2016 - The Year of Microsoft Accelerator Startups

(This post is part of the Think Next thought leadership series)

As 2016 ends, we get ready to say good bye to another interesting chapter of the Indian startup ecosystem story. The ecosystem has seen considerable increase in maturity in the last year, with more and more startups focusing away from the B2C markets to B2B markets, with VCs becoming more calculative in which startups they fund, and with corporates starting to open their doors for startups as their vendors. We captured some of these trends via how we saw the applications to our 9th cohort showing more maturity, via how corporates became more and more startup friendly, and via how the overall ecosystem started to drive towards enterprise readiness.

2016 has been a relatively good year for our startups. Startups in our portfolio have seen some fairly good things happen to them, right from IntouchApp, Vymo, CloudCherry, ZoomCar and others raising their next round of funding, to Wagmob, Calm.io, Profoundis and Touchfone getting acquired. We’ve seen our startups collectively raise more than US$170M in funding and chase down literally thousands of leads and thrum them into long-standing and profitable business deals.

At the recent Think Next, we started a new tradition of specifically recognizing some of these startups’ efforts and wins, via Microsoft Accelerator Alumni awards.

Deep Pockets – Zoomcar

Building a B2C business in 2016 was a challenge, especially if the business was extremely capital intensive. However, ZoomCar built Deep Pockets for itself, and then took its business to new levels of reach and revenue. Considering that B2C was a slowing down segment from a funding perspective, they, having raised US$25M in a Series B round is a huge achievement that needs to be applauded.

Rocketship – Appointy

Any startup will testify how difficult it is to penetrate the market, but Appointy has reached over 90,000 small and medium enterprises in the US itself, without ever stepping out of India. This Bhopal based startup has close to 99% of all its customers overseas. For having launched and landed in an alien world, Appointy is our Rocketship of the year.

Microsoft Champion – ZingHR

Sales folks will testify to this - selling cloud services to enterprises is a challenge, if there is not viable and solid use case that hooks the users on. The startups that we work with, which are on Azure, help provides us various use cases that are hooks to drive Azure consumption. ZingHR has provided the best use case of all, and hence is a Microsoft Champion, as their solution creates the perfect hook for onboarding enterprises to larger consumptions of Azure than ever before. If you need more validation, ZingHR was also names ‘ISV of the Year’ by Microsoft India this year.

Star Power – Voonik

In the online eCommerce world, it is very difficult to break the mindshare of customers away from the Amazons, the Flipkarts and the Snapdeals of the world, but the Star Power of Voonik has done just the same, breaking into and gaining to-of-mind recall status among online shoppers in India.

Brand Ambassador – CloudCherry

We as Microsoft Accelerator, pride ourselves for the reach we have in the Indian startup ecosystem, but to be very honest, a lot of that reach would not have been possible without Brand Ambassadors like CloudCherry, who not only help us with a lot of Word-of-mouth branding, but also actively participate in all our efforts by way of mentoring startups and participating in workshops. For this, CloudCherry is our Brand Ambassador of the year.

Ambassador-at-Large – AdPushup

The Indian startup ecosystem is a multi-focal ecosystem, with Bangalore and NCR being two of the biggest hubs of startups. while we are in Bangalore, and have deep roots and connect there, our direct influence in NCR is very limited, but AdPushup is our Ambassador-at-Large in the NCR region, talking to the local ecosystem for us and helping maintain our visibility and presence in the country’s capital and its environs

Biggest Exit – Profoundis

The startup dream is kept alive in India by people like the folks from Profoundis, one of our Biggest Exits, who have not only setup a big business, but have now sold them to FullContact and are helping other entrepreneurs to build successful businesses.

Bootstrap King – SignEasy

Most entrepreneurs dream to build a product quickly, get some early wins, and raise lots of money to help scale their products to world class proportions. However, very few startups decide to go the bootstrap way, and ever fewer build a long lasting business that way. SignEasy has been out BootStrap King, for having gone global, and reached tremendous scale without having raised a single dollar in external funding.

So, looking back on 2016, we see a good year overall for the startup ecosystem in India, and particularly good one for our startups. Here’s to hoping for a kickass 2017, and an even better year for the Indian startup ecosystem!

Join the MSA Startups Portfolio. Apply at Microsoft Accelerator India