Silicon Prairie News

Think Big, Microsoft Ventures partner on accelerator

Kansas City September 26, 2013 by Fred Bauters Only 17 days until Big Omaha. Get your tickets before they sell out!

A good relationship just got even better in Kansas City. Think Big Partners has worked with Microsoft for a couple years in several capacities, and now the two are making that bond even stronger. In partnership with Microsoft Ventures, the Think Big Accelerator will be one a select few like it in the United States—first to be announced—and the only one in the Midwest.

Microsoft Ventures has opened several accelerators it runs itself—Tel Aviv, Bangalore and Beijing—and will open several more soon, but has begun partnering with a handful of accelerators to "provide immersive programs, mentoring, technical guidance and connections," according to today's press release. It focuses on helping B2B startups through Bizspark development tools, seed funding and accelerators that provide mentoring and technical guidance—similar to Google Ventures in some ways.

So how did Think Big get to be in rarefied company?

"About a year ago we started our first accelerator class and Microsoft was a partner through its Bizspark program," Blake Miller, director of Think Big Accelerator, told Silicon Prairie News. "They gave access to their mentors and worked together on Bodeefit (a health and fitness application co-founded by Miller) as we learned the Windows 8 platform. Other companies in the Accelerator started working with them more. It really shows it's all about building those relationships."

Think Big Accelerator will still invest $18,000-$50,000 in its participants, but Microsoft will open up engineering resources, connections to its network, more mentors and additional funding possibilities. Miller (right) said the structure of the program—applications are open now—will more or less remain the same but with a few important changes.

"It'll be more of a rolling enrollment," he said. "Every couple months we'll open applications because of the resources Microsoft will be able to provide. A lot more in the cohort method, with one or two, four or five at a time. They'll be able to learn from those just ahead of them or just behind them in the process."

They're still working out how demo days will work, but it will likely be in the form of three demo days every year, and startups can take part whenever they're ready—a lesson Miller said Think Big has learned one year in.

"We're changing our mentality a bit," he said. "Start when you're ready, and we're ready when you want to start."

Microsoft Ventures will become a part of the review process for startups, but that doesn't necessarily mean all the companies need to utilize the Microsoft platform and products. That said, there will be a definite influence from their involvement, Miller said.

After an announcement earlier this week that Sprint would open its Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator, powered by Techstars, there's a lot of momentum in Kansas City, and Miller couldn't be happier.

"We've been talking with Sprint and I think both factions will bring a lot to the table," he said.

 

Credits: Blake Miller photo from Twitter.

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