Microsoft has been lending a hand to startups for years. But in only the last week, a series of ventures by the technology giant have brought its support for young businesses up to a new level, and showcased just how vital the tech startup community is for the rest of the business world.
Prepping Startups To Challenge Microsoft’s Rivals
Part of Microsoft’s plan to support the newest technology businesses is unsurprisingly a way to get ahead of the competition and foster startups that show promise of challenging Microsoft’s largest rivals.
Last week, Microsoft announced a new partnership with an array of startup accelerators, including Seedcamp and Techstars, through the technology firm’s Bizspark Plus program. The venture lets startups apply for free credits to access Microsoft Azure cloud services with the aim of giving businesses a leg-up without having to carry the burden of cloud computing costs.
"We have spent a tremendous amount of time listening to better understand what startups need to be successful,” said Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft’s president of developer platform and evangelism, adding that the seven accelerators run by Microsoft around the globe have been a major source of that feedback.
While the plan will help young companies enter into the cloud early on, reports said it is also an effort to strengthen Azure’s presence among startups, who largely use Microsoft rivals Amazon Web Services or Google.
A New Class Of Graduates
Perhaps the most prominent efforts by Microsoft to support startups is Microsoft Ventures, the unit started in 2013 to supplement the company’s existing BizSpark support program.
Last Thursday (June 19), at the Think Next 2015 event held in Israel, Microsoft revealed the newest class of 11 startups to graduate from the accelerator program. The sixth batch of graduates, which yield from the Accelerator Plus and Scale Up programs, were chosen from more than 1,400 applicants to showcase their innovations in the Internet of Things and payment platform spaces.
Among the young businesses are several B2B innovators, including AdPushUp, which offers advertising revenue optimization for digital publishers, and Uninstall, which helps businesses reduce their application uninstall rates. The latest round brings Microsoft’s startup portfolio to 74 and, according to reports, Microsoft Ventures has already begun receiving applications for its seventh round of incubation. Over the last year, Microsoft has been zeroing in on the startup community that can provide new enterprise services and solutions.
Tapping Into Startups’ Offerings
Think Next, which served as a sort of graduation ceremony for the companies, is itself a sort of epicenter for technology startups looking to catch Microsoft’s eye. Run through Microsoft Israel’s R&D center, the event showcases the world’s up-and-comers of technology.
So it is unsurprising that the same day the latest round of startups was announced, Microsoft also revealed plans to take a new approach to startup accelerator efforts.
The company unleashed the Innovation for Corporates Initiative in India, a move that aims to help both startups and established businesses by connecting the two together. The startups gain the support and resources they need from successful firms, those firms can access the innovations of those young businesses to help their own businesses continue to grow.
At its inception, ICI will offer three programs: the Market Access Program, which will connect startups to enterprises; Partner in Acceleration, which will connect businesses to Microsoft resources so they can establish their own connections to startups; and the High Performance Program, which will provide resources directly to startups nominated by other corporations.
For Ravi Narayan, who serves as Director of Microsoft Ventures, India, the program is a response to Microsoft’s growing presence as not just a startup supporter, but as a source of support for established businesses. “More and more enterprise businesses are looking at us for guidance, and we are positive that institutionalizing our efforts under ICI will help us scale up and help even more businesses,” he said, adding, “This is in line with Microsoft’s philosophy of being a platform company that enables its partners to build products to suite their needs."
It’s a philosophy that has shown through in recent years through the array of accelerator partnerships and efforts from Microsoft Ventures and BizSpark. But with the launch of the ICI, Microsoft has taken the philosophy to a new level, and confirmed that as much as startups need support from successful firms, those firms need the innovative minds of those startups just as much.