Microsoft Ventures Launches, Unifies BizSpark, Bing and Accelerators

In an effort to streamline startups’ access to Microsoft’s global entrepreneurial assistance efforts, the software giant has launched Microsoft Ventures. It combines the BizSpark evangelism program for startups, the Bing fund and the company’s various accelerator programs throughout the world into one, unified point of entry.

In a blog post Tuesday, general manager Rahul Sood, who previously led the Bing fund, said that startups have enough to worry about. Microsoft wanted to make access “as intuitive and friction-free as possible.”

“As ecosystems become more fractured, paths to innovation shift and evolve, often requiring support tailored to that particular market to spur meaningful growth,” wrote Sood. “To meet these growing sets of needs across mature and emerging markets alike, we are strengthening the resources we provide entrepreneurs.”

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The Microsoft company is setting out to take a broad-based and holistic approach.

The “Microsoft Ventures Community” component will continue to offer what BizSpark has for the past few years. BizSpark is an international network of entrepreneurial startups and partners now supporting over 50,000 companies in over 100 countries around the world. Its networking partners now number over 2,400 while over 30,000 entrepreneurs have “graduated” from the program. As well the “Ventures Community” will offer locally supported partnerships with approximately 200 startup-focused organizations around the world like Startup BootCamp, Enterprise Ireland and Telefonica’s Wayra.

Microsoft’s first accelerator was started in March 2012 for cloud computing companies in Israel. Rather than seed funding, Microsoft offered free access to its Windows Azure cloud platform as well as BizSpark software development tools and services. Currently accelerators are also offered in Bangalore, Beijing, Paris, Seattle and Tel-Aviv and Sood said they’re expanding to further locations including Berlin, Moscow and Rio de Janeiro.

The new Microsoft Ventures Accelerators will be aimed at startups with a bit of traction under their belts, offering a three to six month program. Companies must have raised less than $1 million, and the program will contribute all the usual: access to mentors, experts, tools and resources.

Finally, the new “Seed Funding from Microsoft Ventures” program will shutter the Bing name. “Microsoft is evolving the Bing Fund by adding additional funding to support even more startups,” wrote Sood.

Microsoft established the Bing fund in July to invest $50,000 to $100,000 in early-stage startups. Successful startups to receive funding included US-based digital media-and-advertising firms Selectable Media and Buddy Platform, which offers back-end tools to help developers track usage of their apps. The incubator provided four to eight months of advice, design, and development help (along with their network of partners and potential customers) and discounted access to the Azure Data Marketplace APIs. Again, the company is looking at startups that have already achieved “early market success.”

Senior technical evangelist Marc Gagne is responsible for assisting startups in the eastern coast of Canada and commented that the new initiatives are “really about unifying our already great programs and extending them to make it even easier for startups to get the benefits, resources and help they need.”

“I personally love this new focus and it shows how commuted Microsoft is to the startup community,” he said.