Inside MSVA #3

Hey guys,

Well if you’ve been reading my blog posts you will all know about Microsoft Ventures by now, in fact, such has been their awesomeness over the past few months, you’d have had to be living in a vacuum not to have heard of them! But, nevertheless, here are the key facts once again (and by the way, applications for the 3rd cohort are now open!):

Microsoft Ventures is a worldwide accelerator program, with iterations in 7 cities across the globe, including Beijing, Tel Aviv, Bangalore and Moscow. The programme runs for 3 months and is intended to be a mini MBA in entrepreneurship, for dedicated founders and their teams.
Successful applicants benefit from Microsoft’s BizSpark suite of tools and platforms, fantastic mentors, incredible contacts, access to office space at Central Working in Whitechapel, and best of all Microsoft will not take any equity for their troubles, which makes them almost unique among top accelerator programs.

Since the program began, 78% of alumni have secured follow-on funding, and there have been 14 exits, 1 of which was to Microsoft itself. Another interesting point to note, you do not have to be building on a Microsoft platform to gain entry to the programme. So what’s the catch?
There really isn’t one, unless you find it strange that MS want to be associated with some of the brightest tech talent in the UK and the rest of the world. I don’t, but then hey, I just pour the beer! CEO in residence Andy McCartney put it best when he said, “we all want to see a billion dollar company, or else, why would we be here?” His aim, he revealed last night, is to make the London course “Harder than Harvard”. Ouch!

UK start-ups lead Diane Perlman, Andy himself, new social Media guru Lisa Crawford (celebrating her first day on the job), along with many of the programme’s mentors were all at HQ in Central Working, Whitechapel, on Tuesday night playing host to 120 or so wannabe alumni, and we were of course there too, doling out the free beer and pizza!
This time things were a little different, however. The 2nd Cohort is rapidly reaching its crescendo, and with the all-important pitching day, where the teams will deliver what MS hope will be a polished, entertaining and technically perfect pitch, like a cross between The Rocky Horror Picture Show and the ITV news at 10, if you can imagine such a thing without taking a cold shower, to an invited crowd comprising many of the UK Tech scene’s biggest investors. In other words, it was very nearly show-time for the 12 companies who have spent the past 3 months deconstructing, rebuilding, and perfecting their start-ups. And tonight had been chosen as practice pitch night. Dammit, Janet! You can read about how we think they did here.
Good luck to all 4 companies, we’re pretty sure you will be hearing all about them soon, this pitching day will be a hot ticket!

To finish the evening, drinks and networking, but before that there was still time for a quick panel discussion. Arjun from Myriada and Yuka from FOVE were joined by Diarmud from ROTOR, the company with an app that allows you to make your own music video in 30 minutes, and Isaac from Pixel Blimp, game developers with a focus on the children’s market.
I can’t go into too much detail, unfortunately, but suffice it to say it was lively, and emphasised the spirit that had been created even between the competing teams. As Isaac put it, “we get on great with all the cohorts we’ve met from all corners of the globe. We’re gamers, so, at the end of the day, whatever’s happened, we pick up our Xbox controllers and shoot the hell out of each other!”
Diarmud at Rotor revealed there had been tough times, such as when negotiating for a new CTO, but the mentors he had been matched with early in the course had helped him to cope, plus he was part of a tight team of award winning musicians and producers who had formed on the Dublin music scene.

It was left to Andy McCartney to answer the final question of the night. What will you really be looking for when you review the admissions for the next cohort? “Team, team, team, team, tech!” Over to you guys.

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