How Microsoft Ventures is helping later stage startups @cceler8 and scale up
In September this year, Microsoft Ventures announced the 10 startups that are part of its batch Hi-Po Scale Up Programme scale-up programme. The programme, which focusses on later-stage startups, chose these companies from over 850 applicants, to benefit from Microsoft Ventures' resources, mentors, and technologies.
"We would like to have companies whose products have been in the market for some time. We would like to make sure that there is a very significant market opportunity out there," says Ravi Narayan, Director, Microsoft Ventures.
"So we have the entire gamut of companies — from those beginning their lives to the more successful companies who have raised money and have some traction to be able to grow further and be associated with us," says Ravi.
The Microsoft Ventures team considered various parameters such as:
- Companies that have a certain level of maturity
- Products that have already worked or gained traction
- Companies with an existing consumer base and a marketing plan
- Product’s potential to be big
- Alignment with Microsoft’s market of interest. Adding to this point Ravi says that while they may not have direct products to take to these markets, the startups do.
- A team that has stayed together for a couple of years
What Microsoft Ventures offers
“We are hoping that these guys have already tapped into their own network of mentors, their own network of angel investors, and have brought the company to the next level. Beyond this level, there is more awareness, they have used an institutional setup, which is where Microsoft Ventures can play a large role," says Ravi.
How Microsoft then collaborates with these startups:
- Aiding the startups with a rounded market strategy using their sales and marketing methods
- Complementing their products to help them scale up
- The Microsoft partnered engineering organisations also find it very fruitful to have companies that can contribute some way or the other
- Granting access to all resources available at Microsoft Ventures seven locations globally
- Leveraging everything Microsoft Ventures have to offer
- Aiding the startups with mentorship
- Helping them with technology enablement
Apart from this, Microsoft Ventures will also constantly monitor the problems that these companies have and help them. Speaking on why the focus is specifically on later-stage startups, Ravi says that they wanted to take a proactive approach, given that there has been an influx of investors working with startups.
"When we found that the later-stage companies did not have the support system that they require to actually continue to grow and grow very fast, we decided to aid them. The early-stage startups have great mentoring, the later-stage companies are unaddressed. We thought we can play a role there and be able to create certain best practices."
The 10 selected startups
The 10 startups were chosen because their quality of entrepreneurship was high, with highly motivated teams. "One of the things that we find in the Indian ecosystem is when people reach a few crores in investment and revenues, they stop thinking of themselves as startups. They feel that they have arrived. With these startups,it’s exactly the opposite. They believe that they have started the journey and have so much more to do, and they need every kind of resource to get help them get there faster, which is what sets them apart," adds Ravi.
CanvasFlip is a cloud-based prototyping and usability testing platform that allows product managers, UX teams and non-tech entrepreneurs to validate their idea and user experience without writing a single line of code. Users can create a prototype (clickable demo of apps) from design and share it with other stakeholders to get actionable analytics on these prototypes.
Mohammad Azam, VP Marketing, CanvasFlip, says, "The acceleration programme offered is structured with direct impact on our product and business models. This acceleration programme offers a tangible ROI."
Channelyst is an online marketplace for retailers, distributors and companies to help them discover, transact and manage their business. They enable small and medium retailers to order and make payments online for all the inventory that they sell from their offline stores. When asked what it was like to be a part of the Microsoft Ventures programme, the team said that it provides access to relevant mentorship, collaboration opportunities and exposure to larger fora and the ecosystem at large.
Cloudcherry is a real-time, omni-channel customer experience management product that helps customer-facing brands track, measure and improve customer delight. It offers a customisable, easy-to-use SaaS-based product that brands can use to measure key metrics.
"The Microsoft Ventures programme helps us accelerate our growth by helping us gain deeper access into the Indian enterprise market, access to the latest Microsoft tools and specific mentorship around enhancing our technology," says Vinod Muthukrishanan, Co-founder and CEO, Cloudcherry.
Flutura is a decision sciences and analytics company that focusses on analytics for connected machines. Flutura’s IoT analytics platform Cerebra has been used by some of the major Fortune 100 organisations, to unlock value out of data in numerous areas such as asset calibration, fault prediction, energy optimisation, and energy forecasting.
Srikanth Muralidhara, CEO and Founder, says that the acceleration programme provides them with un-paralleled support, reach and know-how to speed up product market fit and also scale their go-to market efforts.
KNOLSKAPE creates software simulations and experiential learning products to help organisations on-board, train, assess and engage talent using its wide portfolio of experiential learning products.
Rajiv Jayaraman, Founder and CEO, says that the acceleration programme was recommended to them by Sanjay Anandaram. He says the programme has provided them with a network of mentors, startups and alumni. "It has a data-driven approach to sales and marketing, and gives us the path on thinking strategy."
Teewee is an HDMI media streaming device, which plugs into your TV and lets you wirelessly stream content from multiple sources onto a big screen in Full HD. A smartphone (or tablet/laptop/browser) is used as the content library and as a remote to control playback from YouTube, premium online content from content partners such as EROS, video websites, downloaded media (on the phone, tablet or PC), and even the ability to mirror a desktop screen or browser tabs.
Sai Srinivas, Co-Founder and CEO says, "The programme has given us the necessary network of advisors and also some great lessons in scaling business through unique disciplinary measures that many of the enlisted mentors have accumulated through years of enviable experience."
TripHobo is a travel startup aiming at solving travellers’ pain points during the trip planning process. TripHobo offers an online trip planning platform where one can create customised trip itineraries with the help of data about more than 14, 000 destinations across the globe, including detailed information about half a million tourist attractions and coveted destinations.
"Microsoft Ventures has given us access to Microsoft technology and useful know how on product development. It also connects us with the right people with the right knowledge to solve various business channels," says Saket Newaskar, Co-founder and CTO.
Vakilsearch aims to simplify the process of accessing legal (and accounting) services for consumers in India. The objective is to introduce transparency, provide quality guarantees and make the overall process a delight to use. Hrishikesh Datar, CEO and founder, says that the Microsoft Ventures programme provides access to a very high-quality eco-system of mentors with significant experience in running/scaling tech startups.
Vigyanlabs, the company behind the IPM+ Product Suite, facilitates profitable sustainability. The patented products of Vigyanlabs for Windows and other platforms help businesses reduce their IT energy consumption by up to 50 per cent non-intrusively without degrading user experience.
The team adds that with this accelerator programme, they are getting to work and interact with experts both from the Microsoft Ventures and Microsoft R&D teams. They also get access to the Microsoft knowledge base as a result of introductions to key Microsoft architects.
Vymo is a personalised, intelligent, and proactive enterprise mobile assistant. It helps in improving both sales force and field force productivity, while creating a delightful user experience. Vymo plans, schedules, notifies and iterates workflow for organisations in a personalised manner.
"We also get great mentorship and access to insightful conversations through this programme. In addition, we get to be part of a cohort of startups we can learn from, get help from, as well as brainstorm with. It keeps us on a continuous track of evaluating our plans and goals," say Yamini Bhat and Venkat Malladi, Founders Vymo.