BENGALURU: Microsoft is revamping its startup accelerator programme, which began in 2012 with one each in Bengaluru and Israel, and changing its leadership teams.
The accelerator’s global director Ravi Narayan, general manager Tzahi Weisfeld, and director of operations Amir Pinchas are said to be moving to different roles within the organization. Israel-based Weisfeld announced in January that he was stepping down and moving to an unspecified position in Microsoft.
The accelerator programme will now be called Microsoft ScaleUp and it will be a more mainstream activity within the company under a broader initiative called Microsoft for Startups, announced in February. The programme will be handled by a central team sitting in the US.
Under Microsoft for Startups, the company has committed $500 million to be deployed over the next two years to offer joint sales engagements with startups, along with access to technology, and new community spaces. Microsoft Ventures(for venture capital investments) and Microsoft Reactors (for physical spaces) are the other two verticals under it.
When contacted, Microsoft said it did not have any information to provide other than a statement it shared last week. That statement said: “We are investing in our accelerators by expanding the spaces and technical / community resources startups can take advantage of. We have also expanded our startup offers for all regions, including India. We have an open managing director position in India and are actively recruiting for the position.”
Weisfeld and Pinchas, who worked out of Tel Aviv, were instrumental in setting up the first Microsoft Accelerator in Israel. Narayan was one of the key leaders in the Indian startup ecosystem and helped shape the Microsoft accelerator programme here through various partnerships with Nasscom, iSpirt, and TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs). He also contributed to various startup growth programmes, including helping Microsoft co-sell with startups.
After the Bengaluru and Israel accelerators, the programme was expanded to six other cities, including Seattle, London, Berlin, Shanghai, Beijing, and Sydney. Narayan was previously the CEO-in-residence for Microsoft Accelerator in India and became the global director for Microsoft Accelerator in June 2016. The Microsoft accelerator was one of India’s earliest, and also one of the most successful. Since 2012, it has graduated over a hundred Indian startups.
Annie Parker, former CEO of Australian tech startup network Fishburners, will be joining Microsoft as the global head of the ScaleUp programme this month, and will presumably take over Narayan’s team. Calls and mails to Narayan did not elicit a response.
Bala Girisaballa, who replaced Narayan as the India MD in 2016, also moved out of the company recently to join US-based startup accelerator Techstars as its India head.