10 Reasons to Give Your Startup the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator Advantage

Around the world, the Microsoft Ventures team works with startups at every stage of their entrepreneurial journey. One of the ways Microsoft is engaging more deeply with startups is through our accelerators.

With Microsoft Ventures Accelerators in several budding entrepreneurial communities, we are focused on helping founders with amazing resources, technical support, mentorship and help growing their customer base.

I work with the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Bangalore and in the short period of time we have seen a lot of success stories from the 35 companies that have participated in our program. 22 startups have graduated from the accelerator and 13 are currently going through the process, leading up to the Demo Day event on November 29, 2013.

We are currently taking applications for the next batch of startups for our accelerator program that starts on January 22, 2014.  If you believe this is the right path forward for your startup, please apply here.

So, what makes Microsoft Ventures Accelerators unique?  Here are my thoughts on why our accelerators are a great opportunity for startups.

1. Customers at scale. We strive to provide startups unparalleled routes to market. This is something we are proud of and provides one of the crucial elements startups need to succeed. When a startup joins our accelerator program, we ask who their dream customers would be, across geographies and sectors.  As Microsoft has one of the most extensive set of customers and partners, gaining access is much easier through our relationships. We’ve even had instances where our own Sales and Marketing groups have used technologies from our startups to present complete solutions to our customers. Win, win.

2. Solving real problems. Microsoft Ventures uses the Lean Startup Methodology for customer development, which helps companies build what the customer wants.  We conduct a weeklong workshop to have startups reach out to several customers and have extensive discussions with them. One of the startups in the Bangalore accelerator, ShieldSquare, hit upon a fantastic market opportunity when they followed this process assiduously. Moving away from frustrating attempts at pushing the customer forward, they are now getting calls from potential customers enquiring as to when they can get the product!

3. Strong network. Startups need guidance from people who have been there before. With over 150 mentors, our ecosystem is able to provide incredibly valuable insights for the next generation of startups. Microsoft attracts some of the best entrepreneurial and technical minds to work with us as mentors. They are a diverse group of successful entrepreneurs, business leaders and investors with vast experience. They become friends, philosophers, consultants and guides for the founders in our program. Check out some of the mentor profiles onhere.

4. More than accelerator. Microsoft Ventures has its own Seed Fund. To date, we have announced investments in SkyGiraffe, Ranku and Zula. For select startups aligned to Microsoft strategic goals, this is a potential path to gain seed funding. We are also deeply entrenched in the investor ecosystem be it angel investors, venture capital funds or other seed funds. These relationships are not just in India but worldwide. Globally, to date, 120 companies have graduated from our accelerator programs with an 85% exit funding rate (within 6 months of demo day). 35% of those startups raised a series-A and 8 completed acquisitions (1 by Microsoft). The average series-A round was $2 million USD and the average valuation at seed was $762,000 USD.

5. Access to world class experts. Microsoft has deep expertise in building complex products for the global marketplace. We dedicate senior talent not only to help build scalable products but also to lay out a product roadmap that will help startups as they progress in the real world.

6. CEO-in-Residence (CIR) heads up our accelerators. This reflects the deep involvement of senior leaders from Microsoft that help startups in a deliberated and planned manner. The CIR also has resources to bring to the accelerator, including specialists in technology, connecting to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, operations, marketing and public relations.

7. Speed is the key. A lot is accomplished during the four months during the course of our accelerators. The tenure follows a strong roadmap to focus on customer development, technology reviews, product reviews, design reviews, mid-term evaluations, and connecting with customers, partners and investors.  We strive to minimize meetings to 2 days a week so startups can focus on what they need to – build a great company.

8. The science of why. In Bangalore, we provide our startups public relations and communications mentoring, an essential ingredient for any company looking to succeed. Getting your story out there is important to gain customers and investors. For example, Frrole, a company in our current batch made four customer connections through an announcement of their enterprise offering with guidance and support from Microsoft Ventures. One such connection has recently converted to a client. TommyJams, also from our current batch, generated 100+ client registrations on the day a newspaper published a profile on them.

9. Demo Day. Every accelerator session culminates with a Demo Day event where graduating startups present their ventures to an audience full of potential customers, investors and media. This is not just an opportunity to tell their story to the right audience, but also marks the start of their journey in the marketplace. At the beginning of their time at the accelerator, they set targets to achieve by Demo Day and this helps them fast track towards that goal.

10. It’s a family affair. The graduates from our accelerators continue to enjoy the benefits of an alumni network, from the peer and mentor connections they made during the program, meetings with the CIR for updates and continued guidance, access to partners and linking up with other Microsoft Ventures offices around the world. Being connected to Microsoft Ventures alumni from across the world is invaluable, giving them the opportunity to brainstorm and share ideas with some of the brightest minds globally.

If you are interested in finding out more as to get the best of the accelerator experience, please look at an article written by my colleague Hanan Lavy, Director of Microsoft Ventures in Israel.