Microsoft Tech City UK

Microsoft to push into fashion space “like never before” as it boosts its commitment to UK start-up community and unveils ASOS as a partner


By Jessica Davies, News Editor

May 1, 2014 | 5 min read

Microsoft has pledged a swathe of new investments in the UK start-up community including a push into the fashion space, having signed ASOS as a partner for its Ventures Accelerator programme.

Speaking at an event where it unveiled the finalists of its start-up Accelerator programme, which launched last September, head of Microsoft UK’s developer and platform business Anand Krishnan (pictured) said this September the internet giant would push into the fashion arena “like never before”.

He revealed that ASOS has become a partner, and will join its panel of judges to assess the new host of applicants that will apply to become part of its second start-up programme, which will kick off in September.

“The retail space is ripe for disruption, particularly in London. Three of our start-up companies that have graduated through the first accelerator programme are focused in this area.

“We will have ASOS joining us on a panel in few months – to judge on who will be in the final batch – and it will also take a role in mentoring. We are still talking through the details of what ASOS’ full role will be,” he said.

Krishnan also unveiled Microsoft’s plans to boost its commitment to the start-up community, unveiling a partnership with Chanary-Wharf-based fintech accelerator space Level39. This move will see Microsoft take up offices there and dedicate resources and staff as advisors to start-ups working there, which also hosts John Lewis incubator scheme JLabs.

The last nine months have seen it select 12 start-ups (see full list below) from hundreds of applicants and take them through a 12-week curriculum and mentoring programmes. Yesterday’s event marked their official “graduation” with all 12 pitching their businesses to an audience of market experts and investors at Millbank Towers.

“We want to work with early-stage entrepreneurs who have the potential to be the next big thing, and our return is measured by the relationships we make with those people,” he added.

However, Krishnan said it is moving from “slower to full strides” with plans to increase its commitment further with a pool of funds that will be made available for start-ups.

“We have companies coming from outside London to be involved in this and they are waking up to the fact London is very expensive. So we wanted to make a pool of funding available that they could tap into to get them going.

“We are calling it a joint venture and tech fund – I believe it’s first of its kind – and it will give our start-ups access to capital. All this expands our commitment to its space.”

This seed fund has been made possible by partners Jenson Solutions and Ventures in Motion, and it will be made available upon application to all successful applicants to the next Microsoft Ventures Accelerator programme in London, which will be extended from 12 to 14 weeks when it begins in September.

The full list of 12 start-up finalists of the first Accelerator scheme can be viewed below (source: Microsoft):

1. Barpass: A mobile ordering platform for bars and events, which allows users to order via their smartphone and beat the queues, while improving venue productivity.

2. Buying Butler: A professional buying service that couples price comparison with recommendations for complex purchases, to help customers save time and suppliers increase productivity, while reducing cost of sale.

3. Caribu: An iPad app to let children and families video call and read books together, from anywhere in the world.

4. Cognisess: A people analytics solution that uses objective performance-based games, big data insight and neurosicence to help HR departments ensure accurate candidate screening.

5. A cloud-computing service aimed at DevOps and operational teams running cloud services at scale, to help them run their own cloud services better.

6. Gateway Interactive: A games development studio, whose latest game, Pure Space, aims to provide players with a new and never before seen game experience by taking advantage of the latest cloud technologies.

7. Skara: Creators of the first MVO - both a multiplayer and versus game, based on adversarial control and combat set in massive multiplayer arenas.

8. Indexing the world;s socio-economic data, to provide solutions for the government, retail and housing sectors, which allow them to plan and monitor activities in the most efficient way.

9. UXCam: A platform in usability testing of a digital product, which uses a camera that allows UX designers to capture, analyse and visualise a user's data to detect usability bugs in apps.

10. Vastari: A platform that connects art collectors to museums for exhibition loans, making it easier for museums to communicate with private owners.

11. Vivid: An innovative contact centre that transforms interactive voice response technologies into an engaging visual and touch experience, removing the barriers of information consumption and reducing queue traffic.

12. VonBismark: An e-commerce platform for the high street, which is pioneering retail with its digital changing room.

Meanwhile, at the same event, the new CEO of Tech City UK Gerard Grech stated that the UK has embarked on a “global race for tech talent” as it looks to position itself as a leader in the global start-up ecosystem.

In other news, yesterday, Microsoft announced that it had appointed Dentsu Aegis and IPG to its advertising and media accounts.

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