Source: Financial Express, Jan 30, 2019
Microsoft for Startups, a comprehensive global programme designed to support startups as they build and scale their companies, is keen on empowering innovative entrepreneurs in the country. From technical resources and free cloud to selling alongside Microsoft salespeople and partner channels, Microsoft is enabling the startup ecosystem in Tier 2 cities across the country to go global. Its initiative, ‘Highway to a Hundred Unicorns’, has selected 54 startups from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Kerala and Telangana.
Highway to a Hundred Unicorns, the Microsoft for Startups initiative, works closely with local governments to strengthen the startup ecosystem in each state. The fifth edition of the outreach program was recently hosted in Hyderabad in association with the Telangana government. Incidentally, Telangana state, which is competing with the likes of Bengaluru, Pune and Chennai, has been modeled as the ‘startup state’ and has introduced various incentives for startups and incubators which are propellants for the startup ecosystem.
More than 650 startups have benefited from the mentorship and guidance through technology workshops on Azure, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Over 75 ecosystem players including the Global Entrepreneurship Network, TiE, Headstart, NASSCOM and Startup Grind as well as prominent investors, entrepreneurs and executives in the national startup ecosystem have actively engaged with the innovators at each of the locations.
“The entrepreneurial energy of startups is rising well beyond the known metropolitan hubs and is remarkably high in Tier 2 cities, despite the obvious challenges.
Through Highway to a Hundred Unicorns, we’ve been able to reach some highly promising innovators from each of the five states,’’ says Lathika Pai, country head, Microsoft for Startups – MENA and SAARC. “In the next phase of our journey, we look forward to engaging with more startups and providing them with Microsoft’s platform to go global,” Pai adds.
Microsoft for Startups is helping entrepreneurs build and scale their companies, by leveraging the cloud platform, enterprise sales team and partner ecosystem. Through its cutting edge technology expertise, strong focus on Microsoft for Startups, a growing partner ecosystem, and the venture fund M12, Microsoft is uniquely positioned to help startups evolve from being market ready to enterprise ready. “In India, the startup ecosystem is largely focused around metro hubs. But other states are also investing in their startup network. The India Inc goal is to have 100 unicorns by 2025 and our goal of ‘Highway to a 100 Unicorns’ is to go deeper and support the state governments and startups in tier 2 cities to empower them,’’ Pai says.
The ‘Emerge X’ competition provides the top 10-12 startups with an in-depth engagement.
This includes national and even global visibility alongside creating opportunities so that startups don’t have to move out of their cities to explore funding opportunities.
As Pai puts it, “The good news is that 54 startups have already been selected from the five states that we have visited so far and two of the ‘Emerge X’ winners have already received funding. We plan to reach out to more tier 2 ecosystems and accelerate their growth with Microsoft’s cloud platform to go global,” Pai explains.
Further, Microsoft ScaleUp, part of the Microsoft for Startups initiative, provides startups access to technology, mentorship and other community benefits. It has extended support to 18 startups in the last 12 months which focused on fintech, blockchain, health-tech and IoT, among others. Leveraging Microsoft’s tech expertise and global enterprise clients, the programme is designed to help startups explore emerging technologies and tap into newer markets.