Satya Nadella-led tech giant Microsoft has decided to reorient the strategy of its venture capital arm by setting up a new office and local team in the country this year, a report in a financial daily stated.
The Redmond-headquartered company will invest in startups operating in the areas of autonomous vehicles, blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT), The Economic Times reported.
“We look largely around our core ambitions — cloud infrastructure, AI, machine learning (ML) and connectivity. But India is very unique because the productivity here is mobile only. We have learnt a lot and look forward to learning more,” Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development at Microsoft, was quoted as telling ET.
Johnson said that Microsoft Ventures generally makes investments at the Series A and B stages, putting between $2 million and $10 million into startups from its global corpus. The technology company’s venture arm is led by former Qualcomm executive Nagaraj Kashyap. ET reported that Johnson has been responsible for revamping the VC arm since she joined Microsoft in 2014, even shifting its headquarters to Silicon Valley, besides having offices in New York, Tel Aviv, Israel and now in India.
Though Microsoft Ventures is present in the country, it was managed from its Redmond headquarters, the ET report stated.
Microsoft officially launched its venture arm in May 2016, separating it from its accelerator programme. In December 2016, Microsoft Ventures set up a new fund to invest in startups focused on artificial intelligence.
Some of its investments in the country include customer support software provider Helpshift Inc., which raised $23 million (around Rs 153.6 crore) in June 2016 in a Series B funding round led by Microsoft Ventures and Salesforce Ventures. In January this year, Microsoft Ventures participated in the Series B funding round of Silicon Valley-based Big Data startup Unravel Data.
Last month, the firm launched Microsoft for Startups, a programme that offers technology access and go-to-market and community benefits to early-stage firms. The company even committed $500 million towards the programme. As part of the programme, Microsoft will help startups connect with new customers and channel partners through over 40,000 Microsoft sales representatives and connect them to resources via properties like Microsoft Reactors, Microsoft Ventures and Microsoft ScaleUp.
In a separate development, Microsoft showcased how it is democratising artificial intelligence in India by helping 650 partners in the country use its capabilities in cognitive services, IoT, AI and machine learning, the company said at its ‘AI for All’ conference in Bangalore on Wednesday.
“We are working closely with our partners to bring AI to all sectors in India. Our partners are creating inclusive solutions designed to solve local societal and business problems,” Anant Maheshwari, president of Microsoft India, said in a statement.
Over the last year, Microsoft and its partners have deployed AI solutions in areas such as healthcare, education, agriculture, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing and financial services, the statement added. The company even announced a partnership with Forus Health, a Bangalore-based technology company focusing on retinal imaging devices, to leverage AI capabilities for early detection of diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration, and help reduce avoidable blindness.
Some of Microsoft’s other partners in this endeavour include Hitachi Micro, Nihilent Technologies: Nihilent, WittyParrot widget, BrainifAI, Ola Play, Flipkart, ShepHertz, and ZingHR among others.