After just over a year, University City’s Microsoft Reactor Philadelphia will be closing its doors to the public at the end of September.
The move is, at least in part, the result of a broader internal reorganization of Microsoft’s sales approach, in which the Developer Experience unit was essentially disbanded, and its staff rolled into another unit focused on Commercial Software Engineering.
Philly’s Donna Woodall, Microsoft’s Citizenship & Public Affairs Director for the Northeast, said a “handful” of Reactor staffers were part of that reorganization, including developer evangelists Dave Voyles and Amanda Lange. Following their transfer, the Reactor was left without hands on deck to teach classes or host events.
“We just didn’t have the resources in the Reactor to be there,” Woodall said of the shutdown. “We’re a little sad about it that but very happy that we will continue the whole community concept with the Science Center.”
There are two other Microsoft Reactors in the U.S.: one in San Francisco and one in New York City. An email sent to Microsoft’s PR team on whether those spaces would remain active was not immediately responded to.
The Philly Reactor, housed on the ground floor of the University Science Center’s 3711 Market location, was first announced in April of last year as a joint effort between Microsoft, SeventySix Capital and Wexford Science and Technology. Initially we knew it as the Microsoft Innovation Center, one of a network of about 100 similar spots around the globe. In July 2016, it soft launched during the Democratic National Convention with a different name on the walls: the Microsoft Reactor Philadelphia.
In November, a more formal launch event happened at the space. Mayor Jim Kenney dropped by:
— Technical.ly Philly (@TechnicallyPHL) November 3, 2016
In a phone chat with Technical.ly, Microsoft’s Woodall doubles down on the “bright side” of the news. “We fought for the opportunity to continue the work here, and we’re going to continue together with the Science Center and through other partnerships,” she said.
“While we’re disappointed by the decision to close the Reactor, I’m delighted that the relationship between the Science Center and Microsoft will continue,” Science Center CEO Stephen Tang said in an email Thursday. “We’re planning to renew our Strategic Digital Alliance with Microsoft. This gives us one more strategy to increase access, inclusion and diversity in the tech sector as we work together to increase underrepresented groups’ awareness of and involvement in STEM activities and careers.”
That Strategic Digital Alliance Tang mentions, will continue to link up underrepresented youth to tech resources, per Woodall.
During its brief tenure in Philly, the space served as an incubator, home to a startup-in-residence program and linked up nonprofits with tech donations. Per the Science Center’s Jeanne Mell, it engaged some 3,200 people and offered a total of 100 programs and events. We also gave it a few challenges, namely: bringing diversity, opportunity and connectivity to the area.
Farewell, Reactor. We hardly knew ye.