Microsoft Ventures has been on the forefront of nurturing startups at various stages over the last three years. It launched the #CoInnovate Program last December, which aims to serve as a platform for startups and corporate to work together for mutual growth. Microsoft plans to convert this into a global story for the company.
Ravi Narayan, Director at Microsoft, spoke to Entrepreneur Media on what the program aims to achieve with the startups.
Ravi said, “At Microsoft we thought that as a brand, which has enormous resources and equity to draw the right mentors to the table, and the ability for us to provide something which is unique to Microsoft – go to market strategy. By this we help startups to reach out to customers and the right market which otherwise they would not have had access to.”
The program was started by Microsoft Ventures with the intent to take later stage startups which have solutions that are easier to be absorbed by the sales and marketing team. “Our sales and marketing team gets excited on seeing these startups that have real products and are solving real problems and have real traction,” Ravi said. “If our sales team sees that the customers are paying for the product then that’s enough for them to take a call,” he added.
Reception from customers
“We realized that while we were trying to take our startups to customers, the latter also seemed very receptive to working with startups,” Ravi said.
Microsoft along with partners such as Reliance, brings together tailor-made expertise of different fields that helps nurture startups.
One of the startups, InTouchApp, nurtured by Microsoft Ventures, went on to raise their first round of funds from Blume Ventures in April. Pune-based InTouchApp helps in solving contact management problems for smartphone users and manages over a billion contacts for millions of users around the globe.
Another one of Microsoft Ventures’ descendants KNOLSKAPE, a gamification and simulation software company in talent transformation space, raised series A funds from Inventus Capital Partners & The HR Fund in the same month.
Evolution of the startup space
Microsoft Ventures has worked with 86 startups over the last three years. Talking about the evolution of the ecosystem Ravi said that things have changed around a certain axis in this space. “We started with early stage companies and then went on to work with later stage companies. This has deepened our connection with the ecosystem and working with later-stage startups where we find more synergies internally within Microsoft. It has also helped us engage in deep conversations with VCs, who now find our deal flow very interesting.”
Funding in a weak environment
When questioned about the weak funding and valuations, Ravi said that investors will continue to fund companies that show traction, year-on-year growth. “The outlook today for funding is not looking that bright, but the question remains was it too bright? Maybe things are just are a little more sane and rational at this point of time,” he said.