Raz Bachar Joins Microsoft for Startups in Tel Aviv
Post written by Raz Bachar, Managing Director of Microsoft for Startups, Tel Aviv
It only happens a few times over the course of a career, that you shift from a company you’ve been with over seven years to start a new adventure. That was the journey I started recently when I transitioned from AWS, my professional home for much of the past decade, to join Microsoft for Startups as Managing Director in Tel Aviv.
What motivated me to start this new journey? Well, there are three questions that need to be answered when I think about the move. Why startups, why Israel, why Microsoft?
Startups Attract Passionate People
To answer the first question, many entrepreneurs are tackling some of the world’s most difficult challenges. It’s a humbling experience to be working with people that consciously decide to take a leap of faith, going against the odds and following their passion to create amazing products, having an impact and solving really hard problems. Some are lucky to come up with simple solutions, while others need more stamina as they invest a ton of time and research to find a way to solve the problem. Their lives are wrapped up in the mission and the task at hand of solving and executing on the challenge they set for themselves.
The passion that they have is contagious, which makes you want to support them even further, doing the above and beyond to see them succeed. You learn to know people and see them grow professionally and personally. They share a common thread of being incredibly dedicated, obsessed, and passionate about what they do. The successful entrepreneurs that I’ve met are hungry to learn, to improve, and vocally self-critical.
After several years working with the startup segment, I also discovered a common trait amongst team members of startups that weren’t successful: either they start again – taking all of the experience they gain, increasing the chances to succeed; or they join a corporate – taking the startup mentality, best practices and experience and injecting that into the corporate world. Many of the enterprises I had a chance to work with, when you map the internal stakeholders that are driving the culture change and innovation, you will see that many of them came from such startups.
The Scale of the Israeli Tech Ecosystem
Raz with the Microsoft for Startups team in Tel Aviv
The impact and breadth of the Israeli startup ecosystem spreads way beyond the branding as a startup nation. Many people know the numbers and statistics such as startups per capita, number of startups being founded, money raised, and active companies/VC’s. Nevertheless, I was taken aback when I had a chance to see how Israel benchmarks against other regions, how Israeli engineers can push technology to the edge and how Israeli chutzpa is such a unique property of the culture. Many countries are looking up to Israel as a case study they are looking to replicate. For me, it’s an opportunity to come back to ground zero of startups and innovation.
Israel has already come a long way since the term “startup nation” was coined. There is a lot of focus, both in Israel and on the local startup team here at Microsoft, of looking for ways to help startups scale. Startups are no longer looking for the quick exit, rather building a large-scale sustainable business. The mission now is looking for ways to re-shape the ecosystem to allow an environment in which large scale companies can thrive.
Startups are looking for ways to get to a healthy revenue stream and recruit customers as early as possible in the startup lifecycle. We see a lot of startups going though that process, and in Israel this is something I’m very much looking forward to.
There is also a unique challenge Israeli startups are facing, which is to expand internationally and look at global markets. Currently, Israeli startups almost immediately focus on the US or EU market. With Microsoft’s global reach, both directly and via its partner network, along with dedicated startup programs to support it, I’m hoping to help Israeli startups reduce much of the heavy lifting and barriers as they go global. A long-term result of that mechanism is to allow them to have options as they go-global, considering other markets such as China, APAC and Africa.
The Value Microsoft Can Provide
Lastly, why Microsoft? What special role can Microsoft play in my efforts to support startups? I discussed this recently in a Medium post about my move to Microsoft.
One of the most important things, was the way Microsoft is addressing so many of the core elements that I was looking for in a new professional opportunity, specifically: emerging technology, culture, betting on startups, team, and autonomy.
Discussing some of those topics, I wrote:
“Diving into the cultural/product/organizational shift that the new Microsoft mission has triggered, opened my eyes to the type of company Microsoft has become: positioned as the leading open source contributor; acquisitions such as GitHub, LinkedIn, and Mojang; attracting developers and releasing perfect products. It is the same new culture that drives a great sense of autonomy, allowing each individual to ‘figure things out’ while empowering everyone to stay in a continuous learning mode.
“[Microsoft] looked beyond the PC and servers to drive success in the cloud. Microsoft understanding that the cloud is already the new normal and that a new bar needs to be set for the technical future of the company was very compelling. A must win approach across emerging technologies focusing on Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Computing, and Mixed Reality, while continuing its expansion in the cloud, open source, mobile, and devices, created an alignment in which everyone is marching towards the same goal.
“Microsoft support to startups goes a long way. From the first evolution of Bizspark to the recently rolled out ScaleUp program with a +$500M investment which is aimed to generate new revenue streams for the startup. Beyond the comprehensive technical support and resources, generating added value for startups, entrepreneurs and influence groups such as VC’s, accelerators, etc. is a HARD PROBLEM to solve at scale. Microsoft shows its commitment to tackling this challenge by harnessing its venture arm, partner network, marketing, sales teams, global reach, product expert and senior management to support startups and the dedicated programs. Having the opportunity to do that while being based in Israel was an even greater bonus.”
I have already had the opportunity to meet incredible entrepreneurs and founders that are engaging with Microsoft via various startup programs, and I’m always eager to meet and learn about new ventures.
I’m looking for amazing startups. If you are part of the local Israeli ecosystem and you're at the top of your industry, please message me or come by our site in Tel Aviv, say hi and to learn more about the ways Microsoft can help your company scale.