Microsoft's revamped Startups program is generally available with OpenAI perk

Microsoft is relaxing the eligibility requirements for its Startups Founders Hub in order to attract more early-stage participants.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor
Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is making its Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub program generally available today, March 8. Since launching the preview of the program last fall, Microsoft has made some tweaks designed to get more startups into the program and to provide them with benefits, like access to OpenAI's AI programming interface technology.

Microsoft has reduced the criteria for eligibility for the Startups Founders Hub program so that any founder with an idea can get access to the program, officials said. There aren't any venture-capital, incubator/accelerator affiliation requirements, or third-party validation required before a startup can apply. 

The program is meant to connect startups with mentors, provide startup-centric training, and provide access to a variety of Microsoft and third-party technologies at a discount. Microsoft is making benefits available at various points in the startups' lifecycle, rather than just providing a lump-sum.

"Microsoft's previous startup initiatives, focused on cloud credits over a set timeframe, and on co-sell opportunities. While both are important for startups, Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub is a new approach which prioritizes helping founders where they need it most: Getting started," said a company spokesperson when I asked for details about the adjustments Microsoft has made to its startup program.

Microsoft is providing startups with up to $150,000 Azure credits over time. The available credits grow from the "ideate" stage, when startups can get $1,000 of credits per year, up to $120,000 for those who are ready to scale their companies. Startups also get access to other products like GitHub and Microsoft 365 as part of the program.

Via the just-announced OpenAI credit, Microsoft and OpenAI are providing Microsoft startup participants with $1,000 worth of credits, three free months of the OpenAI API Innovation License, and free consultation with an OpenAI expert. OpenAI is the creator of the language-based GPT-3 AI model. 

In 2019, Microsoft invested $1 billion in the OpenAI company. In exchange, it received commitments from OpenAI to make Microsoft its "preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies."

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