Microsoft unifies programs to boost startups

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

San Francisco's Moscone Center, prepped for Build 2013. James Martin/CNET

Just a day ahead of the kick-off of its Build 2013 conference in San Francisco, Microsoft announced on Tuesday 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 Tuesday'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.

This story originally appeared as "Microsoft consolidates its startup outreach programs" on ZDNet.

About the author

    Mary Jo Foley has been a tech journalist for almost 30 years. She is editor of ZDNet's "All About Microsoft" blog. She authored "Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft Plans to Stay Relevant in the Post-Gates Era" and co-hosts the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT Network.

     

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