Luminous uses Microsoft’s cloud platform and other products. Microsoft, in its startup accelerator programme in India, had mentored a venture called iBot that focused on enabling manufacturers, businesses and people connect, control and engage with machines. Microsoft introduced Luminous to iBot and Luminous quickly realized iBot had exactly the sensor device it was looking for.
Luminous has since incorporated the iBot sensor in their inverters, and the first set of such inverters will hit the market next week. iBot was part of the February 2015 batch of the accelerator programme. “The accelerator has an ongoing engagement programme. They don’t forget you the moment you leave them,” says Ravi Subramanyam, founder and CEO of iBot.
Microsoft, thanks to its accelerator programme and its extensive global enterprise customer base of 25,000, has turned a matchmaker for many startups and enterprises. And some startups have seen their business zoom in just a few months.
CloudCherry, a Chennai based customer experience management venture, had a customer base of 10 enterprises and 30 small & medium businesses (SMBs) in India just before they entered Microsoft’s accelerator programme in September last year. By the time they were out of it in December, they had 20 customers in the US and another 100 leads in India. Mobile app testing firm CanvasFlip, which was in the same batch, saw its client base jumping from 100 to 220 in the same period.
“It is not a referral. We co-market and co-sell and they pitch and stitch partnerships or us even in our absence,” says Vinod Muthukrishnan, CEO and co-founder of CloudCherry. Microsoft’s was the first major accelerator programme in India and has grown into by far the most robust. Since launching in mid-2012, the accelerator has seen 84 startups graduating n seven batches. Six of those startups have been acquired.
“The biggest problem most startups face is access and connections with enterprise customers,” says Harish Vaidyanathan, who heads the independent software vendor ecosystem engagement for Microsoft India.
In the more recent accelerator batches, the company has been taking startups with a relatively large customer base and those that have raised funding. Now, the average startup profile reads like this: a four-year-old firm with $1.5 million in funding and sizeable business, with about 32 employees and led by three 39year-old co-founders.
“Most startups at this stage cannot handle the company because they are growing exponentially either the employee base or the customer base. Sometimes you need to tweak the product a little bit for it to go from 100 customers to reach 1,000 customers,” says Ravi Narayan, CEO in residence at Microsoft Ventures, indicating that Microsoft is able to help the startups to address these issues.
And the whole arrangement is mutually beneficial. Since the startups have a working innovative product, Microsoft gains by offering it along with its own products. “All big corporates are always looking for innovation and there is no better way but to look up to entrepreneurs,” Narayan says.