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What does Microsoft offer start-ups?

Offering a hands-on approach to accelerating growth

25 European Corporate Startup Stars reveals which large companies are doing the most to support new firms. These case studies highlight some specific examples of active and successful collaboration between corporates and start-ups.

A good example of…

Effective partnerships

European headquarters: London, UK

Geographical reach: Paris, Berlin, London, Tel Aviv, Beijing, Bangalore and Seattle

Sector/s of interest: Technology-driven industries that align with Microsoft’s work, including the intelligence cloud, productivity and personal computing, machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), fintech, artificial intelligence, enterprise software and retail

Works with start-ups through:

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  • Seven owned and operated Microsoft Accelerator programmes
  • Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) who lead the accelerator programmes
  • Microsoft BizSpark, which has supported over 100,000 start-ups and 1,500 partners from more than 100 countries since 2008
  • The corporate venture fund, Microsoft Ventures


Why does Microsoft work with start-ups?

Microsoft understands that start-ups are a huge driver of innovation in the technology industry. Through seven Microsoft Accelerator programmes, it empowers start-ups and entrepreneurs to create innovative, successful businesses that it has the opportunity to partner with and expose to its corporate customers.

How does Microsoft work with start-ups?

Microsoft has supported 452 start-ups to raise $1.8bn to date, through the Microsoft Accelerator programmes, which operate in Paris, Berlin, London, Tel Aviv, Beijing, Bangalore and Seattle. These start-ups include Rallyteam, a talent management platform that Microsoft uses to match projects with technical talent, and iBot, an end-to-end platform for the Internet of Things that allows makers to create ‘connected experiences’.

The Microsoft accelerators do not take equity and are led by Entrepreneurs in Residence who ‘speak the same language’ as start-ups. This helps to overcome cultural barriers.

Microsoft also works with early-stage start-ups through Microsoft BizSpark, which provides free software, developer tools, support and Azure cloud services. And it works with later stage start-ups through the corporate venture fund, Microsoft Ventures.

What has Microsoft done to facilitate collaboration with start-ups?

Microsoft hires entrepreneurs to lead the Microsoft Accelerator programmes. This is an important part of ensuring the programmes’ success with start-ups. Microsoft Accelerator is also a way for Microsoft to collaborate with other enterprises – for example, it ran a cyber security accelerator in Tel Aviv (with Akamai and JVP); set up a cohort around medical health (with Becton, Dickinson and Healthbox); and created a connected home programme (with American Family Insurance).

After start-ups apply to one of the Microsoft Accelerator programmes, applicants are selected for interview and 20 finalists are chosen to present their work in front of a selection committee. The top 10 to 15 of these are then accepted onto the programme.


Success story: RallyTeam

RallyTeam is a talent management platform that intelligently matches Microsoft projects with internal talent and expertise.

Microsoft supported Rallyteam through the Microsoft Accelerator programme, and later collaborated with the start-up as one of its first beta testers.
Rallyteam’s platform was developed to integrate with Microsoft Dynamics and Office 365. It is hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud service.


“Having entrepreneurs run accelerator programmes can make a real difference – they are focused on metrics and know how to deal with start-ups”

Alberto Onetti, Corporate Startup Stars judge


What can other corporates learn from Microsoft about working with start-ups?

  • A network of global accelerators can lead to impressive results when working with startups
  • Hiring entrepreneurs to run accelerator programmes helps drive success and ensures everyone is ‘speaking the same language’


What is Microsoft looking for from the start-ups it works with?

Microsoft Accelerator and Microsoft Ventures focus on market-ready start-ups able to scale their businesses globally. These start-ups should have a strong founding team with a mix of business and technical expertise. They should also have seed investment and a validated product, as well as steady growth in customers or meaningful traction.

Microsoft screens start-ups in four areas: team, idea, being coachable, being fundable.

How can start-ups get involved with Microsoft?

Early-stage start-ups can apply to become part of the BizSpark programme here.

Market-ready start-ups who want to apply to the Microsoft Accelerator programmes can do so through the website.

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Image courtesy of SVC2UK CEO Summit 2015.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644104.


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