Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President, Strategic and Emerging Business, Microsoft Corporation

In October, I was interviewed by Om Malik and Joyce Kim about my role in Silicon Valley and how Microsoft works with startups.

Some highlights from our discussion, with questions and my comments:

How Can Startups Partner with Microsoft?

The basic premise of the Emerging Business Group is, we look at all the entrepreneurial activity, we look at where the money flows, where the angel investors, and where the entrepreneurs are going, and then the venture community. And we map that against what we're doing, so that we can provide context in areas where we can be helpful. We have a terrific program, the [Microsoft Startup] Accelerator Program, which is a significant way for us to help promote the companies where we can be helpful. It's typically tied to some partnership in and around product collaboration, and, of course, customer wins.

So the kinds of companies that we've worked within the past include NewsGator, My Space, PolyServe, there are lots of interesting companies. The scale of that operation is significant. We look at about 100 companies a month. That winnows down over the course of 1,000-plus a year to about 200 a year, where they would say we're doing meaningful things. That, in turn, funnels down into areas of interest where the product divisions, which are the P&L units, the profit and loss units inside the company, do their acquisitions. So in any given year over the last two or three, we'll buy between, say, 12 and 20 companies that are in the startup zone, if you will. We certainly made larger acquisitions than that as well.

Do Acquisitions Often Arise from Partnerships?

It varies. Obviously, in some instances, entrepreneurs are very specifically looking at areas where we have need, and they'll build something that you might call a tuck in, a smaller, early stage acquisition for us. In other areas, a market opportunity will blossom, a company like Placewhere, where we now have our Live Meeting acquisition that was an interesting one. TellMe, most recently, was a great acquisition, a terrific entrepreneurially driven company, doing really innovative things that will have a cross-company impact inside of Microsoft. So, they vary, but it's also the case that it's rare for us to buy something where we don't already have a partnership.

Does Microsoft Invest in Startups?

We typically are not a direct investor.

We Operate on a Global Scale:

…in this world that we live in, which is flat, what I get to do in my core business, in and around working with innovative startups, is to see things on a global scale. We've got operations that are directly in Silicon Valley like entrepreneurial, venture-backed, best practices, [and are] in 15 countries around the world. We've got operations in 45 countries where we do this at scale, and it's soon going to be growing to nearly 100 countries.

So the idea that a startup like Wallop, which is a member of our [Microsoft Startup] Accelerator Program, is getting a huge amount of traffic in China, we can help them. So seeing the entrepreneurial spirit, helping things explode on a global scale, there's no better place to be than Microsoft.

More information about the new Microsoft Startup Accelerator Program can found at:

Press Pass interview