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Microsoft courts start-ups with free cloud services, skills, intros to VCs

Peter Griffin, Editor. 05 April 2022, 12:30 pm

Start-up founders can now tap Microsoft for support in the form of free credits for services and platforms as well as mentorship and skilling opportunities.

Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub, launched across New Zealand and Australia last week, allows an approved early-stage start-up at any stage of its "startup journey", to access US$300,000 in resources and benefits. 

The programme is aimed at start-ups looking to build their business on Microsoft's stack of products. The benefits are made up of credits to use Azure, Microsoft's cloud platform as well as access to GitHub Enterprise, Visual Studio Enterprise and Microsoft 365.

Any for-profit start-up founder with a LinkedIn account can apply for Founders Hub support. The start-ups don't have to currently have venture backing. Founders Hub allows start-ups to unlock Azure credits and other benefits as they progress through phases of development, from "Ideate", to "Develop", "Grow" and "Scale". 

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Founders Hub offers start-ups access to mentors

Start-ups employing artificial intelligence will be able to access services from OpenAI, a global leader in AI research and deployment, that develops AI systems such as GPT-3 and Codex.

Microsoft will also offer mentorship and training opportunities and has the ability to connect promising start-ups to the team at M12, Microsoft's venture investment fund.

"If you think about the biggest three or four reasons for start-ups failing, lack of access to capital is one of them," Jesus Martin, chief of strategy at Microsoft Asia, told Tech Blog.

M12 has invested in over 100 early-stage start-ups since 2016, ten of them in the Asia Pacific region. But Martin said Microsoft was also heavily engaged with venture capital and private equity funds across the region and looked for opportunities to link promising start-ups with investors.

Microsoft wants Azure and its associated tools to become the go-to platform for business to business software as a service (SaaS) start-ups. In ramping up its support for start-ups, Microsoft is playing catch-up to some extent, with the likes of Google already particularly supportive of start-ups.

For the big cloud players like Microsoft, Google and AWS, fostering start-ups that are developing applications on their platforms allows them to profit later as those companies grow and become sustainable, buying services in the process.

"As an entrepreneur, it is important that I can focus on my core offering while having access to technology, tools and resources that allow me to easily build my business," said Owen Darby, the chief executive of Queenstown-based clean tech start-up Phytrac.

"For someone that doesn't have a development background, what I've found most useful with Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub is the Power Platform, Power Automate and Power BI Pro."   

Founders Hub is now open for applications. Read the FAQ to find out about eligibility for support. 


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