Microsoft is putting its expertise and resources behind startups that take on global issues such as gender equality, poverty, hunger, and clean water.
"The goal of this initiative is to enable inclusive, sustainable growth across the world,” Jean-Philippe Courtois, vice president of global sales for Microsoft, told Cheddar. The company is focusing on startups tackling the kinds of environmental and social issues outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals, a guiding framework for global change adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015.
The Global Social Entrepreneurship Program will be available in 140 countries. Once approved, startups will have access to grants from Microsoft Philanthropies, $120,000 in credits for Azure cloud computing, and $1,000 per month for access to web hosting platform GitHub Enterprise.
“The key for us is to look at the quality of the innovation when it comes to societal impact.”
Microsoft’s global sales team will also work alongside startups to help them bring their products to market around the world.
“We are selecting companies that are still in the early stage that don’t have much of a big revenue stream — less than $25 million of revenue,” Courtois said. “The key for us is to look at the quality of the innovation when it comes to societal impact.”
Startups must be less than seven years old, in the Seed, Series A, B, or C stage of funding, and offer “an innovative technical solution that supports customers in their digital transformation.”
Courtois cited some startups that fit the bill: OmniVis in Bangladesh has developed a smartphone-based cholera detection system that is currently being tested in Singapore.
The Seabin Project out of Spain has deployed more than 800 trash-skimming devices to trawl the world’s oceans for marine litter, collecting more than a half a million tons of garbage so far.
Zindi is a web-hosting platform for artificial intelligence solutions for companies, nonprofits, and government organizations in Africa and around the world that has gotten the stamp of approval from 10,000 data scientists.
While the initiative is wide open to startups from more developed countries, Courtois emphasized the important role of companies in the world’s most vulnerable communities.
“The smallest guys are living in the middle of the problems that they are trying to solve,” he said. “Those are the people who have the sensitivity to usually bring the most innovative solution.”