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Microsoft for Startups: A $500 Million Accelerator? (Sort of)

Once a startup business commits to the cloud, they tend to deeply embrace a specific cloud services provider -- perhaps Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform or a specialized CSP that offers a particular SaaS or PaaS platform.

Amid that reality, Microsoft is betting $500 million over the next two years on Microsoft for Startups -- a new program that delivers access to technology, go-to-market and community benefits that helps startups grow their customer and revenue base, the company claims.

Microsoft isn't throwing physical dollars at the startups. Instead, the financial incentives typically include free cloud services perks. For instance, the program provides startups with up to $120,000 in free Azure credits, enterprise-grade technical support and development tools – supporting the languages of their choice, such as Node.js, Java and .NET.  In addition, qualified startups also get access to productivity and business applications, including Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Microsoft for Startups: Key Components

Microsoft for Startups includes several components, including:

  • Microsoft Reactors are physical spaces where entrepreneurs, developers, investors and the business community can come together to interact, learn and share.
  • Microsoft ScaleUp (formerly Microsoft Accelerators) is an immersive global program that offers late-stage and series A startups co-marketing and co-selling opportunities to hone their infrastructure and build their businesses.
  • Microsoft Ventures is Microsoft’s strategic venture capital investment team whose mission is to be an active partner at key stages of a startup’s growth, typically investing between Series A and D.

True believers in Microsoft's efforts include KenSci and, both of which strongly endorsed the cloud giant's strategy.

Several of Microsoft's key rivals also offer free cloud credits and incentives to various startups and partners. Key examples include Google Cloud Platform includes a free tier, and AWS Activate Benefits.

Additional insights from Joe Panettieri.