The WhatsApp Ripple Effect

I posted this piece about the WhatsApp Ripple Effect on LinkedIn ... check it out here...

I'm trying to get back into writing ... been so damn busy, but so many great stories!



Christmas in a village in India.

Today, on our road trip to Nizamabad, we saw a kid playing with a brick like it was a car. Another kid playing with a car tied to a string (like a remote controlled car)... multiple families living under a house.. a few thousand people living in the slums... animals all over the place, relatively poor conditions, no clean sewer systems, etc.. we saw people who were seemingly content and happy, ...we also saw people who are in dire conditions... we saw some hard working families, and we saw things we probably didn't expect to see. We even saw children and adults with missing limbs begging for money, which is fairly typical, but today we were paying closer attention.

India is beautiful, fascinating, and always entertaining. I come here often, three times in the last year. India is a place where you can learn so much about yourself and life in general, you just need to be open minded. The cool thing about India is you can stay in a big city and eat great food while hanging out in the nicest hotels... and if you're adventurous, go exploring to some villages to see the other side of life, you'll still get great food, and maybe a little perspective.

... at the end of a very long day my kids didn't bother to ask what they got for Christmas (which btw was a trip to India and nothing more) - I think they are thankful for everything they have and everything they don't... thank God for that. My son actually asked me what he can do to be a better person in 2014..
This is how we spent Christmas in 2013... so Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to all of you, and best wishes in 2014!


Microsoft Ventures Invests in Zula to Boost Mobile Productivity

We are happy to announce a seed fund investment in Zula, a startup that streamlines mobile communication and productivity.

We were impressed when we saw their presentation at TechCrunch Disrupt earlier this year, where they won the Audience Choice Award. It was a clear signal that this is a company on a major growth trajectory because they solve challenges that so many teams face when collaborating via mobile devices.

We immediately saw the benefit of a mobile-first, cross-organization communication app helping an increasingly dispersed workforce stay connected on tasks while effectively collaborating with each other outside the inbox.

Co-founders Jeff Pulver, chairman, and Jacob Ner-David, chief executive officer, are pioneers in VOIP technology and have had great success as serial entrepreneurs. Their leadership in the communication market continues with a mobile app that has a ton of great features and strong integration with Facebook and LinkedIn.

Anyways, onwards and upwards ... !

See more here...


I'm baaaaaaaaaaack!

Hi everyone ... It's been awhile since I blogged -- Microsoft Ventures is taking up all my time as we've been getting the team up and running, getting our accelerators in sync - etc ... Building a global team is hard enough, but imagine building a team across the globe, different personalities, different cultures, different geographies, and one single curated culture --- It's no easy task, but it's something I love doing!

So I've made a promise to myself that I'd write more.  I have so much to talk about, from all the various startup ecosystems, the differences between them -- the companies and entrepreneurs I've been meeting -- and the learnings.  I have a great story about woman entrepreneurs and our quest to empower entrepreneurialism amongst women in India ... I'll share more later, but for now check it, we just signed a deal with Ranku ...!  Go Kim! 

Online education is like the Wild West. Ranku is a discovery engine that helps students and adults looking to further their education navigate the process and find reputable online colleges.
As a growing option for many students, online education can be a great fit and excellent resource for many adults looking to go back to school and working professionals furthering their career. However, comparable information for online institutions can be tough to find.
Given the amount of for-profit online education marketing, Ranku focuses on non-profit universities including public, private, and state schools that provide online opportunities. They help students make informed decisions, compare costs and find a degree that suits their needs.
This is a great example of how startups are addressing the top issues of their generation with great new services that make an impact. Co-founders Kim Taylor and Cecilia Retelle are revolutionizing the process for students that are trying to balance the need for higher education, growing costs of traditional schools and the transparency gap for online schools.
“Taking that next step to go back to school is not an easy one,” said Taylor. “And the overwhelming hunt for the perfect online degree can be just as daunting. As online education is becoming the norm, we expect Ranku’s search engine to be a key part of students’ decision-making process. We look forward to working with Microsoft Ventures to expand our support for students on the brink decisions about their Who future.”
Taylor and Retelle built Ranku with a simple goal to help people make informed decisions online education and are quickly gaining traction. They recently graduated from TechStars and are also backed by billionaire investor Mark Cuban.
Interestingly enough, I met Kim while she was a fledging entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. While we connected, there wasn’t an obvious connection to her previous startup.  However, after hearing about Ranku my interest piqued.  It’s also a personal mission of mine to help disrupt education globally --- so when I saw that Kim created Ranku we decided to do the deal and help her build the business.  There is still so much work to do in education, Ranku offers a small but meaningful step in a very big problem space. 
To begin your college search, check out Ranku at http://www.goranku.com/.


Today is a Great Day!

Entrepreneurship is an increasingly global phenomenon. We know that the barriers to turn an idea into a business have never been lower. At the same time, entrepreneurs at any maturity level still need a lot of assistance, and there are more resources than ever available to help them. As ecosystems become more fractured, paths to innovation shift and evolve, often requiring support tailored to that particular market to spur meaningful growth. To meet these growing sets of needs across mature and emerging markets alike, we are strengthening the resources we provide entrepreneurs.
Today, Microsoft is announcing the creation of Microsoft Ventures, a coordinated global effort that offers the tools, resources, expertise and routes to market by providing mentorship, technology guidance, seed funding, joint selling opportunities and other benefits. Microsoft isn’t new to working with startups. Since 2008, more than 75,000 startups from over 100 countries have received access to tools and resources through the BizSpark program. Since launching our accelerator programs two years ago, 114 startups have graduated, and nearly all that sought a subsequent round of funding received it. We launched the Bing Fund in 2012 to make seed investments in startups, and help them build their business and improve their technology.
But we know that we can do even more. First, by unifying our various efforts, we will give entrepreneurs a single point of entry to engage with Microsoft. Startups have enough to worry about. We want to make access to us as intuitive and friction-free as possible. And for promising startups focused on enterprise, Microsoft is uniquely positioned to help in ways very few can match. Whether by accessing our domain expertise or an introduction into the vibrant partner ecosystem, we believe an opportunity exists to provide unparalleled routes to customers across the globe.


Min-Liang Tan on Razer ...

There is a great article in the Verge on Razer with an interesting quote:

"In the '90s, Voodoo PC built high-end desktops and laptops with gamers in mind. HP bought Voodoo in 2006. But by 2010, HP gave up on Voodoo, and Voodoo's influential founder Rahul Sood left HP for a post at Microsoft working with startups. Essentially, Voodoo and Sood worked toward the same goals that Razer and Tan are reaching for now. Both companies and entrepreneurs have a desire to rebuild the PC market and both looked to gaming PCs to work toward the realization of their vision. Sood, who has described Razer as picking up where Voodoo left off, now sits on Razer's board of directors. After joining Razer's board, Sood told Tan he should never sell his company."



BuzzTable Joins BingFund!

BuzzTable has agreed to take a strategic investment from the Bing Fund!  See their earlier announcement here.
Hailing from NYC and built by a team of hospitality veterans, BuzzTable is a suite of services catering to restaurants and guests alike. Using the services, restaurants get to spend more time managing and improving the guest experiences, and less time worrying about the waitlist or creating inefficient loyalty campaigns. For guests, no more big awkward buzzers to walk around with or repeatedly checking in with the host to see how the line is progressing.
Helping drive efficiency in an industry the size of restaurants is a formidable challenge for any-sized company. Startups who take on big bold challenges with the singular belief that they can simplify the experience at scale using technology and smarts, is at the core of what Bing Fund believes – disruption can come from many places.
Check out the awesome 18-sec video announcement BuzzTable created on the fly!


RIP Voodoo ...Long Live Razer

If you had been a follower of Voodoo you'll know that I have nothing but love for Razer. Razer is truly unique.  They are much more than a premium gaming accessory company.
Razer took a backwards approach to our strategy --- There was a time when Voodoo was building beautiful luxury performance & gaming PCs.  Our systems were a significant departure from anything in the market.  With out of control attention to detail, technology, and performance, we ended up settings standards in how companies built gaming PCs.  Our PCs were to become a halo for an accessory strategy that we were just starting to roll out.
At that time Razer was building premium gaming accessories, their business was growing in leaps and bounds as their enigmatic CEO and dedicated team built a brand and culture that captured an audience of diehard fans.  Razer recently started a devices business on the back of their huge accessory business.  A devices business with a purpose.  Their devices are beautiful, thoughtful, soulful and they fill a hole in the market that many gamers have been clamoring for. 

In the process Min built a halo product for their entire brand, the Razer Blade.  There is definitely a method to his madness.  
Very similar to Voodoo, and dare I say it – very similar to Apple (in the very early days), Razer developed a cult following.  Having a growing fanbase is priceless for multiple reasons, not least of which is you create an army of evangelists at no cost.  I can’t even begin to explain how important Apple’s fans and evangelists were when the company was suffering – it’s something that all companies struggle to build.  Razer has it.  They have all the ingredients to be a spectacular break out company. I believe they are a company to watch. 

Min and I have been working together in some capacity for many years, in a way we're kindred spirits.  So all said, Razer is the definitive spiritual successor to Voodoo.  They have a soulful brand, a unique identity, a premium product with their own technology, and most important – a fanbase and culture that can never be replicated.  They are also independent, and profitable. 
I rarely do stuff like this – but by making it official and becoming an advisor to their board of directors I can finally scratch that itch that I’ve had since I saw the first carbon fiber Voodoo ENVY came off the line. … and the recurring nightmares of waking up one morning to a printer with my brand stamped on it will no longer haunt me.
So now I can continue to focus on the next great chapter of my life.  I could write a book on this story – maybe one day I will.  This is a great end to one era and the beginning of another.

RIP VoodooPC, and Long Live Razer!   


Bing Fund welcomes Sonar


March is full of excitement and promises. Spring is on the horizon. People are restless. And Austin readies itself for the annual geek-stampede that is SXSW Interactive.
That was the scene last year where Bing once again had the pleasure of hanging out with the Sonar crew led by founder, Brett Martin. Over the years, Bing has crossed paths with Sonar across the land of tech probably more than any other startup.
Whether it was TC Disrupt NYC, PSFK NYC, at our own pop-up gallery, SMW, and most recently Xconomy NYC, wherever we went, it seemed that cool little periscope was right there with us.
We would bring each other up to speed, and talk about “hey, wouldn’t it be cool to work together?” And go our separate ways until the next serendipitous encounter.
This is why we’re particularly excited about today’s announcement that Sonar will be part of the Bing Fund. Did I mention that we love NYC? What a great startup city ...


Shedding more light on Hackathon for Autism

Starting next month, Bing Fund is excited to kick off the first in a series of hackathons around autism. You can find additional details and registration info here.
Last week we started sharing details about the event, primarily on Twitter. Overwhelmingly the response has been positive with many of you expressing support and sharing the news. However, we also received some feedback questioning our motivation and methodology. By sharing the following, we hope to bring more clarity to the event:
Q. Why did you pick autism as a theme?
A. Autism is a neural development disorder that impacts millions of lives, including many Northwest-area families in the high technology industry.  Existing tools and solutions for families and institutions coping with autism are lacking.  Adoption of evolving technologies to support new functional scenarios is sorely needed throughout the lifetime of an individual with autism.
Q. Why the focus on children? What about helping adults?
A. Based on extensive conversations with researchers and top thinkers in the field of autism, we repeatedly heard this is where the biggest need was when it came to making a lifelong impact on people with autism – helping children grow independence. This is not to say adults can’t benefit from more help, they can. But while adults, generally, tend to have more options depending on where they fall on the spectrum, effective support for children is often lacking.
This is where, as a tech community using a hackathon format, we felt we could drive the biggest utility around by building apps, for example. Based on what we learn at our first event, we very well may shift our focus to other age groups. If you have thoughts on this topic, always feel free to leave us a comment below. 
Q. I saw the agenda. Why isn’t anybody with autism represented?
A. We are actively working with and looking for families touched by autism or autistic individuals to join us at the event. Participation by autistic individuals is absolutely critical to helping formulate and test the scenarios we want to tackle. In addition, we are still refining the agenda so ideas or suggestions on how we can better represent the community are welcome. 
Q. What do you hope to achieve, exactly, through the event?
A. Quality prototypes—an online application for a mobile device, for example—which will be subsequently developed at future hackathons or independently by interested parties. The ultimate goal is to introduce a product to market that will help people in real life.  
Every hackathon is a learning experience whether you’re a builder, a thinker, a subject matter expert, or even a spectator. This is true for us as a host – the Bing Fund – and we expect and encourage different thoughts and suggestions be shared as we go along.  Healthy dialogue is the lifeblood of a vibrant, passionate community.
We appreciate the engagement, and if you’re in Seattle on March 22-
24, I hope you can join us in any capacity.
Bing Fund Team