With easier access to funding, technology and mentorship, the barrier to launching a startup has never been lower. However, creating a successful company and breaking through the noise has grown infinitely harder. Last Wednesday, Microsoft hosted the Churchill Club, Silicon Valley’s premier business and technology forum, for a discussion about the current startup environment.

Titled “A Running Start for Startups,” the panel took place on Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus and brought together an enthusiastic group of speakers with their finger on the pulse of the industry. It was great to be among top notch speakers, including Jeff Clavier, founder and managing partner, SoftTech VC; Paul Kedrosky, senior fellow, Kauffman Foundation; Don MacAskill, co-founder, CEO & chief geek, SmugMug; and Heidi Roizen, venture partner, Draper Fisher Jurvetson. Keeping the discussion lively with thought-provoking questions, Eric Savitz, San Francisco bureau chief, Forbes, moderated the discussion.

From a broad view, we are amidst a large structural realignment in the world with regard to jobs. You see this on the news almost every day. As we move into a cloud services and device landscape, it is important to look at how we got here, to provide a sense of where the industry is heading and new opportunities that have yet to be discovered.

It is difficult to determine where the next disruptions will come from. In the past, fundamental new technologies would evolve into a platform that creates opportunity for new businesses and products. For example, the word processor produced new markets in spell-checking, and font management. You could argue that Adobe and the laser printer industry flourished because of the ubiquity of word processing on PCs.

However, the compounding of technologies over the years has created a major shift in the industry. The new normal is a broad set of tools and services that are stacked on top of previous technologies. This has made it challenging to predict where the market is heading. In this new landscape, we see an almost Frankenstein-like approach to pulling together various parts to create a whole. Though tough to get right, new services can be very powerful when all the pieces come together.

With so much support for entrepreneurs, from accelerators and incubators to early-stage investors and seed funds, there is less risk if you fail fast. The rapid explosion of companies is creating an interesting situation where good ideas rise to the top. However, it takes more than just an idea to run a company, grow your business and become a company that demonstrates hyper-growth. If you do not have a unique idea or a niche market, your significance rapidly disappears.

At Microsoft, we are motivated to create opportunities for entrepreneurs. By collaborating with a broad cross section of the startup ecosystem, we have a unique opportunity to help companies grow their business. Through our BizSpark program, we provide access to technology, mentorship and resources during the crucial first three years for companies. For example, we recently announced the finalists that will participate in our Kinect accelerator, powered by TechStars. Also, we recently launched BizSpark Plus, working with leading startup accelerators around the world and making available high-value services and product offers to their member startups. It is exciting to see the enthusiasm from new companies to build apps and businesses on our platforms.

The startup environment in the U.S. and around the world is growing by leaps and bounds, in no small part due to the increase in funding options and support that accelerators and companies are providing. Check out the video of the panel to join the conversation about where the explosion of endeavors could take the tech industry in the future.

Posted by Dan’l Lewin
Corporate Vice President, Strategic and Emerging Business Development, Microsoft