TechStars Days: Microsoft Day
This is part three of my TechStars Days series of posts.
Dave Drach (Emerging Business Team)
Dave is heavily involved in the Boulder / Denver Startup scene, working with Lijit, NewsGator, Search-To-Phone, Filtrbox and others. Dave basically told us MS loves developers and does everything they can to nurture developers working on their platform. I didn’t know that from the MS startup zone, you can basically get anything from MS free to start your company. Free Hosting (2 machines for 3 years), 5 free MSDN licenses, free developer support, and consideration for their Startup Accelerator Program. Dave ran us through many of the various offerings where MS could help you out if you are developing on or for their stack.
Don Dodge (Emerging Business Team)
Don has an amazing history, perhaps most famous as the VP of Napster. This position led to this message to our teams, paraphrased, “You can and have the power to change the world.” He is right that the simple music sharing app changed the digital landscape forever, and other startups will lead the way with other revolutions. Don told us that MS liked to acquire young startups when innovation is happening. He would rather get 50 small innovative companies than a billion-and-a-half dollar YouTube like deal. He did admit to us that most of what MS acquires is on the MS stack. Since we are working in the Ruby world, I guess that means we aren’t a target (maybe IronRuby? Interested?). Don is really plugged into the whole start up community and is very vocal about it on his blog, which I highly recommend checking out.
Anand Iyer “AI” (Microsoft Evangelist)
AI shared various demos and code with us, showing off some of the newest stuff in the MS stack. He spent a good amount of time showing off Silverlight, which can do some cool things. Silverlight is particularly interesting because we saw offerings all in related spaces from MS, Google, and Yahoo. Every company wants to be the plug-in that lets you develop richer applications in the browser. I think anyone that has seen some of the deep zoom / Photosyth stuff has to admit it is pretty impressive. We also got to see some demos of IronPython which is cool because I am interested in having powerful dynamic languages (IronRuby) play nicely in a VM.
Greg had a small consulting company and had an idea for a RSS reader that didn’t suck. He thought it would be great to be able to read his feeds in Outlook. He mocked up some screenshots of reading feeds in Outlook and got 50 comments, “please build this.” So he built it and sold 25 copies the day he released it. This project started outgrowing his consulting company, which he shut that down and raised some money to grow NewsGator. One of the problems promoting NewsGator was no one really knew what RSS feeds were at the time, so NewsGator had to become a really big advocate for RSS adoption, and explain RSS as part of their pitch. This is something we think about with Devver, because we feel like we will have to partially push agile programming and better programming practices to promote our tools. The stories shared by all the rising and finally acquired companies helps TS early teams try to really evaluate if we are focusing on the right things. NewsGator started as a single founder company and eventually was acquired by Microsoft.