Reporting from EVCA Innovation Exchange – Investing in start-ups in Europe
Joe Wilson, new Western European lead, speaks from the heart about what Microsoft
is trying to do for start-ups in Europe. As a veteran entrepreneur himself, Joe brings a very personal perspective and talks about his first exposure to the European Venture Capital (VC) community. Expect to see more blogs from Joe and his team in the months to come.
Joe Wilson, reporting from EVCA Innovation Exchange – why we’re doing what we’re doing for start-ups in Europe
On 14 October in Copenhagen, I had the opportunity to attend the Innovation Exchange event courtesy of European Venture Capital Association (EVCA), European TechTour Association and Informilo.
The event focussed on four areas: search, gaming and entertainment, cleantech, communication and disruptive technologies.
I was pretty excited as this was the first opportunity I had to speak in front of a gathering of Europe’s top venture capital community and get a sense of how we landed in their eyes. I also got to experience some of the best start-ups from the region – 16 of whom were chosen by TechTour to present to the VC audience. Jean-Marc Soustre from European TechTour Association said that having Microsoft’s support enabled us to bring together “a great event with the cream of Europe’s start-up and growth company crop presenting and an exceptional group of delegates”.
So what did I talk about?
For start-ups the industry is moving at a blazing pace. No one knows what the next big idea will be and they all believe in theirs. Big companies like Microsoft MUST be there for them during these critical stages. We have to stand up and be counted to bring young companies into the industry.
Microsoft is still a start-up company, with entrepreneurship in its DNA. Our aim is to build the technology and develop the ecosystem. Of course our main role is to provide access to technology: the main vehicles are BizSpark, our local people and the Microsoft Partner Network.
BizSpark as a catalyst
I’m a veteran of start-up companies, so this part of the business is near and dear to my heart. Working with start-ups and early stage Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) is a fundamental part of our partner strategy and a major focus for us in Western Europe. We cannot over invest in this with time and energy. As I say, we have to show up here for the sake of the industry.
As we all know, most governments say that helping SMEs grow and thrive is the key to Europe making it out of recession. With BizSpark we have a major opportunity. The Local Software Economies in all Western Europe countries were given a boost when we made our premium developer tools available through this programme – but what is even better to see, is how the industry lined up behind this in the two years it is available in the region. Offsetting capital expenditures with free software is just the beginning though. We have to go further.
Feedback from attendees at the EVCA Copenhagen event was positive. Here a few examples:
"Truly one of the best venture gatherings in 2010. Innovation Exchange is now firmly in my calendar for 2011."
Per Roman, Founding Partner, GP Bullhound (Investor)
"I can highly recommend applying for this event. The Innovation Exchange was very valuable for us to get in touch with international investors, meet industry experts and share experiences with other CEO’s."
Benjamin Guenther, CEO, Stylight (Presenting Startup and BizSpark Germany company)
With me at the event was Ruud de Jonge, who spoke about Microsoft’s Cloud strategy. Cloud computing or “Realtime Everything” as it was also referred to, has a lot of people excited.
There is definitely a consensus among investors of the great benefits Cloud Computing could bring to the IT industry (and how it will help reduce CAPEX investments). Cloud was mentioned in every session at IEX and within the conversation on disruptive technologies, Cloud was number one.
Of course at Microsoft we have a generous offer for startups wishing to develop and deploy applications to the Windows Azure platform: an internet-scale cloud computing and services platform hosted in Microsoft data centres. Read all about it here.
What happens next? My personal commitment
We are open eyes, open arms and open ears when it comes to engaging with start-up companies moving forward. I am going to align Microsoft as a real player in this space and I am going to find ways to contribute in ways we have never done before. I am dedicating resources and my personal time to creating a breakthrough in Europe in this space. We have the talent, education system, investors and domestic markets to make this huge.
When we look at what we are going to do with start-ups, I keep it simple:
a. We want to push the industry: Multinationals have a responsibility to push the industry forward and bring along young companies. I challenge all companies to show up and support the start-ups.
b. Create breakthroughs in the industry: We can’t just stand around and do support stuff, it has to be breakthrough technologies that see the light of day and find their markets with companies like ours. It’s not competition, it’s market opportunity for companies like ours.
c. I want Microsoft’s to play a strong and genuine place inside of this work. Industry first, tech breakthroughs second and MS right after that. Yep, in that order.
For more information on our start-up programmes please visit www.bizspark.com