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Microsoft launches global startup support initiative via 'Ventures'

If you're a startup in need of some guidance, Microsoft might be able to help.

The software giant has launched a new global effort, dubbed Microsoft Ventures, aimed at providing support to startups through "mentorship, technology guidance, seed funding, joint selling opportunities, and other benefits," Rahul Sood, general manager of Microsoft startups, wrote in a blog post.

The company already offers resources to budding businesses through its accelerators; the Bing Fund seed investment initiative; and BizSpark programme, which offers development tools, as well as access to investors, mentors, and a community of peers. With Ventures, these various efforts will now fall under one umbrella to make things as easy as possible for entrepreneurs.

The initiative will consist of three parts — a community programme offering early-stage startups access to technology and resources, a three- to six-month accelerator programme, and an expanded seed fund initiative.

Microsoft will continue to offer access to its tools and technologies, including Windows, Office, Visual Studio, and Windows Azure, through BizSpark. More than 75,000 startups from more than 100 countries have already taken advantage of these tools and resources to date, Sood said. Also for the community piece, Microsoft plans to forge partnerships with around 200 startup-focused organisations around the world.

Once entrepreneurs have a solid idea, they can apply to be part of an accelerator programme. To make this resource more accessible, Microsoft is planning to open new accelerators in Berlin, Moscow, and Rio de Janeiro, Sood said. The company already has such facilities in Bangalore, Beijing, Paris, Seattle, and Tel-Aviv. At this point, 114 startups have graduated from Microsoft accelerator programmes.

For the third and final piece of the new initiative, Microsoft is expanding its Bing Fund with additional funding to support more startups.

"Startups can receive direct funding from Microsoft after achieving early business success," Sood said. "That may mean having a viable product in market with demonstrated customer traction, a full-time founding team or alignment to Microsoft domain expertise, including enterprise software, big data, security, artificial intelligence, advertising, gaming, SaaS, and cloud services."