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New Microsoft Ventures Unit to Focus on Early Stage Investment

May 31, 2016, 11:37 AM UTC
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BARCELONA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 22: A logo sits illuminated outside the Microsoft pavilion on the opening day of the World Mobile Congress at the Fira Gran Via Complex on February 22, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. The annual Mobile World Congress hosts some of the world's largest communications companies, with many unveiling their latest phones and wearables gadgets. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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Microsoft is launching a venture arm that wants to make early stage investments in startups focused on cutting-edge cloud computing technologies, security, and a few other high-value areas.

To be clear, the new Microsoft Ventures takes its name from a previous unit that was part of the software giant’s developer evangelism effort. That group backed accelerator programs that provided young companies with software tools and expertise, not necessarily funding. That group will now be known as Microsoft Accelerator.

The news was disclosed in a blog post by Nagraj Kashyap, the former head of Qualcomm Ventures who joined Microsoft in January.

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Here’s how Kashyap, the corporate vice president in charge of Microsoft Ventures, outlines how Microsoft (MSFT) parcels out its investment interest:

On one side of the spectrum, we help early stage companies with tools, technology and consulting through Microsoft Accelerator. And at the other end is where you’ll typically see our larger investments and acquisitions. Microsoft Ventures now fills a gap we’ve had somewhere in the middle of that range.

The unit will be on the lookout for (what else?) “bleeding-edge companies” working on products or services that complement Azure cloud computing infrastructure or new applications to be delivered as software-as-a-service subscription products. Microsoft is also looking for technologies to augment its HoloLens virtual reality products and “disruptive enterprise, consumer productivity, and communication products around Office 365.”

Office 365 is Microsoft’s subscription service that delivers Office desktop software, collaboration, and email to customers.

And Kashyap said Microsoft Ventures will also look for companies doing good work in machine learning and security.

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Kashyap, along with Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development who is also a Qualcomm (QCOM) veteran, will have “presence” in Seattle, the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area, New York City, and Tel Aviv to start. Israel has been a hotbed for startups in the cybersecurity realm. Check Point Software, Palo Alto Networks, CyberArk, Imperva, and Adallom, a security company purchased by Microsoft last year, all started in Israel.

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Virtually every tech giant, including Cisco (CSCO) (Cisco Investments), Google (GOOG) (with Google Ventures now known as GV), and Intel (INTC) (Intel Capital, which just canceled a $1 billion sale of assets) has an investment arm. The idea is that the promise of funding gives big tech companies a clearer window into the go-go world of tech startups.

This story was updated at 1:55 p.m. EDT to reflect a spokeswoman’s statement that there will be no Microsoft Venture “offices” in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Seattle or Tel Aviv. The original blog post promised “a presence” in those locales. As to what form that “presence” will take—your guess is as good as mine.