In its efforts to support the startup ecosystem in the country, technology giant Microsoft has launched a programme for nurturing and scaling startups that are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI). Microsoft AI Innovate is a 10-week initiative that will support startups in India leveraging AI technologies, helping them scale operations, drive innovation, and build industry expertise. Both B2B and B2C startups from diverse industries including financial services, healthcare, education, agriculture, space, manufacturing and logistics, retail, and e-commerce are invited to participate in the quarterly cohorts of this immersive program. Supported by TiE Mumbai, the launch cohort will kickstart in November 2021.
“AI is increasingly at the heart of digital transformation and Microsoft is invested deeply in helping organizations transform through AI. More specifically startups are the future signal generators for all of us and AI and ML (machine learning) technologies can really help create disruptive models,” said Microsoft India president Anant Maheshwari during a fireside chat with Sandeep Singhal, co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners at the Microsoft event. “Our vision is to help every startup in every industry (doing) meaningful innovation into actionable results. It’s really important to support the ecosystem, with the right programs, tools, and scaling.”
With the third-largest ecosystem for startups in the world, India holds opportunities for emerging businesses to accelerate innovation across industries.
“India has the third-largest AI startup ecosystem in the world,” said Maheshwari. “AI adoption can add more than $90 billion to the Indian economy by 2025.”
Through the new exclusive programme, Microsoft will focus on providing tech and business opportunities to startups for improving their solutions, transforming their organisations and building responsibly to make AI accessible to everyone. The program will also enable startups to reach out to newer customers and geographies with Microsoft’s sales and partner networks. The selected startups in each of the cohorts will have access to industry deep-dive sessions and AI masterclasses by industry experts, mentoring by unicorn founders, skilling and certification opportunities, among other benefits.
“Microsoft’s vision is to help every startup across industries turn meaningful innovation into actionable results. Microsoft AI Innovate will create an engaging platform to empower startups with opportunities to build, scale and transform with agility,” said Sangeeta Bavi, director, Startup Ecosystem, Microsoft India. “We are committed to ensuring that every startup gets expert guidance and best-in-class tech resources for strengthening their approach to the responsible use of AI.”
Catering to both technical and business audiences, the programme will bring together leading-edge tech know-how, global GTM partnerships as well as engineering and research experts from Microsoft. It offers a range of benefits to startups across different tiers:
All startups: Qualified Seed to Series B startups will be provided with technical enablement benefits including Azure benefits (in addition to free cloud credits), product engineering support, unlimited 24×7 technical support amongst many other benefits. They will also receive support with business and sales acceleration needs such as marketplace onboarding.
Startups with enterprise-ready solutions will be provided opportunities to build their solutions alongside a dedicated team of professionals. They will get go-to-market support as well as co-selling benefits with Microsoft’s sales team and partner ecosystem. The startups will also get access to top partner and customer events to strengthen their networking reach.
Also, enterprise-ready startups will be supported to envision their solutions with industry experts, future-proofing their technology with dedicated professionals as well as enhancing production with expert partners.
Microsoft AI Innovate aims to bring together startups, corporates, industry bodies, governments, and venture capital firms, and create a shared platform for learning and innovation.
“Microsoft has played a very important role with a couple of our companies and I hope there would be more of those, in terms of the go-to-market,” said Singhal of Nexus. “So it’s not just about the technology piece but it’s also about an understanding of what our customers are looking for.”
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