Working with a big company to scale your business

One of the ways Microsoft helps makes this happen is through the Startup Accelerator Programme. High potential companies are selected to join the scheme based on their innovations, high growth potential and level of funding.

We work with them to create bespoke engagement plans to support their software and market development efforts but perhaps most importantly, they have access to our networks and contacts across the industry and the venture capital community. They are also able to tap into the talent pool of technology and business experts at Microsoft.   One of the startups we’ve been collaborating with is Zebtab, which has developed a desktop widget that allows content owners to deliver their rich media direct to consumers’ desktops.

Developed on a Microsoft platform, Zebtab benefits from significant insight and assistance on product development from our technical advisers. For instance, it has undertaken a two day Architectural Design Session (ADS) at the Technology Centre in Reading which has enabled the company to test and trial its system in one of the most advanced facilities available before unveiling Zebtab v2.0 earlier this year. The company has an ambitious growth target and forecasts to make well over £2m gross profit by 2010, having started business in 2005.

Another promising emerging business is ViaPost, a new web service that allows customers to send physical documents from their computers at the touch of a button. As a member of the programme, ViaPost has free access to a comprehensive suite of Microsoft applications. Using these development tools meant that the company had a stable, reliable foundation to build on, and a product that was compatible with the vast majority of their customers’ computers from the start. ViaPost CEO Simon Campbell has also told us: "One of the great things about working with Microsoft is that it gives startups a real boost in credibility."

However, we know that it’s not always plain sailing for startups working with a large company like ours. For instance, accelerator companies are often on tight time lines – whether because of funding issues or customer demands – which sometimes we simply can’t match. The scale of our business necessitates internal processes to ensure accountability and transparency, and the reality is that we can’t always move as quickly as we’d like.

The same is true for new applicants to the programme. As a hugely oversubscribed initiative in the UK, as hard as we might try, it’s almost impossible to provide detailed feedback to all applicants that apply. It won’t be long before the next round of startups join the programme, but participants such as Zebtab and ViaPost are already seeing the benefits of being involved. It’s critical that the next generation of new businesses thrive and prosper and although working with a big organisation can be challenging at times, we think the results are well worth it.  * Bindi Karia is Microsoft’s emerging business team lead Picture source

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