John Paul Farmer

Director of Technology & Civic Innovation

John Paul Farmer
Meet John
John Paul Farmer believes in the combined power of technology and cross-sector collaboration to drive positive change throughout society. As the Director of Microsoft’s Technology & Civic Innovation team in New York City, John leads hands-on engagement with governments, non-profits, for-profits, academic institutions, startups, and civic hackers so that they can do more good together than they could apart. Previously, John served as the Senior Advisor for Innovation in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he spearheaded the President’s innovation agenda. Under President Barack Obama, he co-founded and led the Presidential Innovation Fellows program, which attracts top innovators and entrepreneurs from the private sector for focused tours of duty in government, in order to make game-changing progress on projects of national importance. He also served in the Administration as Senior Advisor for Healthcare Reform, working on healthcare information technology such as Blue Button, delivery system reform and economic analyses. Previously, John worked in the investment industry for Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers, where he built a new business unit from the ground up. He played professional baseball as a shortstop in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves minor league systems, compiling a .344 career batting average. John holds an MBA with honors from the Graduate School of Business at Columbia University and an AB with honors from Harvard University. He grew up in Pittsburgh before moving to Manhattan over a decade ago.

Tricks, Treats, and More at Playcrafting’s Halloween Game Expo


It’s close to midnight, and something evil’s lurking in the dark…

Okay, it’s actually going to be much earlier than that, but you don’t want to miss the thrilling Playcrafting Halloween Game Expo on Saturday, October 29th. Video games are taking over two floors of the Microsoft office at 11 Times Square in an all-out celebration of local gamers and game makers! Join us – and over 100 developers – for a day of games, pizza, treats and prizes. Costumes are encouraged and families are welcome – bring your kids to trick-or-treat for candy from booth to booth as they try out each game. We’ll also have a fun expo-wide Expo Quest for all of our guests.

We hope you can join us for this very special edition of our seasonal Expo — register here.

And our organization likes to wear many hats. Along with supporting the local gaming community, and hosting events where gamers can play to their hearts’ content, we also make sure that the next generation of game developers stays in New York. Our standalone classes and 8-week courses are designed to make sure that anyone who wants to create their own game can. And there’s so much more. Follow us on Twitter @PlaycraftingNYC or subscribe to our newsletter here to stay up-to-date on all our Playcrafting happenings.

TRICK OR TREAT: Halloween Game Expo!
Saturday, October 29, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM (EDT)
Microsoft at 11 Times Square
New York, NY

Playcrafting is offering a very generous 20% discount for this event for Microsoft Readers. Simply enter the code MSNYHXPO at checkout.

Microsoft Reactor opens to spur tech innovation in New York City


Expanding on its commitment to innovation, Microsoft on Wednesday celebrated the grand opening of its latest Microsoft Reactor, based in New York City’s iconic Grand Central Terminal.

This is the third Reactor where businesses, universities, governments and entrepreneurs can come together and access the latest Microsoft technologies and expert resources. At the Reactor, innovative young companies can get help to go from ideation to success, accelerate their growth and create new jobs. Microsoft Reactors also provide training, networking events and related resources to support developers in the local tech community. All developers are welcome, regardless of their platform or tool preferences.

The New York City Reactor occupies 4,000 square feet in the newly opened Hub @ Grand Central Tech at 335 Madison Ave. The Hub, part of Grand Central Tech, is an incubator that provides affordable spaces for urban tech startups to launch and build their businesses, connect with city agencies, and take advantage of resources from Microsoft and the Hub’s other major corporate partners, which include GE Ventures and Lowes.

Joining the Hub provides access to a network of sponsors, strategic advisors, partners and mentors that make up the Grand Central Tech community. Grand Central Tech and the New York City Economic Development Corporation support companies addressing New York City’s urban challenges in sectors such as energy, mobility, waste, built environment, food systems, water and digital infrastructure.

“We are thrilled to be a part of the Hub and the opportunities it provides to interact and collaborate with some of the city’s most innovative problem-solvers and up-and- coming entrepreneurs,” said Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President of Developer Platform & Evangelism, Microsoft. “Microsoft Reactor brings Microsoft technologies and experts right to their front door, supporting them as they turn their fresh ideas into solutions that build thriving businesses and make the world a better place.”

Microsoft’s vision for the Reactors is to foster an ongoing engagement and dialogue between company experts and the local developer and startup community. They serve as community hub for making connections, finding resources and talent, and building skills. Reactor activities include office hours with subject matter experts, hackathons, training, guest speakers and meetups.

The New York City Reactor is the latest effort in Microsoft’s broader strategy to empower developers and entrepreneurs worldwide. The company is uniquely positioned to help startups grow their business with technologies and services such as cloud computing, developer tools, software and open source technologies.

Come visit the New York City Reactor and experience state-of- the-art technology that’s available to you today. Meet our staff and learn about all the resources it offers to help foster and grow a community of innovation in the heart of Manhattan.

Celebrate the Day of the Girl with FLOTUS and Glamour Magazine


In honor of the Day of the Girl this coming Tuesday, Skype will be teaming up with Glamour Magazine to host a live Skype call with First Lady Michelle Obama and Glamour’s Editor-in-Chief, Cindi Leive, as they lead a global discussion on education inequality. Head over to the Skype Blog for more information.

Throughout the day on Tuesday, October 11, you can hear updates on pre-stream discussions and activities from Clara Tsao, White House Presidential Innovation Fellow, on our Twitter channels at @Skype and @MicrosoftNY.

RECAP — Columbia Business School Social Enterprise Conference #ColumbiaSEConf


Last week, we were honored to join Columbia University for their Social Enterprise Conference. The conference, hosted by the Social Enterprise Club (a chapter of Net Impact), Green Business Club, and Columbia Business School’s Tamer Center for Social Enterprise, is an annual event — this year, the conference focused on social innovation, urbanization, and urban change.

As an additional honor, we were excited to support our very own John Paul Farmer as he keynoted the conference alongside Andrew Salkin, CEO of 100 Resilient Cities. Individually — and then together in a fireside chat — the two discussed the importance of innovation and technology in today’s cities. Watch their keynotes here.

Thank you to all who joined us at Social Enterprise Conference! We’re inspired by each guest speaker and attendee to help make cities better. Miss out on the conference? We’ve gathered some of the top tweets from the event — see below:

Civic Tech Events This October in NYC


Autumn has arrived! As the seasons change, one thing stays the same: civic tech never stops. Join us this month at these top events around the city:

October 4

From Data with ❤ : Adventures in Data Science w/ Ron Paul, Facebook, & Kanye West

Many of the human skills required for data science are often overshadowed by the more technical components. Statistics, computer science, R, and SQL are indeed important, however, softer skills such as having an eye for a good question, being scrappy, and being able to tell a compelling story are just as important to real-world data science.

In his talk, Hamdan will discuss his journey in data science, drawing upon his experiences working for Ron Paul, at Facebook, and from his side life as a journalist.
He will also discuss his recent work in emoji data science, in which he uses Twitter data to understand how people use emojis to talk about topics like the feud between Taylor Swift and Kanye West, Brexit, the Olympics, and more.

October 5

Northside Innovation Meetup

Data & the Customer: The latest, innovative ways companies are using data to increase sales

Join us for Northside Innovation’s Meetup on Wednesday, October 5th, where we’ll be exploring how brands are using data to impact product development and how they use their marketing dollars. You’ll leave this meetup a smarter executive or small business owner and a more savvy consumer. Don’t miss it!

October 6

Digital and Environmental Justice in the Era of Climate Change

As global institutions like the United Nations turn to their attention to human rights and climate change, local groups have been fostering the links between natural environments and digital environments for more than a decade.

Join New America’s Resilient Communities program, along with representatives from Detroit and Philadelphia Digital Justice Coalitions and other local groups, to release the new Resilient Networks principles and discuss how technology can make local voices more loudly heard.

October 6

October 2016 NY Tech Meetup and Afterparty

Join fellow technologists for an evening of live demos from companies developing great technology in New York, followed by a networking afterparty.

October 6

Agents of Mutation: The Evolution and Growth of Urban Innovation w/MIT DesignX

We live in an era of urban challenges. Transportation systems fraught with inefficiencies and emissions; sanitary water crises; food production cost versus sustainability; governance and social justice… urban imperatives rise as our cities grow larger and more diverse. But a powerful convergence of technology, innovation, and political will is bringing a groundswell of opportunity.

The question, then, is twofold: first, how to generate urban innovation? and second, how to integrate that innovation into the archaic cities we have inherited?

Answers are diverse, spanning a wide spectrum of stakeholders, actors, creators and consumers – the ‘agents of mutation’ that will shape the evolution and growth of cities. Future craft is a new model for enmeshing designers and the public to co-create cities. DesignX ignites design pedagogy and re-directs innovation toward tangible implementation. Dynamic Policy Architecture implicates districts in a process of symbiotic regulatory and technical experimentation for metropolitan technologies. We are at a crossroads; the future of cities is being cast. Join the debate.

October 7

The New Yorker TechFest

David Remnick, the editor of The New Yorker, hosts a full-day program exploring the most compelling stories in technology today. Global leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, and thinkers join New Yorker writers and editors to discuss the innovations that are shaping our world.

October 11

#TEPNYC Conference

Mark your calendar and join us when we address the challenges and opportunities of collaborative innovation and international expansion in the context of accelerating digitalization, urbanization, and globalization.

October 11

Hack Night at Carbon Five NYC

Carbon Five hosts a semi-regular hack night for developers and designers who enjoy getting together and coding for a few hours. It’s a low-key, demo-free event created to unite talented folks who enjoy building stuff.

October 13

Women Who Code: Algorithms @ Betterment

WWCode events are intended for all women (trans and cis), trans men, and genderqueer folks who are interested in attending. We are emphatically queer and trans friendly and committed to matters of social justice as an organization. Select events may be open to the general public, which will be clearly noted in event descriptions. Our Code of Conduct is in effect at all of our events. If you have any questions, please message the Directors of this chapter.

October 14-16

MD5 hackathon/ nyc_ /F16

Think you’ve got what it takes to tackle some of the toughest Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief challenges facing modern urban centers?

Join us October 14-16, 2016 to celebrate the launch of the MD5 National Security Technology Accelerator with our first hackathon at the New Lab in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. You’ll rub shoulders with our country’s military elite and have the chance to show them what you’ve got.

3 day event. Cutting edge location. Very worthy cause.
And 15K for the winning concept. Earn it by showing you’ve got the hack chops. It’s that simple.

October 21

2016 GeoSpatial Summit

The NYS GIS Association will hold the 2016 NYS GeoSpatial Summit on October 21, 2016, at the DB Pfizer Auditorium within the New York University Bern Dibner Library of Science and Technology in downtown Brooklyn, New York. This one-day event, with an evening reception the night before, will feature seven excellent keynote speakers who will give talks on a variety of topics. In addition to learning about cutting edge geospatial technology and implementations, attendees will also have opportunities to network with colleagues and GIS professionals from across New York State.

RECAP: White House Open Data Innovation Summit (#WHOpenData)

This week, we were honored to join and support the White House Open Data Innovation Summit. Leaders in open data, including White House leaders in data U.S. Chief Information Officer Tony Scott and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, spent the summit championing the use of Federal open data across all sectors.

Read more about the growth of open data with the Center for Open Data Enterprise‘s new Open Data Best Practices Report. You can also watch the livestream of the summit here.

Some top tweets from the Open Data Innovation Summit:

Local and Global Changemakers Mark Launch of Hub @ Grand Central Tech

#YesAllGirls Group

“I didn’t have a birth certificate until I was 22 years old…today, I’m a tech CEO in London.”

Those words from Marieme Jamme, who will never know her own birthdate but now has the audacious goal of teaching 1 million girls to code by 2030 as the chief executive of iamtheCODE, summed up the range of opportunities faced by women and girls the world over.

At the brand new Microsoft Reactor space, with the iconic windows of Grand Central Terminal in full view, Marieme joined an incredible all-female panel on Monday evening to discuss how to invest in young women and girls who are suffering through the refugee crisis.

The following morning, the Hub @ Grand Central Tech would officially open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring the Microsoft Reactor and other foundational partners such as Milstein Properties and General Electric, as well as New York City Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, New York City Economic Development Corporation President Maria Torres-Springer and London Deputy Mayor Rajesh Agrawal.

Last year, the United Nations (UN) launched the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of global priorities to be ambitiously pursued between now and 2030. SDG #5 is to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” As part of that push, Monday evening’s event titled Investing in Adolescent Girls and Young Women in the Refugee Crisis was convened by UN Women and the Malala Fund to take full advantage of the plethora of changemakers in New York during the annual UN General Assembly. After I welcomed the overflow crowd to the Microsoft Reactor, UN Assistant Secretary-General Lakshmi Puri provided a sober assessment of progress-to-date and ongoing needs.

John Paul Farmer and Zaynab Ali Abdi

John Paul Farmer stands with Zaynab Ali Abdi.

A panel of female voices then shared experiences from Yemen, Syria, and across the United States. As Fatuma Roba of Film Aid said, in a statement that is simultaneously saddening and inspiring, “I don’t believe in tomorrow; I believe in today.” Zaynab Ali Abdi, a Yemeni refugee who quickly became student body president and captain of the soccer team at her high school in Minneapolis, Minnesota, spoke about the importance of education above all – not just access to education, but expectation of education. She suggested that delaying marriage, which can often occur in the mid-teens for Yemeni girls, could lead to a more educated and empowered female population.

John Paul Farmer and Amani Yahya

John Paul Farmer and Amani Yahya, the first female Yemeni rapper

The panel was followed by a spoken word performance by Amani Yahya, the first female Yemeni rapper, who now lives in Saudi Arabia as a refugee from civil war in her home country. It was heartwarming to witness how excited Amani and Zaynab – both from Yemen – were to meet each other just prior to the event. On this, her inaugural visit to New York City, Amani was even interviewed by Tony-winning actor Daveed Diggs of the mega-hit musical Hamilton.

As an organization, UN Women recognizes the importance of teaching boys and men to support girls and women. Wearing #HeForShe lapel pins, rappers TrevMomatic and Otuk William took the stage to lend male feminist voices in the form of their song Girls.

The event was wrapped up by Toni Townes-Whitley, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President for Worldwide Public Sector, who delivered a tour-de-force showing of her own.

Conversation alone won’t solve the myriad problems faced by refugee girls. But it’s a start. Showcasing the incredible stories and resolve of these girls and women can only open up minds. And, as we often do at Microsoft, connecting skilled technologists with knowledgeable policymakers and dedicated non-profit workers can bring about the most profound change, because in the 21st century technology and policy are increasingly codependent. Three things were clear: 1) the opportunity to get an education is essential, 3) these are strong, determined girls and women who will no doubt make a positive impact on societies in the USA and abroad, and 3) we here at Microsoft have roles to play, in connecting our technologies to solve hard problems and in hosting conversations like this one.

Ribbon-cutting the Hub @ Grand Central Tech

The official ribbon-cutting for the Hub @ Grand Central Tech.

On Tuesday morning, we hosted the official ribbon-cutting for the Hub @ Grand Central Tech, a striking 45,000 square foot space specifically geared toward startups working on urban tech solutions – from transportation to water treatment to air pollution. With the 4,000 square foot Microsoft Reactor as its cornerstone, the Hub will showcase innovative Microsoft technologies, make Microsoft experts more accessible to the community, and happens to boast the aforementioned show-stopping views of Grand Central Terminal – one of the world’s great examples of urban infrastructure.

Grand Central Tech co-founders Matt Harrigan and Charlie Bonello have spent the past few years building a density of startup activity in an accessible midtown location. With the success of Grand Central Tech’s accelerator program, the Build co-working space, and now the Urban Tech Growth Hub, 335 Madison has become the vertical home for tech in midtown. After Matt and Charlie welcomed guests, NYCEDC President Torres-Springer highlighted the importance of urban tech, NYC Deputy Mayor Glen spoke of “the commitment of the city to continue to grow,” and London Deputy Mayor Agrawal even jokingly (and erroneously) referred to New York as “the second-greatest city in the world” while sharing his own inspiring story of arriving in London as an immigrant 15 years ago with just 200 pounds in his pocket, becoming a successful entrepreneur, and being named Deputy Mayor of London. Now, he is promoting further ties between London and New York.

In less than 24 hours, the Microsoft Reactor hosted hundreds of people from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America who represent a wide array of industries and issues. From these two very different events – one focused on the needs of girls in the refugee crisis, the other on the potential of tech in New York City – two things became clear. First, the audacious optimism of every person in the room. Second, no matter how different we may be – far-flung cities and countries, varying cultures, differing dress – we all have roles to play and we can often accomplish the most when we work together.

It’s days and weeks like this that make a job worth doing.

Rock the Vote This National Voter Registration Day


Are you registered to vote? In 2008, 6 million Americans missed their chance to vote — either because they missed a registration deadline, or didn’t know how to register. National Voter Registration Day, a new annual initiative, brings this information to the forefront to make sure every American has all the necessary information to register to vote.

The National Association of Secretaries of State has established the fourth Tuesday of September as National Voter Registration Day annually, making today (September 27, 2016) the day to act!

This presidential election, we want to make sure every American has a chance to vote. That’s why we’re excited to partner in Rock the Vote’s Corporate Civic Responsibility Program, working to make voter registration readily available to employees and consumers alike. And, with Microsoft Pulse, we’re helping the public become more informed voters through initiatives like

Looking for an easy way to find voter registration information? Just Bing search “how to register to vote” and Bing will display local information for you, including deadlines, requirements, and an online voter registration platform.

Microsoft Pulse partners with leading news broadcasters for the Presidential Debates

Microsoft Pulse has partnered with PBS NewsHour, MSNBC, and Telemundo to give the American public a voice during one of the biggest nights in politics this election cycle. Viewers will be able to watch the Presidential debates tonight and vote in real time whether they agree or disagree with what the candidates have to say, through any of the following channels:

  • – this partnership between Microsoft and PBS NewsHour, sanctioned by Commission on Presidential Debates, houses all the general election debates since 1960 for viewers to access on demand. In addition, viewers will be able to watch for free – and rate – each of the 2016 presidential and vice presidential debates by visiting the site, both live and, after the debates have ended, on demand. Tonight’s debate live stream begins at 9pm E.S.T on
  • – MSNBC online visitors and readers will be able to stream the debates on for free, vote real time on the candidate’s positions, and compare their reactions to those of their peers using Microsoft Pulse. Tonight’s debate live stream begins at 9pm E.S.T and viewers will be able to vote at
  • Live on Telemundo – Telemundo’s special coverage of the first debate, titled “La Gran Batalla” (The Great Battle), will feature and engage viewers with voting and insights from Microsoft Pulse before, during, and after the debate. Coverage of the debate begins live on Telemundo at 8pm E.S.T. and viewers will be able to engage from any mobile device by going to

Learn more here.

Announcing A New Way to Watch Presidential Debates

Election season is in full swing!

With our two 2016 major-party candidates gearing up for debates, we’re excited to announce the newest venture between PBS NewsHour and Microsoft:, expanding on an existing civic education partnership between PBS and the Commission on Presidential Debates. This interactive civic education and voter engagement site provides access to every general election debate since 1960, allowing visitors ability to screen entire debates and highlights, track how specific issues over the years, and interact with the content using online voting tools from Microsoft Pulse.

Since the first televised presidential debate in 1960, these events have been integral to the American democratic process and the leading forum for serious discussion of current affairs. Today, for the first time, these debates are being organized and made available in one place for the American public in an online forum.

On, users can access various content and engagement tools, including:

  • Livestreams of the four 2016 general election debates
  • Full debate footage from 39 previously broadcast debates
  • Online rating and audience engagement of previous & this year’s debates, powered by Microsoft Pulse
  • Highlight reels of memorable moments from all televised debates between 1960-2016
  • Issue-based reels looking at the evolution of key policy and political issues through the years

Experience WatchTheDebates yourself — head to