Microsoft Azure Accelerator: 10 Startup Names to Watch

Microsoft’s partnership with the TechStars accelerator is taking another big step forward today: It’s announcing the first class of 10 startups admitted to the Azure cloud computing program.

The software giant says it screened more than 600 applicants for the program, which houses startup founders in Microsoft’s office in the South Lake Union neighborhood—right near the ever-expanding Amazon campus and the local branch of TechStars, along with Founder’s Co-op, Startup Weekend world headquarters, and notable startup residents like Glympse.

The 10 finalist companies span consumer applications, backend services for developers, and business to business offerings. (More on the chosen few below). Half of the startups are from the Seattle area, some with strong Microsoft connections. Three others are from California (San Diego, San Francisco, and L.A.), and the final two are overseas transplants—for at least three months, anyway.

The broad outlines for the program are the same as the last Microsoft/TechStars acclerator, which focused on startups using the Kinect motion sensor and wrapped up this summer. Microsoft supplies the office space, some top-shelf mentors, and free software and other resources, but it doesn’t take an equity stake in the companies or lay claims to any of their intellectual property.

TechStars essentially leases its startup accelerator program to Microsoft for this arrangement, making its standard $20,000 investment in each startup in exchange for a 6 percent equity stake. There’s a demo day at the end where investors and some press can attend to see the results—this program wraps up in mid-January.

As we’ve said before, there isn’t anything particularly new about big tech companies wanting to keep their fingers in the startup world, both to cultivate users of their products and to keep an eye on any innovations that the company might want to bring on board later. Microsoft has had its BizSpark startup program for some time, and has run cloud-computing focused accelerators on its own in other countries.

But we have seen a marked increase in the past couple of years in big companies aligning with outside programs, such as the Microsoft/TechStars partnership, or Google and Microsoft partnering with Startup Weekend.

Here’s the basics on the new South Lake Union residents, and what they’re working on. As always with these things, its much harder to figure out what some companies are up to at this early stage, and some details can change. I’ve pieced together as much as I can from their online profiles and the descriptions Microsoft provides on its blog post.

Advertory sells a website creator service to businesses, particularly small local businesses or larger companies with several retail locations. Advertory says the sites are optimized for local search and mobile devices, and are very easy for customers to set up.

The startup was founded in 2010 in Berlin, and lists a team of five on its website. The co-founders are CEO Anne-Aymone Ferreira and CTO Vincent Naigeon, who both worked at European price-comparison site Kelkoo (which was acquired by Yahoo). The startup’s earliest investors were also co-founders of Kelkoo.

Appetas another local-business website creator, this one focused totally on restaurants.

The Seattle-based startup is going after a problem that many consumers have run into: You’ve got a powerful smartphone that can find a good restaurant nearby, and even social-networking apps that throw off great recommendations. But the restaurant sites themselves might be outdated, scraped from directory listings by third parties, or just impossible to read on a mobile device.

Appetas’ pitch is making beautiful-looking mobile sites easy to build and maintain, that look good on all mobile devices. CEO Keller Smith was previously a program manager for Microsoft SharePoint, and CTO Curtis Fonger was a user interface software developer for Microsoft’s Windows Live Mesh and SkyDrive.

BagsUp is a travel-reviews startup that pulls together user reviews of places and activities from a user’s Facebook network.

The site doesn’t give much indication of what the service looks like right now, but the Sydney-based team sounds like a trio of seasoned travelers in their own right.

Embarke is a communications tool for developers, giving digital services an easier way to build e-mail, text messaging, and social media into their products.

The San Diego-based startup was a graduate of the Founders Institute program. The co-founders are … Next Page »

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2 responses to “Microsoft Azure Accelerator: 10 Startup Names to Watch”

  1. Hi Curt, thanks for the mention, it was a busy first day but we’re really looking forward to the next 13 weeks.

  2. ALBsharah says:

    Hey Curt, thanks so much for taking the time to dig a little deeper into each of our companies! Very much appreciate the effort and exposure… Cheers!