After Success In Israel, Microsoft Launches More Accelerator Programs

Tzahi WeisfeldMicrosoft’s Tzahi ‘Zack’ Weisfeld

On Monday, Microsoft’s second class of Israeli startups graduated from its Windows Azure Accelerator program

The program, started about a year ago, has been such a hit that Microsoft is launching at least two other international Accelerator programs modelled after it, Microsoft’s Tzahi Weisfeld, senior director of the global startup group, told Business Insider.

These will be in India and China.

At this point, Microsoft isn’t talking about a U.S. Azure accelerator because Microsoft is already working with TechStars Seattle, Weisfeld told us.

With the 13 new startups launched this week, Microsoft has graduated 26 Israeli startups and is claiming success on par with TechStars and Y Combinator. Graduates have “raised an average $900,000” in seed money from U.S. and Israeli venture capitalists, he said.

There is one big difference between Microsoft’s program and the others: Microsoft doesn’t personally invest and it doesn’t take a stake, Microsoft’s Rob Craft, senior director of Cloud Strategy, told us. 

Startups are not required to use Microsoft technologies or to develop products for Microsoft platforms. But, since the point is to launch startups on Microsoft’s cloud, Azure, the company gives them $60,000 worth of free Windows Azure service for two years plus three years worth of Microsoft software (Office, Windows Server, development tools).

We talked to one of the new graduates, Pixtr’s Aviv Gadot, cofounder and CEO, who confirmed that Microsoft isn’t pushing its own wares beyond Azure. Pixtr is a mobile video editing app that runs on the iPhone but not on Windows Phone. The founders use don’t even use Windows PCs. They use Macs.

Microsoft also has plenty of competition. There are more than two dozen accelerators/incubators in the “startup nation” of Israel, including the Campus Tel Aviv “hub” program run by Google.

(Disclosure: Microsoft paid some of the travel expenses for Business Insider to attend a cloud computing event in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.)

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