Microsoft has just announced the launch of Microsoft Ventures, a wide-ranging support programme for startups which is reaching out to the four corners of the globe.
During the Build 2013 conference in San Francisco on 26 - 28 June, Microsoft announced the launch of Microsoft Ventures, a programme designed to support startups on a worldwide basis. A key feature of the overall programme is a seed investment fund which will complement Microsoft’s existing initiatives for supporting entrepreneurs. This announcement follows hard on the heels of similar initiatives by several major brands, from both the technology sector and the mass retail field. Nike launched its Nike+Accelerator in Portland, Oregon, earlier this year, and the first companies selected to take part have just completed the programme. In May, Target and Fast Company announced the contestants for the final round of the Co.Labs & Target Retail Accelerator, which is dedicated to startups aiming to market innovative services for thee-commerce sector. Now it’s the turn of Microsoft to make human, technical – and also financial –resources available in order to support innovation in the way it thinks best.
Three-pronged support for entrepreneurs
While Microsoft has always had strong links with its own developer community, this new initiative aims to provide support for a wider group of startup entrepreneurs, explained Jean Ferré, Senior Director, and Vice-President, Developer and Platform Group for Microsoft, France. He was the man behind the Microsoft Group’s initiative to launch a pilot accelerator programme in Paris – Spark, which is located in downtown Paris. Now Microsoft Ventures is offering a single comprehensive partner programme for entrepreneurs based on three pillars. First of these is the ‘Community’ aspect, including the BizSpark programme, which makes coaches, software and other services available to entrepreneurs either free of charge or at reduced prices, from which around 45,000 startups have already benefited. The second pillar is the network of business accelerators which Microsoft has set up from Paris to Rio, including Moscow and Bangalore, more or less along the lines of the Paris-based Spark.
Supporting startups around the world
The third pillar of the Microsoft Ventures program is the seed fund. This is a new version of the BingFund which was launched last year. The US IT sector giant is planning to provide financial support to a large number of startup companies. However startups that go through the accelerators cannot automatically count on receiving an investment injection. “First and foremost we’ll be investing in solid teams with projects we think will stay the course”, says Jean Ferré. Contrary to the practice of many accelerators and funds launched by major brands, Microsoft does not make it a requirement that supported projects have to focus on Microsoft technologies. On the contrary, the Group’s aim is to invest in ‘early-stage’ startups of all kinds. In Microsoft Ventures’ ‘holistic’ partnering programme, the investment fund constitutes the final stage which enables fledgling entrepreneurs to launch for real, underpinned bya powerful ecosystem.