The Microsoft accelerator in Bangalore is five years old now, and has been shifting focus to later-stage enterprise tech startups. This was evident in its 11th cohort – the average funding raised across the 14 startups is US$4.9 million and average annual revenue, US$2.6 million. So it is more in terms of scaling and access to global clients that the program aims to help the startups.
Microsoft Accelerator CEO Bala Girisaballa tells Tech in Asia that the program received over 1,500 applications, but most of the ones selected were ultimately from referrals or direct contact. That’s because the idea was to find startups most suitable for the kind of support that the corporate accelerator program could best provide.
Girisaballa describes it as a two-step process. The first step is to connect them with Microsoft product and R&D teams to build out the tech and cloud synergy. Then, the sales team comes into the picture to work out potential deals for global clients, where Microsoft and the startup go in as partners for “solutions-oriented conversations.” The go-to-market push is tied in with the startups using or migrating to Microsoft’s Azure cloud technologies.
Cross-channel customer engagement startup CustomerXPS, for example, could get Bank of Jamaica to overcome its security and regulatory concerns over moving data to the cloud because Microsoft was part of the conversation, says COO and co-founder Balaji Suryanarayana. CustomerXPS was in an earlier batch of the accelerator.
Here are the 14 startups in the latest Microsoft accelerator batch in Bangalore, which includes one from Indonesia for the first time:
Kata helps brands connect with consumers on messaging platforms with Indonesian speaking chatbots. It has developed a natural language processing engine to enable this. The problem it solves is that conversational automated chat is hard to do in Bahasa which is most commonly spoken in Indonesia.
Jakarta-based YesBoss, which earlier offered SMS-based virtual assistants, shifted to chatbots last year with the launch of Kata. CEO and co-founder Irzan Raditya tells Tech in Asia he’s looking forward to the peer-to-peer learning from other startups, apart from the mentors, in view of India’s well-developed SaaS (software-as-a-service) scene.
Video-based learning site VideoKen provides tools for personalized learning and sharing. It enables curated collections of video clips, adding notes, and collaboration. Its artificial intelligence engine can connect a phrase cloud with specific parts of a long training video, for example, explains CTO and co-founder Ashish Vikram to Tech in Asia.
Current and former senior executives of Indian ecommerce company Flipkart were among its angel investors when it raised US$1 million in April. CEO and co-founder Manish Gupta is a former VP of Xerox Research. That’s where the technology for VideoKen was initially developed.
Ace Turtle provides a suite of cloud-based products and services to integrate online and offline retail. It helps ecommerce companies go omni-channel, and offline retailers to build up their online presence. The four-year-old startup counts big brands like Puma, Arrow, and RayBan among its clients.
The Bangalore-based company raised a series A round of US$5 million in May, led by Vertex Ventures of Singapore. This helps its expansion into Southeast Asia, where ecommerce is less developed than in India, CEO and co-founder Nitin Chhabra tells Tech in Asia. Ace Turtle is setting up bases in Singapore and Malaysia.
MegDap has a product called TexLang which helps its users engage with customers in their language, enabling localization of products, apps, and websites. It does this with a set of tools for language processing, from translation to sentiment analysis. Use cases range from ecommerce and finance to software development and content.
The Bangalore-based startups is founded by two former employees of Microsoft, Meghashyam Karanam and Pradeep Parappil. They decided to zero in on the language issues they often encountered in Asian markets.
MintM started out with a digital signage platform for brands to display ads with contextual content for better customer engagement in stores, hotels, and other locations. It was part of global retail giant Target’s accelerator program last year, and has added more bells and whistles to its repertoire since then. Its engagement bots call out to passersby and show them content based on real-time insights from their interaction. It also has a sales bot to help with productivity and targeting clients.
MintM has raised US$750,000 in seed funding so far from Mumbai Angels and Times Internet. Pepsico, Tesco, and HyperCity mall are among several brands that have used MintM.
Liv has speech recognition software for nine Indian languages. This can be integrated with a keyboard to enable conversion of speech to text. No need to type in an email in Hindi, for instance, or to punch in multiple messages in a banking enquiry or transaction. It also provides automation of customer care as well as analytics.
Ecommerce companies as well as government utilities are among its users. The startup was founded in 2015 by IIT Kharagpur alumni Subodh Kumar, Sanjeev Kumar, and Kishore Mudra who worked earlier in Microsoft, Qualcomm, and Samsung.
Gieom has cloud-based software with analytics to manage compliance, change, and operational risk. Banks are among its major clients because regulations keep changing. Gieom helps assess the impact of regulatory changes on business operations of the bank and communicate to users what they need to know. Adoption of new IT systems and training of employees are other areas where it comes in handy.
Clonect is another company in the area of enterprise governance, risk-management, and compliance. Its latest product is GSTStar which has a suite of tools for registration, filing returns, and reconciliation of taxes under the recently launched centralized GST (goods and services tax) in India. GST is more complex in India than in most other countries because of central and state components in a large, federal structure. Small enterprises, in particular, are facing a hard time making the transition to this system which requires filing thrice a month.
Former Infosys honchos Mohandas Pai and V Balakrishnan are among angel investors who have backed Clonect with US$1 million in seed funding.
KrypC helps enterprises adopt blockchain technologies for a variety of use cases with standard protocols such as Hyperledger, Ethereum, and Multichain. It has built a framework to ease implementation of blockchain. Bajaj Alliance Insurance is among its early adopters, says co-founder Ravi Jagannathan. Costs and compliance benefits make financial services companies and banks among the first to explore blockchain, but use cases can extend across a variety of domains from supply chain management to smart factories.
I-Exceed has a range of digital banking products. One of these is Appzillion which helps the digitization of banks and other financial institutions.
Executive director Sundar Sundararajan, who was earlier a senior VP with Oracle, says 50 banks are currently using I-Exceed, 30 of them abroad. A recent use case in India was a bank kiosk that enabled anybody to walk in with an Aadhaar identity card and open an account in minutes.
DocsWallet uses blockchain technology to provide digital locker services. It enables users to get digitally certified copies of documents from their official sources, store and organize them in a locker, and submit them as required. A large number of universities and other organizations in India have already adopted DocsWallet, and the company is making a foray in global markets.
Simplilearn is one of the top-funded edtech startups in India, with US$25 million raised in three rounds, apart from US$3 million in debt financing. It focuses on certification for IT professionals looking to upgrade their skills. The company has been shifting in recent times to enterprise clients for its courses. Hence the connect with Microsoft accelerator.
Cloud-based hotel management software provider Hotelogix is also an established player with a presence in multiple countries and backing from global VC Accel Partners. It helps hotels of different sizes improve their customer connect, operational efficiency, and revenue uptake with cost-effective SaaS products.
Udaan is a B2B (business-to-business) marketplace enabling for traders, wholesalers, retailers, and manufacturers. It smooths out payment and logistics for these multiple entities, saving time and cost. Founded by former executives of ecommerce site Flipkart, it raised US$10 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners – one of the largest early stage funding rounds in India last year.
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