Girish C Joshi is the Emerging Business and Mobile Lead at Microsoft India. The global computing giant has very ambitious plans with respect to fostering innovation in India and creating opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs. In this guest article for YourStory, Girish talks about the various initiatives that Microsoft has undertaken to promote entrepreneurship in India and how the Microsoft support structure goes beyond providing capital, mentorship and cross-border angel/incubation network.
Microsoft is an entrepreneurial company by nature. Entrepreneurship, you could say, is in our DNA. We have a number of programs to support startups - we’ve been doing this for a while now, but over the last couple of years, we’ve renewed our focus and now, we are more committed than ever to growth of the startup ecosystem.
And let’s be honest. We strongly believe that, for us, today’s startups are tomorrow’s customers or partners. Our offerings and initiatives are designed in such a way that small startups and companies can accelerate their growth through them.
Our first initiative was a program called BizSpark. It’s a hugely popular program, and the eligibility is simple: Any software startup, that has been in existence for less than three years (even if it is in the ideation phase), is eligible for this program, as long as they are making revenue that’s less than one million dollars.
To put it simply, we are supporting intellectual property (IP) creation from India. The program is specifically designed for companies creating software-based products. Through this program, we provide the selected companies access to Microsoft’s extensive software portfolio, free of charge, for three years with support. Participants are also connected to a global network of mentors, partners and investors.
Since its launch in 2008, Microsoft BizSpark has attracted more than 38,000 startups worldwide, out of which around 1300 are based in India. On the BizSpark website, we also have a section on business and technology training. We facilitate extensive connections between the stakeholders in the ecosystem. The free software that we provide as a part of the BizSpark program includes our cloud computing platform (Azure) as well, because a lot of companies are now hosting directly on the web.
So, the first part of our offering is giving software-based startups access to the extensive portfolio of our software.
Our second offering is BizSpark One. This is a program for selected startups and it works by-invitation only. In practical terms, it is not possible for us to help every single startup on a one-on-one basis. So, we choose a few, based on the potential of the startup (we see whether they have some interesting applications), the strength of the business plan and how compelling their story is.
So, BizSpark One is a program for high potential startups. When a startup meets the criteria for BizSpark One, they get very tailored, highly customized help from Microsoft, in the areas of both business and technology.
And the best bit is, we don’t charge or take any equity from startups. In BizSpark One, so far we have three startups enrolled from India and 60 startups from across the world.
The third offering is a dedicated support engine for product companies that are building their products on cloud and mobile. For instance, if there is a startup that wants to migrate their offering to cloud/mobile, and we have a dedicated engine that helps them.
The fourth offering is called Microsoft Technology Centre, or MTC. MTC works with a few startups that need architectural guidance, proof of concept, etc. The MTC is based out of Bangalore here in India, so any startup that requires support in these areas can come down to our office and the MTC team will help them out.
But personally, the most heart-warming component of support from Microsoft is the tremendous amount of goodwill employees have for startups. These guys have their day jobs to do, obviously, but they are so passionate about supporting startups that they actually take time out to help startups and entrepreneurs solve specific problems.
Besides that, Microsoft’s office space is open for startup community meetings. Over weekends, a lot of startup communities have their gatherings here. We also run BizSpark camps. Held across the country, they are focused around the BizSpark community.
And finally - the best for the last - we just launched a 100,000 dollar grant for startups. This is an additional support initiative that we are carrying out in India right now. It’s called the India Startup Challenge. Again, there’s no fee to apply for the grant nor do we take any equity in return. So, if you’re an entrepreneur or someone working with a startup and believe that you’re building some fabulous software, do check out http://www.microsoft.com/india/bizsparkstartupchallenge/ to apply for the $100,000 grant.