While Microsoft Azure is often synonymous with enterprise cloud, the Redmond giant still has some work to do on attracting startups to use its cloud services.
To address this, Microsoft has created a new team focused on investing in early stage companies developing products and services around cloud computing, called Microsoft Ventures. (If the name sounds familiar it’s because it’s the same name Microsoft used three years ago for its startup accelerator program, which has now been rebranded to Microsoft Accelerator.)
According to a blog post by Microsoft Ventures corporate vice president Nagraj Kashyap on Monday, Microsoft Ventures is a “small but nimble team” that is ”driven by the desire to help early stage companies take advantage of Microsoft’s financial, technical and GTM resources.” This includes companies that are developing services that complement Azure infrastructure, promoting the Windows and HoloLens ecosystems, and developing new products around Office 365. Security and machine learning are other areas of interest for Microsoft Ventures.
Interestingly, Microsoft recently said that more than 40 percent of Azure revenue is from startups and ISVs.
While Microsoft already has a couple of initiatives around investing in startups, Kashyap said Microsoft Ventures will exist somewhere in between. Microsoft Accelerator helps early stage companies with tools, technology and consulting, and other the other end of the spectrum is larger investments and acquisitions.
The team will start with a presence in the San Francisco/Bay Area, Seattle, New York City and Tel Aviv with plans to expand to other geographies in the coming years.
“When I came to Microsoft earlier this year, I was driven by the opportunity to establish a corporate venture group that would create an additional channel to engage the start-up ecosystem. It would support not just company objectives, but our customers, partners and the ecosystem more broadly,” Kashyap said.
“In Microsoft’s history of engaging with and supporting start-ups, we’ve done a lot of investing, but not a lot of early stage. Because we would often invest alongside commercial deals, we were not a part of the early industry conversations on disruptive technology trends. With a formalized venture fund, Microsoft now has a seat at the table.”