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Spurring entrepreneurs to do more and achieve more

Satya Nadella has a big vision for Microsoft employees and the future of our company. “We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more,” said Microsoft’s CEO last summer. “Doing more and achieving more” also applies to the more than 70 entrepreneurs participating in 1776’s Challenge Cup.

Microsoft is proud to serve as a global sponsor of the Challenge Cup, support other activities during the weeklong, 1776-presented Challenge Festival, and to be a founding sponsor of 1776. However, our most important role at 1776 is to be onsite every week, helping one entrepreneur at a time achieve their vision and empowering them “to do more and achieve more.” We love hosting regular office hours, lunch sessions and other events at 1776, and contributing to the hundreds of new, D.C.-area startups that have tapped into 1776 resources and connections.

Last year, another tech leader, Steve Case, caught my attention with his commencement speech at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

He focused on the evolution of technology while revealing “the three P’s” that made him successful: people, passion and perseverance. What really excited me was his statement regarding the “third wave of the Internet breaks.” He told the graduates that “we’re entering a third wave where we’re integrating the Internet into everyday life. Whether it be the Internet of Things or really reimagining and reinventing education and health care and transportation and energy.”

Case went on to state: “Part of the reason I raise that with you is that the third wave will require more than just the three P’s. It’ll also require two additional P’s – policy and partnership.” I couldn’t agree more and believe these two P’s are especially important for entrepreneurs. It’s an exciting time to be in the third wave of Internet computing, with hyper-scale, cloud-based compute and storage capacity, more things connected to the Internet than people, where everything around us is more instrumented and more connected, and where the data being generated can offer greater speed to insight and enhanced productivity across a wide range of vertical markets.

To give a little historical context, the concept of supercomputing used to be a distant dream. Hardware costs for a “gigaflop” of computing in 1961 were roughly $1 trillion – about 17 million IBM 1620 units, costing $64,000 each. That reflected twice the entire U.S. GDP at the time and is more than $8 trillion in current dollars. In January 2015, the cost for the same computing power: 8 cents.

It also used to be that not every organization (commercial or government) could afford computing resources. For government customers this proved to be a big issue because a small city, county or town has the same mission as a bigger one: to provide for a society that is educated, healthy and safe. The smaller municipalities just had to fulfill that mission with less budget and/or knowledge of technology. Today, with cloud computing, this barrier is gone and enterprise-grade technology solutions are now extremely affordable to government organizations of all sizes. This gets back to the “two additional P’s” that Steve Case mentioned: policy and partnership.

Companies providing technology for the future must intimately understand the regulatory and policy requirements around the solutions that they are building for the markets they serve. Using Case’s vernacular, in the “third wave of the Internet breaks,” not all clouds are or will be created equal, and government customers will look for cloud solutions they can trust from a security and privacy standpoint. From law enforcement data to health information to financial data, the cloud is creating innumerable scenarios and opportunities for the public sector, which, by default, manages information of the most sensitive kind.

At Microsoft, we started down the policy and partnership journey years ago. Today, our Microsoft Cloud for Government helps governments become more productive, responsive and efficient in delivering new or improved citizen services, while keeping costs contained and meeting or exceeding critical public sector security standards and certifications like CJIS, IRS1075, HIPAA, FedRamp, FISMA and more. With tools including Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Azure and Dynamics CRM Online, the Microsoft Cloud for Government is delivering technology that governments can trust – which in turn helps citizens trust government to deliver services they need.

By including compliance as a key design criteria of our cloud products, significant barriers to entry are removed for any company (especially startups) to deliver solutions to the public sector, a market that is in desperate need of creative solutions to meet the growing demands of citizens. Providing technology solutions to government used to be the exclusive privilege of a limited number of companies but, with Microsoft’s Government cloud offerings, the smallest and newest organization can build solutions that operate at hyper-scale capacity and deliver against some of the most rigorous compliance requirements needed by state, local and federal government customers.

I’ve spent my entire career in the public sector and I’ve had the opportunity to see the impact of technology first hand, within the U.S. and around the world. We believe the pace of change is accelerating, and technology can empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more in a mobile-first, cloud-first world. I look forward to seeing the entrepreneurs competing in the 1776 Challenge Cup do just that, with people, passion, perseverance and policy in mind, and through partnerships with 1776 and others dedicated to seeing startups flourish, prosper and thrive.