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Microsoft eyes late-stage startups in India

by August 26, 2017 General

Microsoft, the world’s biggest software maker, is changing its strategy to engage with startups. The company which launched its accelerator in Bengaluru five years ago to support early stage firms is now betting big on late-stage startups. The Seattle-based company which generated a revenue of $85.3 billion in 2016 is helping these companies scale up, win key deals with customers and go global, through its accelerator in Bengaluru.

“We realised that our strength was there. We needed to change the strategy,” said Bala Girisaballa, CEO-in-Residence, Microsoft Accelerator, India.

Microsoft Accelerator said that it has selected 14 late stage startups in its 11th cohort to help them boost their enterprise readiness and go-to-market activities. Some of these include Simplilearn, Hotelogix and Ace Turtle. The average age of startups of the fresh cohort is over three years and they have raised, between them, close to $64 million in funding till date, according to Microsoft. Their company size averages to 80 employees and clock an average revenue rate of $2.6 million, said the company.

“We have the ability to open them (startups) up to Fortune 1000 companies. But when you put them in front of a customer (like a large bank), they can’t be early stage. Slowly we started moving to late-stage companies,” said Mr. Girisaballa.

The company said it would also provide these firms access to its cloud computing platform, Microsoft Azure and scale their products and serve enterprise clients.

Clinching deals

Sanjoe Tom Jose, co-founder of Talview, a talent assessment technology solutions provider, said that the company joined the Microsoft accelerator when it had hit the plateau in the Indian market. He said that Microsoft introduced the firm to some of its largest enterprise customers in the U.S including Bank of America, Starbucks and specialty beauty chain Sephora. He said that Talview was able to reach to final stages of closing a deal with one of the largest retail chains in the U.S. “In a roadshow I took a selfie with Satya Nadella (Microsoft CEO) and when I posted it on LinkedIn, a prospective customer we were talking to saw it and reached out to us and that accelerated the entire deal,” said Mr. Jose, whose company leverages mobile and video technology to help companies hire talent and create equal career opportunities and a level playing field for assessment. The company which was founded in 2012 and has offices in the US, Singapore and India has globally processed over a million candidates till date.

Another Microsoft Accelerator portfolio firm, CloudCherry, a customer experience management product company, said it sought the help from the tech giant to win a deal from a large customer in U.A.E. “The chief information officer there was little hesitant because we were not a brand. We reached out to Microsoft to talk to the CIO and we got the deal done in our favour,” said Vijay R Lakshmanan, co-founder of CloudCherry. The company which was founded in 2013 is backed by investors such as Vertex Ventures, IDG and Cisco Investments.

CustomerXPS, a company which helps banks detect and avert fraud using artificial intelligence, said that it had joined the accelerator after seven years of inception. The firm had already captured a major portion of the Indian market. But it wanted to go global. With the support from Microsoft, it got its first break outside India in the form of a technology partnership with one of the banks in Jamaica which was taking data onto the cloud. But there were regulatory hurdles. “Microsoft pitched in a lot to even put up a white paper to the Central Bank of Jamaica to say that ‘your data is going to be safe, even if it is on cloud’,” said Balaji Suryanarayana, co-founder of CustomerXPS.