Microsoft consolidates its startup outreach programs

Microsoft consolidates its startup outreach programs

Summary: Microsoft is consolidating a number of its startup outreach programs into a single, new Microsoft Ventures unit.


Just a day ahead of the kick-off of its Build 2013 conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced on June 25 the consolidation of a number of its startup outreach programs into a single Microsoft Ventures unit.


Microsoft Ventures will offer mentorship, technology guidance, seed funding, joint selling opportunities and other benefits globally. The new unit will incorporate the BizSpark accelerator program, the Bing Fund and other existing "accelerators" Microsoft has been operating in various countries.

Microsoft's message, as it prepares to host its first major developer conference in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area since 1997, is it is no stranger to working with startups.

According to a blog post, Microsoft has provided 75,000 startups from 100 countries access to tools and resources through BizSpark since 2008. Microsoft also has seen 114 startups graduate from its accelerator programs in the past two year. The company also launched the Bing Fund in 2012 to make seed investments in a handful of startups so far.

"(B)y unifying our various efforts, we will give entrepreneurs a single point of entry to engage with Microsoft," said Rahul Sood, general manager of Microsoft Startups, in today's blog post. "We want to make access to us as intuitive and friction-free as possible. And for promising startups focused on enterprise, Microsoft is uniquely positioned to help in ways very few can match. Whether by accessing our domain expertise or an introduction into the vibrant partner ecosystem, we believe an opportunity exists to provide unparalleled routes to customers across the globe."

Microsoft is not closing down BizSpark, according to the post; it will continue to offer access to Microsoft products, including Windows, Office, Visual Studio, Windows Azure and more, to startups. The Bing Fund is morphing into "Seed Funding from Microsoft Ventures" and will have money to fund even more startups, company officials said. Startups with alignment with Microsoft's own domain expertise in areas like enterprise software, big data, security, artificial intelligence, advertising, gaming and Software as a Service/cloud services, are especially wanted.

The new Microsoft Ventures Accelerators will supplement the existing Microsoft accelerators in Bangalore, Beijing, Paris, Seattle and Tel Aviv -- as well as new additions in Berlin, Moscow and Rio de Janeiro. To qualify for consideration in these accelerators, applying companies "must have a full-time founding team, a bold vision for tackling a real problem, technologically driven solutions and less than $1 million raised," according to Microsoft.

Topics: Start-Ups, Big Data, Cloud, Emerging Tech, Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Security


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • So what does MS get out of this?

    Is this a venture capital operation, or something else?
    John L. Ries
    • more like incubator/tools plus some seed funding/investment stuff

      not a typical/pure VC kind of thing, as I understand it. MJ
      Mary Jo Foley
      • So again...

        ...what does MS expect to get out of this program?
        John L. Ries
        • ...

          Lots of early stage startups building their tech with Microsoft's tools upon Microsoft's platforms, hosted in Microsoft's cloud. PLUS Microsoft gets to have first/early opportunities to buy/promote complementary ideas/products.
          • Definitely the drug dealer model

            ...which is not necessarily a bad thing; my wife offers free knitting classes on the theory that if she can get people to knit, they''ll turn into regular customers of her yarn shop.

   long as the beneficiaries remain free to patronize MS or not as they see fit.
            John L. Ries
    • As I understand it, they are in it for the platform "win"

      Software platform companies thrive when they have a healthy "ecosystem". The more other companies build tools and solutions using Windows, Office, Azure, SQL Server, etc, the more valuable those platforms are to Microsoft's customers (if you want an example of this, consider how hard it is now for someone to change phones if that person has invested heavily in iTunes and the Apple AppStore).

      There are lots of groups at Microsoft who are goaled with platform "wins". This is just another variation on that theme.
      • So this is the drug dealer model?

        Provide the software in order to get small businesses hooked on it (or if you prefer, to build loyalty to MS products)?
        John L. Ries
        • Yes, problem?

          Every company out there are looking for ways to generate profit one way or another. At least Microsoft is providing the fund to help them succeed. As long as everyone win, who cares whose product they are using?
          • See my response to Bitcrazed

            As long as MS isn't making beneficiaries promise not to use competing products, I have no objections.
            John L. Ries
          • Well, if you have any objections...

            ...feel free to write to Bill or Steve.
  • Flydog57 are you saying that platform "win" = Attempted customer lock in's?

    That would make sense as we are talking about Microsoft now arn't we?
    Over and Out
    • So does, Google, Apple, Amazon, AT&T, Cisco, Oracle, to name a few.

      And it is not okay if Microsoft doing it? That would make sense as we are talking hypocrisy aren't we?
      • You can't insert logic into a discussion such as this. MS is the only evil

        company in the lot. The others are just in it to win future business, and allegiance. But, when MS does the same for the same reasons, it's just the most evil thing any company can conceive of.