I wanted to share our excitement that Microsoft for Startups will be joining forces with Backstage Capital and Black & Brown Founders to help accelerate opportunities for diverse startups. Over the next 18 months, we will be committing over $6M in sponsorship dollars, cloud technology, and support to empower underrepresented founders identified by these two organizations.
Today, less than 10% of all venture capital deals go to women, people of color, and LGBT founders. As Arlan Hamilton, Founder & Managing Partner of Backstage Capital, said to me when we first met, “Many VCs see this as a pipeline problem. We see it as the biggest opportunity in investment.”
At Microsoft we’re also focused on creating much greater diversity within our startup ecosystem. We fundamentally believe great ideas come from anywhere and have repeatedly found that diversity fuels innovation. We share Arlan’s view of the opportunity in front of us, which is also backed by research showing how diverse founding teams outperform the market average.
I was equally inspired after meeting Aniyia Williams, the originator of Black & Brown Founders. When she described their philosophy in supporting Black and Latinx founders, I knew we wanted to get involved and support their efforts. Their approach is to enable entrepreneurs through workshops, community, and regional conferences focused on the foundations of entrepreneurship, which is profitability, people development, and both business and technical innovation. I also really appreciated the distinction between how they approached the various communities and designed their program to adapt as their members’ needs evolved.
When we launched Microsoft for Startups in February, we shifted our program to an incessant focus on how we can best be of service to the startup community and assist them on their terms and timelines. We paired Microsoft cloud technology access with the technical and business support our startups were requesting (e.g. go-to-market partnership with access to our enterprise customer base through Microsoft’s worldwide channel and salesforce).
- Premier technology and business partner of Backstage Capital’s new accelerator program.
- Sponsoring Black & Brown Founders’ Project NorthStar, a 3-day tech conference in Philadelphia that provides connections, education, and opportunities for current or aspiring entrepreneurs and professionals from the Black and Latinx community.
- Deliver the benefits of the Microsoft for Startups offer to eligible startup members of these organizations. The program provides startups with up to $120,000 in free Azure credits, enterprise grade technical support and development tools as well as dedicated resources to prepare startup marketing and sales teams to effectively sell their cloud solutions to enterprise organizations in partnership with Microsoft’s global sales organization and partner ecosystem.
- Provide continuous training and mentorship to help underestimated entrepreneurs tackle issues such as selling to large enterprises, building a learning organization, designing your partner channel, and architecting durable technical solutions.
- Provide 1:1 office hours for entrepreneurs to meet with Microsoft experts and tailor discussion to their needs across strategy, technology and business topics.
These new partnerships are core to our company’s mission to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more and build on several recent investments we’ve made to promote the success of diversity in startups, including our recently announced partnership with The Riveter and the M12 Female Founders Competition.
There is so much potential in these communities and we are honored to work with Backstage Capital and Black & Brown Founders. Together, we will work to change the makeup of startup communities around the world that will fuel the growth of new and diverse innovation.