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Think Next: Microsoft for Startups China Enables Chinese Innovations to “Go Global” and Overseas Innovations to “Go China”

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China Is The Only Country In The World That Has Two Microsoft ScaleUp Centers, Namely Microsoft ScaleUp Beijing and Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai

james chou_4yfn
James Chou

Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai today hosted the Think Next demo day for its third cohort of startup companies. 14 entrepreneurial teams shared their innovative achievements in areas of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data, Internet of Things, and blockchain to more than 400 co-builders of the innovation ecosystem at the event. Shizhong Fang, mayor of the Xuhui District Government of Shanghai; Jing Chen Vice President of INESA (Group) Co., Ltd.; Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Chairman of Microsoft Asia-Pacific R&D Group and Managing Director of Microsoft Research Asia; as well as officials from relevant government offices of the Xuhui District Government; well-known venture capital institutions and investors; and more than 40 key media representatives were in attendance. James Chou, Managing Director and CEO-in-Residence of Microsoft for Startups Shanghai, reviewed the Accelerator’s major progress and global upgrading efforts in innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem development.

“Emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud computing, continue to evolve, making digital transformation an important issue that no company, organization or even government can turn a blind eye to. In the face of tremendous opportunities, we will push forward digital transformation as a service (DTaaS), give full play to the technological and talent advantages of Microsoft R&D, and jointly promote upgrading in various industries with other innovative companies so that scientific innovations and commercial applications would be able to inspire each other, to drive change, and to work for the future with wisdom,” said Dr. Hon.

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Early this year, Microsoft launched a new initiative known as Microsoft for Startups that aims to accelerate the growth of startups around the world by offering co-selling options to startups, along with expanded access to Microsoft technology, increased technical and business support, and new community spaces that promote collaboration within local ecosystems. Microsoft is in a unique position to help startups reach new customers across geographies and industries with over 40,000 Microsoft sellers, hundreds of thousands of partners, and 90% of Fortune 500 customers using the Microsoft Azure. Over the next two years, Microsoft is committing USD 500 million to become the first major cloud provider to offer co-selling options to startups.

Microsoft ScaleUp (formerly known as Microsoft Accelerator) stands as a key part of the Microsoft for Startups program initiative, is designing for series A startups and offers access to sales, marketing and technical support. It also takes full responsibility for evangelizing in the developer community with Microsoft technologies to enhance innovation capabilities at each stage of the development cycle of startups to scale their business rapidly. Microsoft has acquired GitHub, the world’s leading software development community, which will help start-up developers better use GitHub and Microsoft’s technology and tools, enhance the capabilities of all phases of the development lifecycle, and enhance the impact of the global developer community.

As of June 2018, Microsoft ScaleUp in China has successfully accelerated the growth of 231 startup companies. Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai has successfully accelerated 43 startups with total market valuation of more than 55.6 billion RMB, including 23 companies each valuated between 100 million and 1 billion RMB, 19 between 1 and 5 billion RMB, and 1 between 5 and 10 billion RMB.

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For Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai Cohort 3, their total market valuation reached 17.8 billion RMB. Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai provides Cohort 3 alumni with a full-stack acceleration service. Alumni companies were given access to Microsoft Azure cloud services operated by 21Vianet, Microsoft Cognitive Services, machine learning, Cortana, and other tools. Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai has also matched opportunities for alumni companies with top companies and leading investment institutions such as SIG, IDG, Cheung Fung Capital, Jinsha River Venture Capital, Broadband Capital, and Softbank China through matchmaking events and VC Day events and other channels. Moreover, Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai provided entrepreneurial training covering management, finance, recruitment, and public relations to enhance their capabilities with executives from big names including IDEO, Apple University, PricewaterhouseCoopers, King & Wood Mallesons, Fosun Group, and ZhenFund as lecturers.

Microsoft ScaleUp is planning to helping Chinese alumni companies “Go Global” and overseas alumni companies “Go China.”

Caicloud, a Microsoft Scale Up-Shanghai startup, successfully helped Vipshop, the third-largest e-commerce platform in China, to win overseas markets in March 2018. Recent years see an increasing number of Chinese companies marketing “Made in China” to the rest of the world through cross-border e-commerce, and Vipshop was one of them. It was once confronted by two major problems: the digital precision-marketing system, and the mix of merchandise on e-commerce platforms. So, the One Commercial Partner (OCP) recommended Caicloud to Vipshop. Riding on the back of its technological superiority in AI algorithm, Caicloud churned out a solution that met the unique business needs of Vipshop, and chose Microsoft Azure as its operating platform. This has not only satisfied Vipshop’s initial demand for higher efficiency at lower cost, but also enable the client to focus its resources on its core business. “With help from Microsoft, we got to know Caicloud, the best AI consultant in China. Caicloud provided us with very professional services and helped us rapidly through the digital transformation by thorough mining of data value,” said Zhong Wei, General Manager of Overseas and Exports Division at Vipshop.

TapReason, an alumni company of Microsoft ScaleUp Tel Aviv, uses its real-time moment-scoring system to capture on a daily basis tens of millions of “positive moments” when most purchases are made to help its clients maximize conversion rates. TapReason is currently working with top companies across Asia, Europe, and the United States. With recommendations by Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai, TapReason brought its real-time moment-scoring system to China, and has successfully signed contracts with Vipshop.

In July 2017, Roadstar.ai, a start-up for unmanned-driving solutions, became a Cohort 2 alumni company at Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai. With full support from Microsoft ScaleUp, Roadstar.ai launched R&D centers in both Silicon Valley and Shenzhen, and completed open-road tests in the United States. It hit a record high with unmanned driving tests, including an average of one manual intervention per month in California, and several hours without manual take-over in high-complex urban road conditions. Roadstar.ai secured an A-round financing of US$128 million in May 2018, the largest amount for unmanned-driving solution developers in China. Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai introduced many global automobile manufacturing and automobile parts companies such as BMW, Honda, ZF Group, Friedrichshafen, and Continental AG to help them to go global.

James Chou said, “We connect startups to Microsoft’s global sales engine, and bring solutions from these startups to Microsoft’s global clients, which addressed startups’ pain point in gaining clients at early stages of development, and therefore accelerates their growth. Another focus of ours is to continue to develop a more comprehensive innovation ecosystem and to build a better community of developers and entrepreneurs to foster and support innovation and entrepreneurship in China. In addition, helping Chinese startup companies to enter the overseas market and enabling overseas startup companies under Microsoft ScaleUp to come to the Chinese market will be our next major goals. ”

Microsoft ScaleUp is a global project of Microsoft that helps potential startups achieve growth of “1-to-N.”

China is the only country in the world that has two Microsoft ScaleUp centers, namely Microsoft ScaleUp Beijing and Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai.

As of June 2018, 231 innovative companies in China have enrolled in Microsoft ScaleUp, and their total valuation has exceeded RMB130,687 million, with an average growth rate exceeding 400%. Four alumni companies have been floating their shares on the “New 3rd Board,” while another 13 were merged or acquired. Microsoft ScaleUp has been named “China’s Best Crowd-Venture Space” for five consecutive years since its presence in China in 2012. Products and services from its alumni companies now cover more than 10 million corporate customers and 700 million individual users in the country.

Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai was formally established on January 22, 2017, owing thanks to vigorous joint efforts from Microsoft, the Xuhui District Government and INESA (Group). Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai is also the second of its kind in China and the eighth in the world. Firmly rooted in Shanghai, China’s financial center, Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai integrates ideal resources in technology, financing, and information, and takes full advantage of Shanghai’sgeographical advantages and policy supports. It has become an excellent base for venture and innovation in East China. Due to its unique background, Microsoft ScaleUp Shanghai is committed to providing more thoughtful acceleration services to residential companies: deeper interaction with the Xuhui District Government and the Shanghai Municipal Government; profound and efficient matching with the needs of INESA and other large groups and corporations; and rapid and all-around growth of alumni companies toward industry and market leadership.

Microsoft ScaleUp aims to become a provider of top-notch and professional entrepreneurial services, committed to making multidimensional and quality services of “talent-financing-strategy-market development” to innovative companies in China. Two massive auditions are held every year in the Greater China Region, with 15 to 20 startups making the cut each round. All enrollees will have access to internationalized office spaces for 4 to 6 months and will be supervised by a mentor group consisting of thought leaders, industry gurus, and technical experts. Each enrollee is entitled to a variety of resources including Microsoft Azure Cloud for a total value of 1.5 million RMB, all of which are part of free-of-charge lifelong alumni services.

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