Entrepreneurship is an increasingly global phenomenon. We know that the barriers to turn an idea into a business have never been lower. At the same time, entrepreneurs at any maturity level still need a lot of assistance, and there are more resources than ever available to help them. As ecosystems become more fractured, paths to innovation shift and evolve, often requiring support tailored to that particular market to spur meaningful growth. To meet these growing sets of needs across mature and emerging markets alike, we are strengthening the resources we provide entrepreneurs.
Today, Microsoft is announcing the creation of Microsoft Ventures, a coordinated global effort that offers the tools, resources, expertise and routes to market by providing mentorship, technology guidance, seed funding, joint selling opportunities and other benefits. Microsoft isn’t new to working with startups. Since 2008, more than 75,000 startups from over 100 countries have received access to tools and resources through the BizSpark program. Since launching our accelerator programs two years ago, 114 startups have graduated, and nearly all that sought a subsequent round of funding received it. We launched the Bing Fund in 2012 to make seed investments in startups, and help them build their business and improve their technology.
But we know that we can do even more. First, by unifying our various efforts, we will give entrepreneurs a single point of entry to engage with Microsoft. Startups have enough to worry about. 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 Ventures is broad-based and takes a holistic approach, featuring a community evangelism program including BizSpark, an accelerator program and a seed fund that works with startups worldwide.
Microsoft Ventures Community: Anyone with a great idea can benefit from the Community program. Microsoft is providing easy access to technology and resources to help entrepreneurs explore how to turn a great idea into a business in several different ways:
· The BizSpark program will continue to offer access to Microsoft tools and technologies, including Windows and Office, Visual Studio, Windows Azure and more.
· Locally-supported partnerships with approximately 200 startup-focused organizations around the world like Startup BootCamp, Enterprise Ireland and Telefonica’s Wayra.
Microsoft Ventures Accelerators: Once entrepreneurs realize the business potential of their ideas, they can apply to an immersive 3-6 month accelerator program. Along with Microsoft-owned and operated accelerators currently in Bangalore, Beijing, Paris, Seattle and Tel-Aviv, we are expanding to further locations including Berlin, Moscow and Rio de Janeiro.
At a minimum, 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. The accelerators provide access to business mentors, technical and design experts, development tools and key resources to help entrepreneurs take the early steps toward turning their ideas into businesses.
Seed Funding from Microsoft Ventures: Microsoft is evolving the Bing Fund by adding additional funding to support even more startups. Startups can receive direct funding from Microsoft after achieving early business success. That may mean having a viable product in market with demonstrated customer traction, a full-time founding team or alignment to Microsoft domain expertise, including enterprise software, big data, security, artificial intelligence, advertising, gaming, SaaS and cloud services.
For more information around this announcement, please visit The Official Microsoft Blog or www.microsoftventures.com, or hear me discuss further at START SF at 3 p.m. PT on Wednesday. Additionally, you can tune into Build 2013 to learn more about how Microsoft is helping the next generation of smart companies take flight.