How Microsoft can gain fast ground with Startups

Yesterday TechCrunch posted an article about a blog written by someone at Microsoft which was eventually yanked. The blog post was a tongue in cheek father vs son debate about the differences between Office 365 and Google Apps. Putting the post aside, I thought it was a good opportunity to write about my experiences on this topic. 


Goodbye Microsoft, I had fun ...

Hi everyone, this morning I sent my letter of resignation to Microsoft. It's bittersweet since I have been a partner of Microsoft’s since I was 17, and to get the opportunity to come full circle and work here was a dream come true. 

In January of 2011 my family and I moved from Calgary to Seattle to join Microsoft with the mission to create or be part of something amazing. I wanted to be a part of a team that would help change people’s lives, little did I realize how quickly that mission would come true. 

My first year was an experience, navigating the halls, multiple managers and re-orgs, it was hard but always interesting. In that time I was fortunate enough to meet some good people and those meetings led to the creation of first incubation fund for start-ups (the Bing Fund). Eventually that led to getting together with a few more folks from across the company to create and lead Microsoft Ventures

Microsoft Ventures is helping start-ups solve many problems around the world.  We operate 7 amazing accelerators in Bangalore, Beijing, Berlin, London, Paris, Redmond, and Tel-Aviv. We are encouraging diversity, we inspire students to consider entrepreneurship, we are helping to build and evolve start-up ecosystems, and we've been covered favorably by the press over and over again globally. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the progress we've made -- it's simply inspiring.  

Microsoft is an amazing place to work, it’s the one place where you can take on any challenge and thrive, we have a living founder who has dedicated his life to making the world a better place, and the people are just so damn smart.  I am so thankful for this memorable life changing experience. I’m now ready to take my next step. Now that Microsoft Ventures is up and running and in a good place I think it’s about damn time for me to jump out and risk everything again. 

I basically created my dream job and now I'm leaving it - this is the kind of crazy shit entrepreneurs do (or at least I keep telling myself that!). My gaming past continues to drive unrest inside me, starting with Voodoo, and then advising various companies including Razer and Vrvana, and now... 

I’m on a mission to create something cool, therefore I’ll be leaving Microsoft to create Unikrn (details forthcoming)… I may be distracted for a little while but you may contact us at Unikrn's website, or find me on FacebookLinkedIn, or Twitter.  We are looking for some good talent in the Seattle area. 

I made some lifelong friends at Microsoft, I am forever indebted to you. Thank you all for the fun times, and thank you for believing. This is just the beginning for Microsoft Ventures, your future is very bright. Best wishes to all of you… 

rahul sood . former gm microsoft ventures . ceo unikrn . @rahulsood


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge


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!