an interview with BetaKit following the MaRS Mornings panel, Fowler noted that the Reactor is part of Microsoft’s broader global plans, which includes the globally distributed Microsoft for Startups. He recalled his experience at Wunderlist, and the struggles behind building an international business and having the right connections to make that possible.
“We also realized that one of the values of a company like Microsoft being so globally distributed and having a footprint all over the world is that when we partner with, not just startups, but various partners, we can make those connections,” said Fowler.
Ritzinger was quick to note that Microsoft Reactor Toronto already has a lineup of events featuring speakers from around the globe, including Christian Nwamba, who will be travelling from Lagos, Nigeria to lead a workshop on server functions.
Disclosure: Microsoft for Startups is the current sponsor of BetaKit’s AI Nation series.