Kick-Started: Microsoft Ventures Accelerator London Demo Day
09-12-2013
By Michel Van der Bel, Managing director, Microsoft UK and vice president, Microsoft International, @MichelVdBel
Microsoft Ventures Accelerator London Demo Day took place Friday 6 December
December 09, 2013

“I swear the next person who tells me their startup is “disruptive” when it manifestly isn’t, is going to get kicked in the shin.” – Ben Rooney, The Wall Street Journal Europe.

At first glance, this tweet might seem a little harsh. However, as one of the leading technology commentators in the UK, who is very much in front of the startup community, Ben’s comments reflect a broader tension in the UK technology sector. It’s a sector that the Government has described as “crucial to our success on the global stage, our competitiveness and our connectedness – to our whole economy, but one that is under threat from two overlapping issues.

Firstly, there is the on-going debate surrounding the difficulty in creating an entrepreneurial mind-set in the UK. This is coupled with what I call a ‘crisis of invention’, meaning that we simply won’t have enough people who understand the engine room of creativity in the 21st century. That engine is Computer Science. In the UK it’s a subject in declining interest and from which only 7,434 students graduated last year. These combined issues perhaps underline the frustration that is kicking at the shins’ of the startup community today. It’s something that Education Secretary, Michael Gove, highlighted in an interview in The Telegraph last week.

Nevertheless, judging by the energy and excitement at our Microsoft Ventures Accelerator London Demo Day last Friday afternoon, this is a community that is focused on addressing these challenges.

During a lively question and answer session, I was asked what Microsoft is doing to help these issues. Fuelling the engine that is Computer Science is very important to Microsoft and, alongside others in the industry, we have worked hard to ensure that Computer Science, and not just ICT, will be included in the curriculum from 2014. More broadly, through Microsoft Ventures, we’re getting back to our entrepreneurial roots to work with entrepreneurs at every stage of maturity across the startup ecosystem – from idea to product and then into market and beyond.

As the Demo Day progressed, I had the honour of welcoming five promising companies that participated in our Pilot Accelerator Programme in London. In addition to their diverse offerings, these companies ( Colinked , KO-SU, GallantCloud Games, SpeakInConfidence and Whispering Gibbon) represent an equally diverse group of people including university buddies, a city lawyer and a social worker.

These teams had been through a 12-week programme, during which, experienced and passionate mentors pushed their company propositions to the limits. Experts in subjects from Lean Startup Methodology, finance and IP law to PR and social media imparted valuable knowledge, and VCs scrutinised their business plans. This journey culminated in several incredibly smart and polished pitches to an audience of investors and tech industry gurus. The session itself was similar to the BBC’s Dragon’s Den, but rather than exhibiting a hard-nosed edge, this audience was very much engaged in the ambitions of these companies and keen to see them succeed.

Following the pitches, we announced the first full cohort of companies to the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in London. This next Accelerator cohort begins in February 2014, and from what I have seen from our Pilot, these promising companies will no doubt find themselves kick-started into today’s vibrant tech startup community – a community that includes a number of partners who have been instrumental to the launch of Microsoft Ventures UK.

For anyone who has a ground breaking idea in the area of cloud, internet, mobile or gaming, please contact Microsoft Ventures Accelerator London or follow us on Twitter at @msftventuresuk / #MSVDemoday, #MSFTVenturesUK to learn more about the Accelerator programme.

The Microsoft Ventures Accelerator London February 2014 Cohort:

  • Barpass: a mobile ordering platform that lets consumers order and pay for their food, drink or merchandise, automatically.

  • Buying Butler: making complex purchases simple

  • Caribu: allows young children and their families to video-call and read books at the same time, no matter where they are.

  • Cognisess: a people analytics solution that uses objective performance-based games, big data insight and neuroscience to provide multi–dimensional assessment and more.

  • Dataloop.io:  a Cloud Monitoring Service designed for Enterprises running Cloud Services at scale, delivering agility and speed to a DevOps team.

  • Gateway Interactive: their latest game, Pure Space, aims to provide players with a new and never before seen game experience by taking advantage of the latest cloud technologies.

  • SKARA: is both a versus game and a multiplayer game featuring adversarial control and combat set in massive multiplayer arenas that will revolution the social fighting landscape.

  • Stat.io: is building a search engine for the world's socio-economic data. 

  • UXCam is an app that captures usability data when a user interacts with an app, providing visual and statistical insights to improve usability of the app or website.

  • Vastari: a unique online platform to connect museum curators and private collectors for exhibition loans.

  • Vivid Technologies: Tackling customer service issues – by ending the endless wait and annoyance of a customer service call.

  • Von Bismark: are building an ecommerce platform for the high street, pioneering the next wave of the physical web for retail.

Five companies that participated in the Pilot Accelerator Programme attended the day
December 09, 2013

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