Microsoft added more than 30 companies to its Startup Accelerator Program this week. Which is kind of like the Federal Reserve's three-quarters of a percent cut in a key interest rates Tuesday ... some might think it's too little too late.Microsoft has been wooing startup companies since 1999 with its Emerging Business Team. The endeavor had limited success at the time because it was a transition stage for Microsoft. This was the period of the company's history in which it's philosophy was to either acquire or isolate smaller companies. It also was a time when IBM was pushing open source and the community rallied around the Eclipse project.
You know the rest: Eclipse has had wonderful success in the marketplace, while Microsoft has had to return to its roots and prove that it has the innards that can help companies grow a partner ecosystem without having to fear vicious competition.
Tuesday's announcement means Microsoft is entering the second phase of its Startup Accelerator Program, adding smaller companies such as Lijit, Me.dium, Xobni, Clarizen, and RingCentral to the 20 existing partners such as Accellos, iBloks, Tutor.com, Kiptronic, Spot Runner, video advertising startup YuMe.
Me.dium's VP David Mandell was particularly impressed. "We would never have imagined that a company as large as Microsoft would have the desire to focus on a small startup such as Me.dium, but we were completely blown away by the attention and access to people that we were given and owe much of our current success to that relationship," he said
Another startup participating in the program is Berkeley, Calif.-based StoreXperience. The firm makes mobile-shopping software. Since joining the program, StoreXperience reports it has introduced a new mobile application that converts shoppers' mobile phones into personal shopping assistants by using new, interactive bar codes.
"The team looks at a number of criteria, including marketability, growth potential, funding, management and management history, platform decisions, and strategic importance to Microsoft," Dodge said.
The Microsoft Startup Accelerator Program has local implementation in France, Germany, India, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
What this means is that Microsoft is putting an increased effort in developing its ecosystem in the same way that it has bolstered its developer program for native and plug-in applications.
Microsoft's challenge now is to overcome some of its missteps from the past. Smaller companies were put off by the high cost of Microsoft's licenses before, which is why startups had favored open source software. Flexibility also had been a selling point for open source standards; a stark contrast to Microsoft's rigid architecture.
Hopefully, with changes to its focus on more open standards, Microsoft can learn from its past and build bridges to its software platforms -- not competition.