January 4, 2006

Microsoft’s Work with Emerging Growth Companies – Five Stars

Posted in management, Partners at 10:00 pm by scottmaxwell

I received an e-mail from Dan’l Lewin last night. Dan’l leads, among other things, the Microsoft effort that works with Venture Capitalists and emerging growth companies (you may also know Mark Barry, Dan’l’s Director leading the effort day-to-day).

In the e-mail, Dan’l asked for feedback on how Microsoft is doing with respect to working with VCs and the emerging growth technology company community. Interestingly, the VC community gets surveyed regularly by Microsoft on this topic (via phone calls, in person meetings, and internet surveys), as Microsoft has been working hard (and has made huge progress) to improve their work with VCs and emerging growth companies since Dan’l joined the company about six or seven years ago.

I thought it might be useful to all emerging growth technology companies to understand that the group exists and might be helpful to you.

Some Background:

  • My sense is that the group originally formed to make sure that the VC community and their emerging growth technology companies were aware of the .NET framework to help seed adoption.
  • The group is not exclusive to VC backed companies, but the information is helpful to Microsoft’s screening the many thousands of emerging growth companies globally (the VC involvement means the company has both been pre-screened and has funding).
  • Over time, the group has expanded its coverage to all areas of Microsoft (not just .NET) and has expanded geographically to include all countries that have a certain level of technology development.
  • The group puts on an annual event for VCs as well as ongoing technology workshops and other events to help the VC community understand the new technologies, the Microsoft roadmap going forward, and to meet Microsoft executives.
  • Individuals in the group are assigned technology areas of focus and also have coverage for specific VCs as well as specific emerging growth companies.
  • The group is responsible for making sure that they understand the emerging growth companies, and to partner with the appropriate companies (offering technology assistance, introductions to the right people at Microsoft, and customer introductions and marketing support to the emerging growth companies that they believe have the best alignment with Microsoft).

My assessment:
Overall, the group, as well as the Microsoft employee introductions through the group, has contributed significantly to both my firm and my portfolio companies. These contributions span across at least half of my firm’s portfolio companies and includes:

  • Technology assistance with several companies that are deploying applications with Microsoft infrastructure (including both on-demand applications and installed software),
  • Introductions to internal Microsoft groups that have resulted in partnerships of various kinds,
  • Introductions to Microsoft customers,
  • Updates on where Microsoft is headed (if they have a plan, they will tell it to you in great detail and going out several years),
  • Assistance with Microsoft purchases of technology for their internal use,
  • Help through the Microsoft M&A process, and
  • Microsoft speakers at several events that my firm has had for our technology companies.

Overall, I give Dan’l, Mark, and the rest of the team five stars! As companies get larger, it becomes much more difficult for them to work with smaller companies. Groups like this really help and I wish all large technology companies offered this level of support!! (the only other company that has an effort like this is IBM, but they have not resourced the effort to the level Microsoft has and, therefore, do not have the breadth or depth of coverage).

Additional thoughts:

Clearly, this is not only a goodwill effort. Companies in the program get in the program because they are aligned with and do real work in support of the partnership. Ultimately, if companies that use Microsoft infrastructure succeed, Microsoft is helped to succeed. It is a pretty simple equation that is easy to follow. If your company sits partially or fully on Microsoft infrastructure, you might want to look closely at this program (if you are not on Microsoft, but want to be, you might check it out as well).

Some additional information on Microsoft’s program: