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Microsoft Ventures into new startup territory

Software giant announces new package of business support offerings for startups.


Microsoft is reinforcing its commitment to helping startups get off the ground with the rollout of a new business and technology mentoring programme.

The software giant's new Microsoft Ventures initiative aims to provide enterprise-focused startups with access to technology guidance, seed funding, and joint selling opportunities.

The initiative is designed to capitalise on the response Microsoft has had to its BizSpark programme, which is geared towards privately-held startups in the software developer space that are less than five years old, and several other similar initiatives its launched in recent years.

The BizSpark programme is free to join for up to three years and offers members access to technology services to support the growth of their business, as well as investors, mentors and startups from other parts of the world for information sharing purposes.

According to Microsoft, more than 75,000 startups from over 100 countries have made use of the BizSpark programme since 2008.

In a blog post, announcing the launch of Microsoft Ventures, the company said the programme's aim was to bring all of its various startup initiatives under one roof.

"By unifying our efforts, we will give entrepreneurs a single point of entry to engage with Microsoft," it stated.

"Startups have enough to worry about. We want to make access to us as intuitive and friction-free as possible."

The programme is made up of three components, with the Microsoft Ventures Community portion open to "anyone with a great idea" who may require access to BizSpark resources.

There is also the Microsoft Ventures Accelerators part, which is a three-to-six month programme open to companies with a full-time founding team.

To qualify for entry to this part of the programme, Microsoft said applicants must also have raised less than $1 million, and have "technology-driven solutions".

"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," the blog added.

The third part is essentially an extension of Microsoft's Big Fund, which was launched last year to provide seed investments to startups.

"Startups can receive direct funding from Microsoft after achieve early business success," the blog post continued.

"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," it added.

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