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Ex-Microsoft evangelist Abby Fichtner will head new 'hackerspace' in Kendall Square focused on big data

Posted by Scott Kirsner  August 3, 2012 06:00 PM

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The inaugural director of a new "hackerspace" in Kendall Square called hack/reduce is Abby Fichtner. Until last month, Fichtner was a Microsoft evangelist responsible for building and maintaining relationships in the local startup community. She's also a co-organizer of Boston's Lean Startup Circle.

Hack/reduce aims to be a central node of Boston's burgeoning "big data" scene, serving as both a gathering place and office space for entrepreneurs and developers. It'll also offer its members access to high-powered servers, data storage, and sample data sets that can be used for projects. (Members may pay an annual fee to support hack/reduce and access certain services, but the space will be open to the community.)

The new space has so far raised about $3 million a group of venture capital firms and tech companies like IBM, Dell and EMC, says Chris Lynch of Atlas Venture, who has been spearheading fundraising. And back in May, Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick announced that the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative would give hack/reduce $50,000 over two years.

The prime movers behind hack/reduce are Lynch and Hopper founder Frederic Lalonde, who recently moved to Boston from Montreal. Steve Papa, co-founder and CEO of Endeca (which is now part of Oracle) is also an advisor.

On the choice of Fichtner to head hack/reduce, Lynch says, "We kissed a lot of frogs. We found good business people and super-technical people. But Abby already has a following, and she has experience building a community. She has a larger-than-life personality, and she is a developer. She can also really relate to younger people. She's a little edgy and left-of-center."

"Big data is a real opportunity for Boston to excel," says Fichtner, who is perhaps better known by her Twitter handle @HackerChick. "We have so many smart people here. We can bring in all these domains like life sciences and finance and even musicians and artists, and connect them with developers to really foster innovation."

Hack/reduce will be located in the Kendall Boiler & Tank Building, on the edge of Kendall Square. The hack/reduce space isn't open yet, but Hopper, an online travel site that hasn't yet launched, is based in the same building.

Fichtner stars the new job on Monday: "I just want to hit the ground running, and get the space opened as soon as possible."

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Innovation and technology news that matters, on a new website from the Boston Globe, featuring Scott Kirsner and other original reporting.

About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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