SupportBee has been part of the Microsoft India Accelerator in Bangalore for a little over two months now. The applications for the winter batch close in exactly a month and I thought it might be useful for others to know what our experience has been and see if the program might be good for them.
Our Reasons for Joining the Accelerator
I found out about the accelerator when I came down to the Microsoft office to meet Mukund (whom I knew from Hackerstreet India). Apart from meeting Mukund, I also got a chance to hang out with the accelerator team and loved interacting with them. I was also amazed by the workspace that the accelerator offers. Since Avinasha and I wanted to spend the next few months in India growing the team, we felt that the environment in the accelerator would be a great boost for us. Also, the fact that you don’t have to shell out any equity made the decision a no-brainer.
The Office Space
MS Accelerator office is one of the best offices I have been to personally. The office is spacious, tastefully done and open round the clock. You get workspace for upto four people. This includes dedicated desks and conference room access. You can even get free workstations (Dell) for your people to work on. During the program, you can eat breakfast and lunch for free (on weekdays). Coffee and other drinks are available round the clock, everyday, on the house! You can also use the Gym, the pool table and the Xbox if you want to take a break from your work.
The internet access is fast and reliable. Here is a speed test I did while writing the post (the office is at near full capacity right now). While you can always work from your home or a shared office space, we love being in an environment like this. It literally doubles our productivity as there is simply nothing to worry about, other than your startup ofcourse.
In our batch, there are 14 companies from different industries and stages. Some are very early stage, some have a product and some customers and others have a pretty good business that they are trying to make even better. In general, the interaction between the startups is pretty heathy and useful. No matter what time you are in office, you will find atleast some more people working from here. You will almost always find people to play pool with as well.
The Weekly Demo Day
Every Wednesday, all the companies get together in the garage (a cool part of the accelerator) to show others their progress for the week. You can (and should) give updates on product, marketing and any other activity that you have been working on. The environment is great and keeps everyone excited about making progress every week. Every now and then there are outside people in the demo (industry partners, folks from the ecosystem etc). After the demo there is a dinner at a close-by restaurant that everyone walks down to.
Access to Resources
The accelerator provides access to a number of resources while you are here
- Azure credits and help in setting up or migration. You can bootup linux images on Azure and you don’t need to use the windows’ stack (though there are some useful mobile services that you can use)
- Access to industry partners that can help you achieve distribution etc. The list of partners is slowly growing and already includes many big names
- Access to shared design resources (shared between the companies in a batch). These people can help you design and even give you HTML/CSS. Think of them as outsourced design partners that you don’t have to pay for
- Access to mentors and industry experts. Introductions to other folks that you think may be able to help you, even if they are not part of the mentor network.
- Access to investors – There are many VCs and Angels that drop into the accelerator frequently and you can get time with them.
- Every friday there is a talk by an entrepreneur or industry expert.
Typically every meeting happens at the accelerator and you don’t have to waste time traveling for meetings.
Thoughts on No Money (Funding)
One of the most common concerns that I hear about MS Accelerator from friends and other people in the startup ecosystem is that unlike other accelerators/incubators in India, MS offers no funding. If I look around, most accelerators offer something like 5 lakh INR (~10k USD). Personally, I don’t think that kind of money is very useful. Sure, you can sustain yourself (as a team of two or something) for six months. However you also end up diluting 8 – 10% of your equity. On the other hand, if you put a value to the benefits offered by the accelerator (free office, food and hosting etc), I am sure you get more than 10k worth of services in four months. You need a lot more than just a few thousand dollars to run a company. Access to facilities goes a long way in building a startup.
Should you apply for the accelerator?
So coming back to the big question. Should you apply for the accelerator? I think you should give it a shot. There are many coffee with the team events this month (in various cities) that you should checkout if you have questions. Here is a list
There are a lot more things going on in MS Accelerator that I have not talked about. You should reach out to other startups in the accelerator (current and previous batch) and talk to them about their experience. Every startup found different aspects of the accelerator useful and this blog post is just our perspective. Thank you for reading and best of luck with the application if you decide to apply!
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