Microsoft will set up a five million dollar (Rs 28 crore) India fund as part of its global fund for startups.
The fund will be operated from Bangalore, and that’s good news for entrepreneurs of this city.
Earlier called the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, the fund is dropping Azure from its name and just calling itself Microsoft Accelerator.
Azure is a cloud computing platform that encourages businesses to share resources. Cloud computing is a popular term for any network of computers connected by the Internet. With cloud computing, a program can be run on many connected computers at the same time.
10,000 dollars each
Typically, Microsoft plans to give a start-up up to Rs 56 lakh. This means at least 50 start-ups will benefit from the Rs 28 crore fund.
“The India fund is part of Microsoft’s intensified drive to make the Accelerator in Bangalore a major incubator,” Mukund Mohan, Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure CEO-in-Residence, told Talk. He is in charge of disbursing the fund.
The renaming will take place in about two months. “Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform. The Azure group had funded the setting up of the Accelerator in Bangalore and had requested a branding. That name did not mean entrepreneurs would be forced to use the Azure cloud platform.
” Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure was set up in Bangalore in May 2012 as part of the company’s global Accelerator project, launched in April 2012 to support early-stage start-ups.
The first Accelerator came up in Tel Aviv, Israel, in April 2012, and a month later, Bangalore had one, too.
The Accelerator in Bangalore is the only one in India. Other Accelerators are located in Beijing, Seattle, Rio Di Janeiro, and Paris.
Mohan says Microsoft will not seek a share in any company funds from the corpus.
Why is Microsoft taking such interest in start-ups? Mohan explains: “Microsoft has been involved with start-ups for over a decade. But in the last three years, we have intensified our support.
” For Mohan, start-ups are where new ideas and new technologies take shape. “They are already in the mainstream of the world economy and will define its contours in the immediate future. Microsoft has to be a part of that change,” he said.
The startup scene in India is getting exciting, says Mohan. “India has a five million-strong developer community, and Microsoft understands they are integral to technological development and change. We want to increase our footprint among the emerging technological hots,” Mohan explained.
India takes to new tech rapidly, and that is what brings funders here. “You know when you deploy a technology in India, it is understood and absorbed very fast. So working with such an intelligent community is not just tempting, but relevant. It is a market,” said Mohan.
The 42-year-old MS in Computer Science is impressed that many start-ups are targeting not just the Indian market, but also the global market. “That’s big thinking. It means you will make products not only India but a global market will absorb,” he said.
India is witnessing a rise in product companies. “Many people just don’t want to develop applications that help you sell T-shirts online. That’s not bad, but that’s not technology. Young people in India are beginning to see that and we have an interest in anyone developing technology,” he said.
A Microsoft study found that of 1,000 technology entities that emerge in the country every year, 350 go on to become companies and 150 get fullfledged funding. Forty one per cent of these are from Bangalore.
A free platform
How exactly does Microsoft help startups? It hosts companies for four months at the Microsoft facility on Lavelle Road, and allows them the use all of its technologies and platforms. The start-ups will be judged by a panel of experts, including those from outside Microsoft, from business, products/technology, investment, design and entrepreneurship.
Start-ups gain access to mentors, angel investors and venture capitalists from all over the world. Even start-ups working on Apple, Microsoft’s biggest rival, are working from Accelerator, which admits two batches a year.
The first batch in September 2012 saw over 200 applications, of which 11 start-ups were selected. The second batch, which began in March 2013, saw 350 applications, and 13 were selected. The third batch, still open, has seen a dramatic rise in the number of applicants to 1,026. Fifteen will be selected eventually. Startups from USA, Israel, Australia and Spain have been seeking admission to the Bangalore Accelerator.
Just after the launch of the Accelerator programme came the launch of the Bing Fund in July 2012. The Bing group, Microsoft’s search team, funds start-ups focused on mobile and Internet innovation.
Microsoft had launched BizSpark and BizSpark Plus in end-2008 and early 2009 to kick-start start-ups focused on software. The goal, the company says, was to develop local software ecosystems world-wide.
Today, the programme supports over 45,000 start-ups worldwide and boasts a partner network with 2,400 members. The Microsoft BizSpark Plus provides up to 60,000 dollars worth of Windows Azure services over two years.
In Mohan’s words, Microsoft aims to enhance its mindshare among startups in India. “That’s been fairly thin in the last few years and we want to change that,” he said.