Supporting all founders – from idea to exit

Jeffrey Ma
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There’s a popular quote attributed to inspirational founder Leila Janah, "Talent is equally distributed, opportunity is not." As someone who has had the fortune to found and exit four startups, I know this to be true. While I certainly take pride in my achievements, my relative advantages including where I grew up, where I went to school, and who I was lucky enough to meet were all out-sized factors in helping me build these startups.  

When I arrived in Silicon Valley in 2004, it was an incredibly exciting time. The area was (and still is) an amazing confluence of entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, and technologists melding together to build the next big thing. When I started my first company, I didn’t have experiences to draw from, so I talked to as many people as possible to validate my ideas and get advice. These people didn’t just provide encouragement, they provided honest feedback and flat out told me when I was wrong. As a first-time founder, I was privileged to have access to an amazing network of mentors, fellow entrepreneurs, and this broader ecosystem of innovation.  

When I joined Microsoft a year and a half ago, we set out to deeply understand the needs of founders and the unique challenges they face. To do that, we interviewed thousands of entrepreneurs around the world across a range of stages and backgrounds. What we heard was consistent with my experience—founders want access to advice and coaching. They also want opportunities for funding, help validating their ideas, access to world-class technology to accelerate their time to market, and assistance in winning customers. In short, what they need now is what I needed when I started my first company. Which brings us back to the discussion about opportunity. Why can’t we, in 2021 build a scalable, digital ecosystem that promotes opportunities and democratizes innovation regardless of where talent resides or what their background might be?  

With that question in mind, we outlined a plan to help make startups successful at each phase of their journey, while also aiming to make the startup ecosystem at-large more representative of the world. Today, with the launch of Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub in limited preview, we are excited to take the first step. The platform is designed to help all tech entrepreneurs innovate and grow– no matter their background, location, progress, or passions. Open to anyone with an idea, the platform helps founders accelerate product development, hit their next milestone, and learn how to secure funds to run their startup — all at their own pace.  

Over the coming months we will be refining the platform based on founder feedback. In the meantime, we invite all entrepreneurs to learn more and to sign up for Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub at: startups.microsoft.com.