Microsoft Ventures to Return to India, on the Lookout for AI, blockchain and Self-Driving Car Startups
Microsoft Ventures, the corporate venture investment arm of the tech giant, has announced it will return to India in 2018 with a new, in-country office and a local team driving investment in ‘new age technology’ startups.
Nagraj Kashyap, a veteran investor, was bought on to lead Microsoft Ventures in 2016. Alongside the planned Indian base, the strategic venture arm has relocated its headquarters to Silicon Valley and maintain current offices in New York, London and Tel Aviv. Its team is almost entirely sourced from outside the Microsoft network, with backgrounds in traditional venture firms, corporate venture companies and startups, and Kashyap has previously stated that this diversity is one of the things he is most proud of from his tenure so far.
Aiming to partner with startups at all stages of their growth, Microsoft Ventures last had an active presence in India in 2016. It now plans to invest in tech startups working with IoT, blockchain and autonomous vehicles, amongst other ‘new age’ technologies.
Speaking to Venture Beat last year, Kashyap outlined that the venture arm is looking of course for a return on investment, but also for businesses in fields where Microsoft may have a longer term interest.
“We need to sort of connect the dots in our minds, not through the lens of Microsoft, ”‘ he said “This will be an interesting area, an interesting company for Microsoft in a given point in time. We are not going off the reservation and doing things where there’s no connection back to Microsoft.”
This view was reinforced by comments published in ET today from Microsoft Executive Vice President for Business Development Peggy Johnson, a former colleague of Kashyap who was responsible for his appointment. Johnson confirmed that on an investment level Microsoft looks “largely around our core ambitions — cloud infrastructure, AI, machine learning (ML) and connectivity.”
Continuing, she added that “India is very unique because the productivity here is mobile only. We have learnt a lot and look forward to learning more. We generally focus on Series A and B (funding), with a little bit of seed. But largely Series A and B and it is anywhere between $2 Mn and $10 Mn. It will be part of our global corpus.”
The company’s announcement is hot on the heels of economic statistics showing growth of 7.2% in the last quarter of 2017, outpacing China’s comparatively sluggish 6.8% and returning the country to its previous title of the world’s fastest-expanding big economy. Predictions for 2018 show a similar rate, a situation attributed to the recent relative stability of economic and business policies.
Microsoft has continued to run an accelerator program in the country supporting 12-14 startups, and announced a partnership with Accenture Ventures earlier this year. The return of Microsoft Ventures to the country will allow the company to continue its involvement with startups in which it sees both financial and development potential, closing the loop by providing the means to invest in graduates of the programme.