Microsoft announces $500 million programme for growth of start-ups

Global technology giant Microsoft on Thursday announced the launch of a $500 million programme that delivers access to technology, go-to-market and community benefits to help start-ups grow their customer and revenue base.

“We are committing $500 million over the next two years to offer joint sales engagements with start-ups, along with access to our technology, and new community spaces that promote collaboration across local and global ecosystems,” said the company.

While the company did not provide specific numbers for investments in India, Microsoft India MD Anant Maheshwari told Business Standard that Microsoft was a part of the start-up ecosystem in a big way from the early stages.

“We see start-ups and unicorns as customers. It is a focus area for us to do a lot of work with these companies in India as many of them are now reaching scales where they are looking for technology solutions beyond pure play infrastructure,” said Maheshwari.

He added that Microsoft’s accelerator in Bengaluru was among the most successful start-up accelerators in the country, and it worked with many different companies in the early stage of their development. Microsoft was deeply engaged with the developer community to provide capabilities and toolkits to create their offerings and products, he said.

The Microsoft for Start-ups programme will provide start-ups with up to $120,000 in free Azure credits, enterprise-grade technical support and development tools like supporting the languages of their choice, such as Node.js, Java and .NET.  In addition, qualified start-ups will also gain access to productivity and business applications, including Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

The programme will connect qualified start-ups with new customers and channel partners through over 40,000 Microsoft sales representatives and hundreds of thousands of partners and build on a cloud platform to connect them to existing and new Microsoft initiatives.

“The start-up ecosystem in India is maturing. We are serving them as they reach scale like Flipkart, Ola or Paisabazaar. But there is a very strong approach to serving them in the early stages,” said Maheshwari.  They were looking for AI-enabled intelligent cloud and modern ways to collaborate with their workforce, he added.

Among the most successful incubates of Microsoft’s accelerator programme in India is health and fitness start-up HealthifyMe, which recently secured $12 million Series-B funding.

Microsoft became the exclusive public cloud computing partner for Indian e-commerce giant Flipkart a year ago. Within months of this partnership Microsoft Corporation joined the likes of Tencent and eBay in investing around $1.4 billion in Flipkart, which is the largest funding win in recent times.

In November, cab aggregator Ola announced its partnership with Microsoft Azure as the preferred cloud service provider for Ola’s connected car platform. Earlier in the week, financial advisory platform Paisabazaar announced a similar partnership with Microsoft to move its entire infrastructure to Microsoft Azure cloud services.

The prestigious accelerator programme has so far incubated about 130 start-ups in India, and over 750 start-ups globally. Microsoft also recently announced their partnership with Accenture Ventures  to assist growth-stage start-ups in the country.

Microsoft is also part of NASSCOM’s 10,000 start-ups toolkit alongside other technology companies like Amazon, IBM and Google in offering exclusive technology support.

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