A New Microsoft? What One Startup Learned from WPC

Recently, I attended Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, and I came away with two key learnings from that event:

  • Corporate America is looking to the startup community to foster innovation
  • Microsoft has tapped into its own innovation DNA – it’s a ‘new’ Microsoft

I was there to present my company’s TimeTracker, a platform that improves employee productivity by privately learning from employees’ behaviors.

I knew that much of the audience, primarily consultants and software developers, struggle with timesheets, so I demonstrated TimeTracker’s ability to generate accurate timesheets automatically based on employee behaviors.  I also showcased our dashboards, powered by Microsoft’s Power BI technology.  The response was extraordinary.

There were executives from all the major consulting firms, including Accenture, Deloitte, and KPMG…and from all parts of the globe.  I expected they would have no time to engage with a small company like Openhour, but I was wrong. Dead wrong. They seemed to be on a mission to engage, to innovate.

Startups are now serving as highly effective R&D labs for larger companies.

That experience highlighted a growing trend in the corporate world: startups are now serving as highly effective R&D labs for larger companies, which leads to partnerships and acquisitions. It’s a win-win that will fuel even more ambitious activity.

The ‘innovation theme’ of this event was driven uncharacteristically by Microsoft itself, which highlights my second observation: Microsoft is a re-energized technology giant that is clearly innovating at a faster pace than it has in many years. Microsoft employees are outwardly passionate in a way that you don’t often see from large organizations; often Google and Apple are mentioned in this context, but certainly not the ‘old’ Microsoft.

At WPC, Microsoft unveiled new technologies and innovative thinking from many of their divisions, reinforced their support for Open Source, presented new partner programs and marketplaces, and so much more. It was impressive, and it feels like a new company—one with newly minted ambition and the leadership to achieve some lofty goals.

As the founder of a small technology company and Seattle Accelerator alum, I look forward to continuing to engage with Microsoft in new and diverse ways.