Which do you think is tougher?
1) Starting off with nothing and ultimately thriving as an entrepreneur
2) Being an entrepreneur thriving in a huge company
I promise you, it’s not number 1. It’s much harder, as an entrepreneur, to thrive in a large organization. For some reason I like to be in uncomfortable situations, and if you feel that same fire, we likely share something that only people like us understand. After spending 18 years as an entrepreneur I figured it was time for a bigger challenge. So we picked up our family and moved to Seattle so I could join Microsoft. Why Microsoft? Why didn't I just go out and do something on my own again?
The answer is simple: Microsoft is a pioneer, with a living founder and chairman who is now dedicating his life and the bulk of his wealth to make the world a better place. Seriously think about that. His influence and legacy are all over the company starting from the top down. That in itself was more than enough to make us come over, but there were other compelling reasons. Microsoft’s technology has built economies, spawned new businesses, sparked the tech bubble, ignited the second tech bubble, and on and on. I love this company. I feel at home here. Being surrounded by incredibly brilliant people is not only inspiring, it’s addictive.
In January of 2012, that fire inside challenged me to design a role that I’d be uniquely qualified to inhabit, one that would be so exciting it would give me goose bumps. I joined forces with a long time Microsoft veteran who knows the ins and outs of the company, we put together a proposal, and got the approval to go ahead. For the past several months my new team has been heads down designing an innovative, entrepreneur-friendly program called Bing Fund. We will scout early stage startups with talented teams who are working on disruptive online innovations that we feel are compelling and solve big problems.
Raising money is easy—the amount of time and energy we’re going to dedicate to each startup in our program is worth more than any dollar amount we could throw at them, which is why we’re choosing to incubate fewer than a dozen startups at a time. When one graduates we’ll take on another.
So now I’m working as an entrepreneur inside a company that has tremendous resources and impact. We get the best of both worlds. Our program is tapping the creative energy of startups, small and agile risk takers and we’re backing that creative energy with the vast experience Microsoft employees have in design, technology development, and business strategy. Many great things will happen. I think there’s something to be said for how Microsoft has embraced the idea of working closely with startups.
The response from Microsoft employees has also been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. In a lot of ways startups can innovate faster than big companies; they have an objective grip on the future that big companies may struggle to find. ...oh and by the way, we are operating like a startup ourselves. We are a small team with a laser focus, and we are here to deliver the best experience to the companies we work with. We fundamentally believe that their success is our success.
We’re in the process of onboarding our first couple of companies into the Bing Fund program. There will be lots to tell, so stay tuned! Some Links: