One of our advisors at CityFALCON called me and asked me why I’m not looking to join Microsoft Ventures accelerator. I didn’t know much about the program, but my first reaction was that it may be a distraction. I was also concerned that we might have to adopt Microsoft products in order to participate with it. Furthermore, having raised one round of funds, I didn’t want to release any of my equity to an accelerator.
However, after meeting their CEO Andy for 30 mins, I felt as if it was good timing to get into the program. And now that I’ve graduated from the program, I believe that it was one of the best decisions I’ve made recently. At the end of the 12 week program, we’ve improved our market messaging, solved some of our persistent scalability issues, managed to acquire some well-connected and smart mentors, have been introduced to new customers and partners, and are ready to raise our round of £900k. Above all else, we have made new friends in our cohort, and also from within the Microsoft Ventures team. And the entire program didn’t cost us a penny!
What does the program offer?
The start-up space is becoming extremely competitive, both globally and in the UK, and you have to distinguish yourself from the competition in order to be a success. Microsoft Ventures has helped us do that without doubt, and we are certainly extremely grateful for that.
Access to the Microsoft network
Microsoft is of course one of the largest software company in the world, and the corporation has naturally built up a huge network of assistance for businesses within its Microsoft Ventures program. The program offers a wide variety of extremely experienced mentors, customers, partners and investors, and any start-up would benefit from the collective wisdom offered by these people.
One of the attractive aspects offered by this scheme was free space for six months in Liverpool Street. This was just another way in which the Microsoft Ventures program was made economically viable.
Server costs are one of our biggest costs, and this is probably the case for many businesses in this day and age. Thus, the Azure credits that we’ve received from Microsoft, which means that we don’t have any server costs for the next three years, are simply invaluable.
Business and product support and guidance
Andy is one of the most risk taking CEOs I’ve ever met. I was relieved when he came on board with the idea of starting our investment pitch with a dance.
Also, the support of the Microsoft CTO organisation and the multitude of specialists offered has without doubt helped us improve the product, and assisted us in dealing with product scalability issues. This has been another area where we can praise the Microsoft Ventures program highly.
Additionally, although we are already a successful start-up, we have received a raft of general guidance on building our business and taking it to the next level. This was really exactly what we needed in the lifecycle of our company.
We have been supported with several resources, including a pitch coach, enabling us to communicate our messages clearly to investors and potential customers.
We’ve been able to build relationships with eight other start-ups in our Ventures cohort, who also experience the same cycles of highs and lows as us. We have been able to share valuable experiences in making sure that show goes on. It’s a bond for life!
But it gets real competitive when it comes to Ping Pong 🙂
Microsoft Ventures also have an excellent alumni program which allows us access to events, Microsoft’s network, etc. The fact that this program doesn’t suddenly end of 12 weeks is certainly another major string to its bow.
So what do Microsoft get out of it? What’s the catch?
I have a personal hypothesis for this, and I must be clear that this is not what I’ve heard from Microsoft employees. While Microsoft doesn’t take any equity stake in any of the companies involved in this program, there are several ways in which I believe they can benefit working with start-ups like ours.
– Brand and credibility – Microsoft is supporting innovation and disruption through this initiative for the benefit of consumers and society.
– First stab at new technologies – They can discover new emerging technologies and partner with start-ups (or even acquire them in some cases) in order to improve their products, processes and/or increase market share.
– Insights – We shared with the Microsoft teams why we chose to work with Ruby on Rails, Postgres, etc. and why did we chose one cloud provider over another. This can be invaluable information for even a company of the size of Microsoft.
Andy has now decided to move on from Microsoft Ventures; we thank him for all that he and his team has done to “accelerate” startups like ours. Keep rocking, Andy! 🙂