By Sam Rosenbalm

April 17, 2012

Entrepreneurs and startup founders understand the opportunity that cloud services can bring to their business. At Microsoft, we see an important role for our Windows Azure Cloud services to play as companies look to gain market traction and grow their businesses.

Through our BizSpark program, we work with thousands of startups around the world and we get questions about how to gain early stage funding, access to technical help and assistance to get products to market. We have been working to create more opportunities for young companies and the new Microsoft Accelerator series powered by TechStars addresses many of these needs.

We recently announced the finalists in the Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect, powered by TechStars. Combining Microsoft’s technology and support with their powerful mentor driven methodology, it has been a huge success. We received applications from more than 500 companies from around the world vying for the eleven open spots in the program.

Given the enthusiasm from the startup community and the desire from entrepreneurs looking for a rich supportive environment to get their ideas off the ground, Microsoft has is extending this opportunity by creating the Microsoft Accelerator series. Today, we are pleased to announce the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure, leveraging Microsoft's open and flexible cloud platform.

Startups are already building exciting products and services on Windows Azure, take Soluto for instance, it helps you get the most out of your PC , or Skweal , an impressive "one man startup" that connects mobile, cloud, and web to improve customer relations, it is easy to see that there is a huge opportunity on the platform.

The Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure for will host ten companies for a three month deep emersion program focused on building businesses that take advantage of the cloud. Through this program, Microsoft and TechStars will help entrepreneurs, engineers and innovators to bring to life a wide range of business ideas that leverage the limitless possibilities enabled by Windows Azure.

The program will run from late August through November in the heart of Seattle, Washington, an emerging hotbed for tech innovation. Startups accepted into the program will receive an investment of $20,000 (USD) managed by TechStars, mentorship from top entrepreneurs, investors, and Microsoft executives, all the resources of Microsoft BizSpark and $60,000 in Windows Azure credit through the Microsoft BizSpark Plus Program. Combined with office space, tech training and support, and a Demo Day presentation to angel investors, VCs, media, and industry elites at the culmination of the program, it is an offer hard to resist.

We are accepting applications for the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure through July 13, 2012. Check out the website to learn more and apply.