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Microsoft launches Windows Azure Accelerator in Israel

The software giant says that the four-month program will help early stage startups improve their businesses. Microsoft will not require equity stake in any of the firms.

Microsoft is playing nice with startups in its new Windows Azure Accelerator.

The company announced recently that the accelerator, which will rely heavily upon Microsoft's Azure cloud service, will be a four-month program designed for early stage startups "doing big things in cloud, Web, and mobile." Microsoft says that it'll provide the companies with mentors, development tools, and other key elements to help attendees grow their businesses. The accelerator will be held at Microsoft's Israel Research and Development Center.

"Microsoft will provide the participating companies with support at unprecedented scope and quality," Nir Tenzer, Microsoft Israel's Business Development and Platform Strategy Division Lead said in a statement. "In addition to the modern office infrastructure, each startup will be able to leverage a development environment based on the cloud services of Windows Azure, including development tools, processing and storage resources, and more, to a value of tens of thousands of dollars per startup at no charge. The tools will remain at the startups' disposal even after they complete their incubation."

In addition to not charging startups, Microsoft has said that it will not require them to hand over equity in their businesses to join.

Microsoft has previously played a role in some startup workshops, including the Kinect Accelerator. However, in a statement to TechCrunch, the company said that Kinect Accelerator is completely operated by seed-funding firm TechStars, and not Microsoft.

"Windows Azure Accelerator is the only by Microsoft, at Microsoft, run by our employees," Zack Weisfeld, Microsoft's Israel Development Center senior director of strategy and business development told TechCrunch. "This is certainly our first direct accelerator."

Microsoft is currently accepting applications to join the first four-month cycle for its accelerator. The company says that selected firms must have the "ability to perform" and come with strong "management quality," among other attributes.