Dan'l Lewin: Leading Microsoft Emerging Business Development

Dan’l Lewin, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Strategic and Emerging Business Development, interacts with a worldwide VC network to surface and nurture emerging venture-capital-backed technology start-ups with the potential to be the “next big things

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Dan’l Lewin, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Strategic and Emerging Business Development, interacts with a worldwide VC network to surface and nurture emerging venture-capital-backed technology start-ups with the potential to be the “next big things” extending the Microsoft platform, a $10 billion business, and growing.

I spoke with Lewin to discuss how he helps grow the Microsoft platforms business by enabling innovation and accelerating the software ecosystem.

Lewin is passionate about Microsoft and believes in Microsoft’s power to propel technology leaders of the future. As a leader in the 1500 person strong DPE, Microsoft’s Developer and Platform Evangelism, it is Lewin’s mission to find “incredible companies” and help them do “incredible things.”

Last holiday season, Lewin developed a tongue-in-cheek Santa’s technology wish list for “the coolest companies under the tree.” Among the “incredible companies doing extraordinary things” cited by Lewin, Microsoft Emerging Business collaborators in a variety of cutting-edge fields:

  • AtHoc—Alerting specialists for warning systems, emergency operations centers, and critical communications.
  • Cicero Networks—Voice over Wireless IP that harnesses the power of wi-fi and Bluetooth networks to deliver wireless voice services.
  • Colligo—Instant collaboration for teams in the field: Lets any wireless capable laptop, Pocket PC, or Tablet PC instantly and securely network to one or more computers no matter where you are.
  • Exact Target—A SaaS e-mail marketing company with a very slick AJAX interface that has achieved massive scale.
  • IdeaBlade—.Net on Rails. A framework for building service-based applications and distributed clients.
  • Tableau—The Visual Spreadsheet, for visual reporting and analysis solutions.

For Lewin, the Micorosoft .Net framework has helped the technology start-ups bring their innovative products and services to market and has contributed “merrily” to their successes.

Lewin talks of a “virtuous cycle,” for every $1 generated in Microsoft revenues, $6 - $11 is generated throughout the larger Microsoft ecosystem. Lewin aims to ensure that the Microsoft ecosystem “share of market” grows faster than the whole market.

Who Shapes IT?
How does Microsoft identify start-ups that will foster productive use of the Microsoft platform? What does Microsoft do to promote platform growth via new technologies?

Lewin works closely with the VC community as a collaborative filter; Because VCs seek extraordinary returns, they only invest in companies judged to have a high probability of achieving inordinate market success. By aligning with VC backed technology start-ups, therefore, Microsoft can dedicate resources to software companies with the best chance of achieving market leadership. Market leading companies with software solutions that significantly extend the Microsoft platform represent the targeted end-game for Lewin.

To successfully achieve the end-game sooner, rather than later, Microsoft Developer and Platform Evangelism provides software developers with “the best tools, programs, services and content offerings to create the next generation of world-class software.”

Lewin is a strong believer in transparency to attract the most promising technology start-ups and accelerate development of the software ecosystem. The Microsoft Technology Enablement strategy is multi-faceted:

The ISV Show provides Microsoft technology partners with guidance on where Microsoft intends to deliver platform capabilities as an input to their own product- planning process. The ISV Show clarifies Microsoft product roadmaps and contemplates partner opportunities.

MSDN Developer Centers pull together content and resources around specific products and technologies…code samples, community sites, technical articles and documentation, upcoming events, and much more.

Microsoft Technology Centers offer the facilities and resources to efficiently envision, design, and evaluate customized Microsoft .NET technology solutions prior to deployment in IT environments.

Akimbo, a venture-capital backed iVOD start-up, credits Microsoft Technology Enablement as being an integral component to its success in developing and executing a go-to-market strategy which currently leverages the 10 million seat strong Microsoft Media Center Edition 2005 PC. Microsoft partnered with Akimbo while its product was still in beta and, as a Microsoft Windows Embedded partner, Akimbo benefited from direct access to Microsoft engineering support for assistance in development and execution.

For Akimbo CEO Josh Goldman, Microsoft Emerging Business Development support bolstered the start-up’s position with prospective partners and investors early on and led to the current win-win for both Akimbo and Microsoft: “Media Center Edition represents the integration of the computer with the television, making it a natural fit for Akimbo. Akimbo extends to Media Center Edition PC manufacturers the ability to easily integrate the Akimbo Service into their products. Users of these new products gain a remarkable new way to get a broader range of video on demand than they’ve ever had before.”

For Akimbo venture capital investor Andreas Stavropoulos, Managing Director, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, “The Microsoft partnership was a strong endorsement that differentiated Akimbo from competing companies. It served as a signal of the promise of Akimbo’s technology and underlined the ties with the Microsoft Windows CE operating system.”

For Lewin, Microsoft is contributing “merrily” to Akimbo’s success, yesterday Akimbo announced new investors Cisco Systems Inc. and AT&T Inc., as part of a $15.5 million Series C investment round closed.

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