Microsoft Creates Bing Fund to Nurture Startups

The Bing Fund will serve as an angel investor in U.S.-based startups that are developing online or mobile innovations, offering access to Bing APIs and the resources of Microsoft Research.

Microsoft is seeking to nurture startups with the creation of the Bing Fund, an angel investment fund targeted at companies developing online or mobile innovations.

The Bing Fund will also serve as an incubator, giving fledgling companies support in a numbers of ways, including providing subsidized access to Bing application programming interfaces (APIs), advice from various subject matter experts and access to the resources of Microsoft Research, the company said in a July 12 blog post. Startups based in the Seattle area can also use Microsoft co-workspace on its Bellevue, Wash., campus, which is the home of the company€™s€”beleaguered€”Online Services Division, which includes the Bing search engine.

Microsoft officials did not disclose the amount of money in the Bing Fund, but said that it would focus on just a few startups at a time and that when one startup leaves the incubator and thrives on its own, another startup will be brought in to take its place. The company said it created the Bing Fund to €œrecognize that startups play a vital role in technology innovation.€

€œWe believe that combining the fresh insights of startups with Microsoft€™s expertise and tremendous reach creates a unique formula for driving the industry forward,€ the company officials said.

Among the ground rules, to be supported by the fund, startups must be based in the United States, have a working prototype of their product, preferably a site or application that is already live€”meaning that people can sign up to use it€”and must be €œgaining momentum.€ The Bing Fund is looking for startups that combine €œan inspirational vision€ with an ability to execute.

The fund will be managed by Microsoft General Manager and entrepreneur Rahul Sood, the founder of VooDoo PC, a personal computer maker started in 1991 and acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2006.

€œWe get the best of both worlds,€ Sood wrote on his personal blog July 12. €œOur program is tapping the creative energy of startups, small and agile risk takers, and we€™re backing that creative energy with the vast experience Microsoft employees have in design, technology development and business strategy.€

The Bing Fund invites comparisons to TechStars, an angel fund started by a number of tech industry entrepreneurs. Besides arranging angel funding, TechStars holds 13-week programs, dubbed €œBoot Camps,€ for startups in New York, Boston, Seattle, San Antonio and Boulder, Colo. Of 114 companies incubated by TechStars since 2006, 92 percent of them are active and profitable, TechStars said.

In an FAQ page on the Bing Fund site, the question is posed, €œWhat does Microsoft expect in return?€ The answer: €œWe expect to build strong relationships within the startup community, which will expose us to new companies that we could potentially partner with and/or acquire.€