Microsoft Ventures

In line with its 4Afrika initiative, Microsoft Corp. has extended its Microsoft Ventures partnership program into Africa, to help startups in key sectors like agriculture, education and healthcare fuel the continent’s economic growth and competitiveness.

For Africa, the program will start in Kenya with 88mph as Microsoft’s first African accelerator partner. Together, the institutions will provide startups with mentorship, guidance, seed funding, joint selling opportunities and more.

According to Microsoft, 88mph was chosen for its proven track record in helping local entrepreneurs with innovative startups turn ideas into thriving businesses. Since opening up in July 2011, the company has graduated 32 start-ups.

Microsoft Ventures, which was launched in June, is a coordinated global effort that offers tools, resources, expertise and routes to market for startups, through partnerships with accelerators globally.

It takes a holistic approach to helping startups grow via community evangelism programs including Microsoft BizSpark, an accelerator program and a seed fund that works with startups worldwide.

Amrote Abdella, Director, 4Afrika Venture Capital and Startup Programs said: “Microsoft Ventures was created to give start-ups a leg-up by providing access to tools, technology and training.… (it) speaks to our belief that technology can accelerate growth for Africa, and Africa can also accelerate technology for the world.”

“We strongly believe that with the right support, African startups hold tremendous potential to impact both their local economies and the world’s perception of African-led innovation and entrepreneurship.”

In Africa, Microsoft is also looking for solutions that can scale across and even outside the African continent.

Startups will be selected based on Microsoft Ventures’ globally established criteria: applying companies must have a full-time founding team, a bold vision for tackling a real problem, technologically driven solutions and less than $1 million raised.

“The programme is simple: those who are interested can apply to an immersive 3-6 month accelerator programme. The only requirements are a full-time founding team and less than $1 million raised. Qualifying companies will have access to mentors, technical and design experts, development tools and key resources,” Abdella explained.

In an interview with Nigeria’s BusinessDay newspaper, Amrote Abdella explained that one of the goals of Microsoft is to empower Africans to monetise business ideas.

According to her “There is certainly no shortage of brilliant ideas on the continent, but no matter how bright they burn, they require time, investment, and the right tools to become a blazing, fully-fledged business.”

Speaking on the partnership, Nairobi director, 88mph Nikolai Barnwell said through the partnership 88mph and Microsoft will offer a world-class launch pad to African startups looking to achieve true scale.

“We share a deep commitment to the African startup community and look forward to showcasing more and more African innovators on the world stage.”

88mph is currently running its second accelerator programme in Kenya. The programme will be launched in Lagos next year. Its most recent accelerator class will participate in a DemoDay on Dec. 5 in Nairobi where startups will present their businesses to potential investors.

Through the BizSpark program, the company has already helped support 625 African startups to date by providing access to Microsoft tools and technologies.

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