Microsoft Announces 10 Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure Startup Finalists

Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie has announced the finalists of the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure program for startups, where they will become a part of a three-month program in which they build new products and businesses that utilize the Azure platform.

Here’s a list of the ten announced finalists:

  • Advertory – Berlin, Germany. Advertory helps local businesses increase revenue and build customer loyalty.
  • Appetas  Seattle, WA. Appetas’ mission is to make restaurants look as beautiful online as they do on the plate!
  • BagsUp – Sydney, Australia. Find great places from people you trust.
  • Embarke – San Diego, CA. Embarke allows developers and companies the ability to integrate with any human communication channel (Facebook, Email, Text Message, Twitter) without having to learn the specifics, write code, or spend time on any of them.
  • Fanzo – Seattle, WA. Fanzo puts sports fans in the spotlight. Find other fans, show off your fanswagger and get rewarded for your passion.
  • MetricsHub – Bellevue, WA. A service providing cloud monitoring with incident detection and prebuilt workflows for remedying common problems.
  • Mobilligy – Bellevue, WA. Mobilligy revolutionizes how people pay their bills by bringing convenient, secure, and instant bill payment support to mobile devices.
  • Realty Mogul – Los Angeles, CA. Realty Mogul is a crowdfunding platform for real estate where accredited investors pool capital and invest in properties that are acquired, managed and eventually resold by professional private real estate companies and their management teams.
  • Staq – San Francisco, CA. Back-end as a service for APIs.
  • Socedo – Bellevue, WA. A simple and effective web application for lead generation and relationship management on Twitter.

Each startup will be seattle-based, and mentored by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and “leaders” from Azure and other Microsoft organizations. The first month in the program will be spend mulling over ideas and refining their business concepts with input from these experts and other Microsoft customers, and the final two months will be spent designing and developing their products.

All of their ideas will then be presented to investors and Microsoft partners at an event in mid-January.

This isn’t the only program for startups offered by the tech giant. Microsoft also has other programs to help budding companies get off the ground, such as the Bing Fund, BizSpark, and the Kinect Accelerator Program, among others.

Image Credit: Carlos Gutiérrez G. (Flickr)

Microsoft Launches a Startup Incubator in India – Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure

Microsoft India has announced the launch of Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure in India. In a first for any technology company in India, the incubator will host 10 early-stage startups and help them build businesses in Cloud, Internet, and Mobile that can take the advantage of the Cloud such as e-commerce, mobile, media, social applications, gaming, education & healthcare, or even enterprise products.

The four-month incubation program will provide the selected startups with all the support and mentorship as part of a deep immersion program with the elite technical and business leaders in the industry, as well as at Microsoft, and investors with diverse experiences. The selected startups will also have access to all the resources of Microsoft’s BizSpark program and $60,000 in Azure credit through the Microsoft BizSpark Plus program. The program is part of the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), and hence the inducted startups will have access to the global resources of GAN.

Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure is hosted in Microsoft’s state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Bangalore, and you would have to be full-time on the site for the four months. The facility offers everything from work areas, meeting rooms, communications, video conferencing to even a usability lab for filming product demos. The incubator is not open for only Indian citizens/residents, but anyone from anywhere can apply. Of course, you would have to be in India during the program.

At the end of the four month program, Microsoft will organize an Investor Demo Day where Microsoft executives as well as angel investors and venture capitalists will check out your technology and listen to your pitch. Microsoft will also organize informal dinners each week and invite key industry leaders, influencers, and thought leaders to speak on relevant topics.

In a conversation over Skype, Amit Chatterjee(Managing Director, Microsoft India (R&D) Pvt Ltd) mentioned that success of this program will be measured by the success of these startups. Microsoft would not retain any equity or IP from the companies and is not a stakeholder in any way. Although, there are no definite plans, he was optimistic that if successful the program can scale up to include more startups in next phases or extend to other cities with a similar thriving startup ecosystem. A similar program has been announced in Seattle few weeks ago and one has been kicked off in Israel.

Starting today till July 1, 2012, you can apply for the program. Ten applicants, selected through a rigorous process of screening, will be invited to join the program in starting September 3, 2012. Details:

Entrepreneur Talks About Silicon Valley’s Disdain & Bias Against Microsoft

Every time Robert Scoble and TechCrunch talk about a new revolutionary iPhone app coming out of Silicon Valley, many wonder why is iPhone the first choice. In Microsoft’s second attempt at mobile phones, I’ve been questioning the lack of support from the startup world. Microsoft has had to use its own money to several apps onto the marketplace but the new developers still stick with iOS.

In an interview with Wired, startup entrepreneur Jeremy Howard explains the primary reason. Coming from someone within the Valley, Howard’s comments cannot be disputed. Howard is very categorical in his interview about what fellow entrepreneurs feel about Microsoft and the company’s development tools. In short—they’re not cool. In the age of gazillion development languages, it’s a tough to choose one, usually one opts for what they feel is slightly better than the other and as a developer know a little about. If I know C#, I’d feel comfortable using the language over Ruby on Rails and vice versa. Howard’s comments come with a back story, his startup Kaggle runs on Microsoft’s Windows Azure—a cloud computing platform. And according to his fellow Valley entrepreneurs, Howard doesn’t know what he’s doing since he’s using Microsoft’s products. Some select quotes from Cade Metz’s article on Wired:

In this echo chamber which is the [San Francisco] Bay Area, unless you follow what everyone else does, then there’s an assumption that you don’t know what you’re doing.

Silicon Valley types think that Jeremy Howard doesn’t know what he’s doing because he runs Kaggle on Windows Azure, […]. Kaggle once ran on Amazon EC2 — the most popular cloud in the Valley […]

they [developers in the Valley] look at him funny when he says that Kaggle uses Azure. “People say, ‘Oh, I’ll have to teach you about Java sometime, so then you’ll know the bright side.

Judging from interviews with myriad coders over the past several months, Azure isn’t just off the Silicon Valley radar. It’s misunderstood […] by the younger generation of coders who grew up on open source software and such languages as Ruby and Python.

The Wired article explain a bigger problem for Microsoft. Not only is the company’s mobile platform getting traction, their next-generation cloud platform is having a similar perception problem. Howard explains that he knows 18 different languages and feels C# is as good as it can get. For Kaggle and Howard, Azure works well with .Net languages—a reason why he moved from Amazon’s infrastructure cloud to Microsoft’s cloud platform.

Microsoft Launches Two New Azure Datacenters

In order to meet the growing demand for Microsoft’s Azure cloud service, the company has announced the immediate availability of two additional US datacenters, both offering “compute” and “storage” resources. Aptly dubbed “East US” and “West US”, the specific locations and sizes of the datacenters were not revealed. However, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley thinks that the east coast location may be in Southern Virginia — an already announced datacenter location — and the west coast location may be in West Des Moines, Iowa; which was previously picked as a datacenter location by Microsoft.

What about SQL Azure availability? The blog post mentioned that it’s set to be available on these datacenters sometime within the coming months. “These new options add to our worldwide presence and significantly expand our US footprint”, writes Cameron Rogers, who penned the announcement post on the Azure Team Blog. “As some eager customers have already discovered (and deployed!), these new datacenters are now visible in the Windows Azure Management Portal.”

Definitely cool to see that demand is there for Azure, at least in the US to justify two additional datacenters on top of the existing two (the other US datacenter locations are in Chicago and San Antonio.) Microsoft also has datacenters in Amsterdam, Dublin, Hong Kong, and Singapore. All Azure datacenters contain around 1800-2500 servers on average.

Data Analytics on Windows Azure

Project Daytona is designed to support a wide class of data analytics and machine learning algorithms. The project, code-named Daytona, is built on Windows Azure and employs the available Windows Azure compute and data services to offer a scalable and high-performance system for data analytics. Project Daytona is part of an active research and development project in the eXtreme Computing Group of Microsoft Research and made its debut at the Microsoft Research Faculty Summit  last week.

Researchers in a wide range of domains, such as healthcare, education, and environmental science, have large and growing data collections, and they need simple tools to help them find signals in their data and uncover insights. Project Dayton is available, as a free download, so that researchers can use it to set up their own large-scale, cloud data-analysis service on Windows Azure. Almost any application that involves data manipulation and analysis can take advantage of Project Daytona. Project Daytona explores a specific use case: Data analytics as a service on Windows Azure.

Project Daytona is designed for the cloud, specifically for Windows Azure and for cloud storage services. It consumes data with minimum overhead and with the ability to recover from failures. Project Daytona is horizontally scalable and elastic. This allows you to focus on your data exploration without having to worry about acquiring compute capacity or time-consuming hardware setup and management. Since algorithms in data analytics and machine learning are often iterative, Project Daytona provides support for iterative computations in its core runtime.

The current release of Project Daytona is a research technology preview (RTP). The team continues to tune the performance of Project Daytona and work on adding new functionality.

Social Gaming Powered By Windows Azure

Microsoft has figured out an interesting way to get into the social games business. The social gaming market continues to grow in terms of number of users and profits. These social applications have the potential to grow from a few users to millions of users in an incredibly short period of time, and therefore, they need a robust, scalable, and dependable platform.

According to the Social Gaming: Marketers Make Their Move report by eMarketer,  the social gaming market will increase to $1.32 billion in revenues by 2012, up from $856 million in 2010. Today, Amazon hosts many online games, including big Facebook games, developed by Zynga and others. Companies like Playdom, the makers of Bola Social Soccer – a Facebook, Sonico, and Orkut game with over 5 million users, are already using Windows Azure as their backend platform.

Microsoft is focusing on building tools to help other game developers ramp up quickly, while they host their games on Windows Azure. Windows Azure is built on the principles of on-demand scalable computing resources, storage, and geographic delivery. These principles mirror the needs of social games. With that premise, the Windows Azure team has launched a preview of the Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games. The toolkit allows you to quickly get started building new social games with Windows Azure whether you want to build social games as a hobby or you want to reach millions of gamers.

The Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games allows you to quickly get started building new social games in Windows Azure. The toolkit includes accelerators, libraries, developer tools, and samples that you can use in your own .NET or HTML5 game. It enables unique capabilities that are prerequisites for an average social game, such as storing user profiles, maintaining leader boards, in-app purchasing and so forth.

As a proof-of-concept, the toolkit also includes source code for a game called Tankster, created by Grant Skinner, a popular game developer. The game is also available online to play for free. The game is built with HTML5 and supports a variety of social interactions including messaging, wall posts, and comments while player achievements and game stats are presented on a live leaderboard so gamers can interact with each other.

The toolkit is available for free, and game developers can use the same to build social games and applications in a short period of time.

WP7 Sent To The Cloud, Then Sends Data To Microsoft’s Cloud

A UK based start up company – Segoz, part of the Atmospheric Science Through Robotic Aircraft (ASTRA) group decided to send a Windows Phone 7 device into the Stratosphere to gather data useful for research.

A custom application on the phone gathered location data using GPS and using GSM network transmitted this to Windows Azure. The setup allowed scientists to predict trajectories for different pay loads and helium gas in the balloon.  An excerpt from the project’s description page explains the project:

The Windows Azure workers are used to calculate predicted landing sites,  based on factors such as  payload weight and atmospheric conditions,  for various helium quantities.   Once a landing site has been chosen and the flight commenced, the Azure workers update the predicted trajectory based on updated location information  received from  a Windows Phone 7 device within the payload. The latest predicted landing sites are automatically sent out to the balloon followers.

The device was sent as high as a Concorde flight, which according to Wikipedia is 60,039 ft and survived the atmospheric conditions. Based on the image, the device is either the HTC Mozart or the Trophy. Here’s a video on the experiment:

Get Microsoft Silverlight