Hack/Reduce partners with state, universities for big-data ambassador program

(image via Mike Schneider -@schneidermike)
(image via Mike Schneider -@schneidermike)

When Cort Johnson made the move from Terrible Labs to Atlas Venture, some wondered what his specific role at the venture capital firm might be.

With the launch of hack/reduce’s “College Ambassador Program,” that becomes a little more clear.

Johnson will spearhead the initiative to connect hack/reduce, the MassTech Collaborative, and local colleges and universities in order to build a robust big-data community and mentor the potential leaders of the next generation of big-data companies.

The program plans to have two students designated as hack/reduce big-data ambassadors on the campus of a number of Boston-area schools. The ambassadors’ role will be to promote the growth of big-data ideas and startups at the university level, through events, hackathons, and connecting early stage data-focused companies with space to work and learn at hack/reduce.

The benefit for the ambassadors is they access they will have to the hack/reduce community (big-data startups like Sqrrl, Nutonian, and others) as well as access to venture capitalists, angel investors, and other experienced members of Boston’s tech ecosystem. Johnson said that there are plans in the works to bring the students together with successful entrepreneurs and investors for intimate dinners throughout the year.

“There is no organization right now that is doing a good job bringing the college community in sync with the Boston tech community,” Johnson said. “What we want to do is create great content and events for students to get involved in the community.”

The hack/reduce program is an extension of Governor Deval Patrick’s push for more innovation using big data in Massachusetts. In April, as part of the larger state-wide big-data initiative, Patrick announced a $3 million investment in the Massachusetts Open Cloud project, which was described as “a university-industry collaboration designed to create a new public cloud computing infrastructure to spur big data innovation.” The announcement coincided with a report that predicts that 3,000 new big-data jobs will be created in Massachusetts in the next year. The entire initiative is being driven by the Massachusetts Tech Leadership Council and hack/reduce.

Located just outside Kendall Square, hack/reduce is a nonprofit workspace where people and companies working with big data can share the projects they are working on, resources, and help mentor other startups. The program was founded by Atlas Venture partner Chris Lynch who is a key investor in many local big-data startups.

Shanan Kumar, a Tufts student who is working with Cort Johnson and Lynch on the ambassador program, explained the relationship between the initiative and hack/reduce. “A lot of the activities we want the ambassadors to do on their own campus,” she said. “There is not going to be that many events at hack/reduce but we will come out here to meet with each other, network, and share ideas.”

Johnson said he was excited by what Kumar has done so far and looking forward to working with her on the hack/reduce Ambassador Program. “She is going to be helping us to promote this program across all the local campuses,” he said.

Dennis Keohane was a Senior Staff Writer for BetaBoston.
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