A high-caliber panel of judges chose Spreaker, a digital music sharing service, as the most promising BizSpark startup from Europe, and the People’s Choice Award this year went to Booklikes, a social platform for the curation of books.
But the bigger story of the entire day was that Microsoft’s presence in Germany – and their brand new accelerator – is bringing volume to serendipity, making it possible for startups from around the world to tap into the huge partner and enterprise network developed by the corporation during its long history in high tech.
The infusion of a venture capitalist mindset into existing offerings showed that entrepreneurs could work with Microsoft and help establish customers, build defensive walls around their product offerings and build great companies with solid partners.
Everything from the Microsoft BizSpark software development offer to working in the Windows Azure cloud and collaborating with investors through Microsoft Ventures sent a solid message to Europe’s startups that there was a wealth of new collaboration opportunities in Berlin.
Stephan Jacquemot, Microsoft Germany’s startup liaison, said that the opening of the accelerator and the work they are doing with BizSpark through the Microsoft Ventures developments, means that Microsoft is signaling very strongly they are working with startups in a dense, rich ecosystem.
“This shows how fully engaged we are in the lives and business development of startups,” Jacquemot said. “This demonstrates how much effort and sincerity we are putting into collaborating with startups in a very interesting city for the development of the startup ecosystem in Europe.”
The award winners both said that they have been impressed by this activity over the past several months.
“We’ve been working [together] for four months,” says Francesco Baschieri, founder of Spreaker, based in Italy. “They were super helpful. We are now moving to Azure from AWS as our backend system and it’s been super easy.”
The people’s choice winner, David Piaskowski, from Booklikes in Poland, said that seeing the Accelerator and being in the same place as startups from all over Europe proved to him that he was in the right place for business.
“Honestly, if I had the money to put toward investments, I would not be shy about investing in any of the startups I saw here today.”
Jan Sessenhausen, Senior Investment Manager for High-Tech Grunderfonds, said that the actual existence of the Microsoft Accelerator andthe work Microsoft BizSpark team members have done on the ground with startups over the past five years just makes for a better ecosystem.
“It just creates better companies, and frankly, it makes my life so much easier,” he said. The right companies are coming at the right time to the right place to get the five minutes they need face-to-face to make introductions and solve problems or answers questions, he said.
Reid Hoffman, founder of professional networking site LinkedIn, has said that building a startup is like throwing yourself off a cliff and building the plane on your way down. That whole enterprise becomes a little bit easier when you have partners like Microsoft and the Microsoft BizSpark program.
The BizSpark European Summit in Berlin was the fifth time in five years that the Microsoft startup champs have demonstrated that many people are there to help startups acquire customers, assemble the parts of the plane, and deliver to them a choice of assembly units to make sure that that sudden drop during customer discovery actually turns into a soft arrival on a runway.
It’s helped every one of the 12 finalists from this year’s event.
“We expected to make it to break even by year’s end,” says Robert at Stonewash in the UK. But they got there by March, only three months after they started, he said.
Working with a team in London has meant that when they have an idea, someone sits down to listen and work out the problem with them, fast. “Somehow, that system of communication works much better” than when they have worked with other companies of Microsoft’s size, he says.
One of the graduates of the Israel-based Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, Screemo’s founder Dotan Kopolovich, said that his greatest value was in starting relationships, not just introductions, with real companies.
“We started with one client in Tel Aviv,” says Kopolovich. “And we ended up with many clients and in Madison Square Garden.”
Stefan Bech, who has built an open platform competitor to Polyvore called Wantr, said that his biggest challenge for platform hosting was solved by working with the Danish team to move from AWS to Azure.
“I can honestly say we are very very happy,” said Beck. “It’s been very inexpensive and very easy for our engineering team to get startedwith.”
A few representatives from Microsoft went further to say that the tremendous network that Microsoft has built is really a perfect channel for startups to build routes to more customers.
“We care about customers [as startups]. When you chase money, money rarely comes. We wanted to create program where we can bring you customers,” said Rahul Sood, Managing Director of the recently named Microsoft Ventures.
The Microsoft BizSpark program offers the entry point into this ecosystem of partners and enterprise relationships. You can register for consideration for the program. Your startup needs only to be less than five years old, taking in less than $1million in revenue each year, and building a software startup in the cloud.