Microsoft Ventures: A portfolio with impact

With the official debut of Microsoft Ventures in late May, the momentum is already underway in our first few months. Our aim is to use this fund to place bets on innovators who align to our investment focus – cutting-edge technologies that better enable digital transformation. The reception we’ve received, from both the entrepreneurs who are aligned with our ambitions and the VCs who see us as a valuable partner, has blown past our expectations. We are now providing financing and strategic relationships with Microsoft to entrepreneurs in New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Tel Aviv. We’ve seen great deal flow and have already completed 13 investments from Series A to Series C, across several B2B categories.

Our new website highlights our portfolio, where you can learn more about the promising technologies we’re betting on to disrupt how business is done today. In the world of business SaaS, we’ve invested in Helpshift and Outreach. In cloud infrastructure, we’ve invested in Rescale. In productivity and communications, we’ve invested in three companies – Comfy, Layer and Kahoot in the world of education. In machine learning, we’ve invested in CrowdFlower and more recently, CognitiveScale. And in security, we’ve invested in Aqua Security and Team8.

To make all this work possible, we’ve established a strong team with experience in traditional VCs, corporate funds and startups, all with impeccable track records of working with founders to grow startups into large companies. In building this team, we’ve done the challenging work of clarifying our mission – to be the most sought-after financial partner for startups driving digital transformation.

I strongly believe entrepreneurs should, and will, want to partner with us because of the unmatched opportunities we can help create.  An investment from Microsoft Ventures doesn’t stop with a check – instead, that’s just the beginning. We promise to give our portfolio companies access to the extended and enviable network of Microsoft products, engineers, sellers, partners and customers. With 1.2 billion people using Microsoft Office in 140 countries worldwide and more than 85 percent of the Fortune 500 on the Microsoft Cloud, we are uniquely poised to help our portfolio companies accelerate customer engagement and revenue growth. It’s a promise no other firm can offer.

Culture is another area we have more clearly defined, and one of special importance for a corporate venture firm that wants to bridge the gap between the entrepreneurial ecosystem and a large company like Microsoft.  We operate with a tremendous amount of autonomy, while representing Microsoft and helping the company identify new technology and partnership opportunities.  We have set-up operations close to the center of startup activity in all our locations and we work as a small, focused team, surrounded by entrepreneurial and technical talent. We are building something brand new – not unlike the founders with whom we seek to partner. Agility and speed are paramount to reassuring founders that we understand how this industry works.  We promise to work as fast, or faster, than any institutional VC – our goal is to match the urgency a founder feels for getting their business funded so they can get back to work.

This month we began a series of meetings with other VC firms, sharing the Microsoft Ventures story and showing them the value we bring as a co-investor and how we provide startups with benefits far in excess of our investment dollars.  Perhaps the most exciting part is that this is just the beginning. We’re being invited into amazing conversations, and hope to prove our value to these partners and this community over the coming months and years. We have the opportunity to be the biggest value-add investor on a company’s board. We invite founders to reach out and learn how we can help them in their journey and we promise to do so with no strings attached.