I’m here in Sydney, Australia at Microsoft’s 10th annual Imagine Cup worldwide finals. You may remember my coverage from last years worldwide finals in New York City. Last year was the first time the competition has had the finals held in the United States. Similarly to last year, impressive doesn’t even begin to explain how I feel about this years teams.
First, I had a chance to sit down with Microsoft executive Dan’l Lewin, Corporate Vice President for Strategic and Emerging Business Development, to talk about the Imagine Cup, life after the competition, and what Microsoft is doing for startups all over the world. Dan’l and his team are familiar faces in Silicon Valley, due mostly to the part of Microsoft’s BizSpark program, which provides startups access to Microsoft’s software, resources and more. The program has been a huge success, helping over 45,000 companies in over 100 countries, since it was established in 2008.
Above all else, I wanted to ask Dan’l about was Microsoft strategy around its investments in companies such as Facebook, and if there are plans to do more. Obviously with their successful exit in Facebook, it would be safe to assume that Microsoft has plans to make more investments. But that’s not exactly the case.
While Dan’l acknowledge that the Facebook investment was a good deal for Microsoft, he was quick to say that making one time returns for shareholders is not Microsoft’s goal for their investments. Instead, they want to create long-term financial value for their shareholders. In other words, let the professionals (venture capitalists and angel investors) do their jobs investing companies, and Microsoft will provide support through other channels, like BizSpark.
Microsoft’s strategy to support startups definitely makes a lot of sense. Yet, this morning news broke about the Bing Fund, an incubator/investment hub for Bing. Details are sparse about the project, but what we do know is that the man in charge of the Bing Fund is Rahul Sood, the founder of VoodooPC (acquired by HP in 2006). Sood was mostly recently a General Manager in the Xbox group, but in March 2012, he updated his LinkedIn to reflect on his title — General Manager/Partner at Bing Fund.
While the Bing group maybe outside of Dan’l’s field of play, it is interesting that Microsoft is making a bigger push with Bing. Microsoft is a big company, with a lot of groups, so it’s hard to control what happens in each one, but at the end of the day, what Microsoft is doing with BizSpark is awesome.
We’ll have more coverage of the world-wide finals of Imagine Cup coming up! Stay tuned!
Full disclosure: Microsoft and Teens in Tech Labs partnered up in 2011 for our Teens in Tech Conference and Incubator. Microsoft also paid for my travel to Sydney for Imagine Cup.