Microsoft’s software has often been a centerpiece of many businesses, especially its industry-leading Microsoft Office productivity suite. But now, the company is hoping to draw on the dynamic mojo of startups to help fuel the company’s new Windows Azure  product.
According to Zack Weisfeld, Sr. Director of Strategy and Business Development at Microsoft’s Israel Development Center, the decision to launch the company’s first accelerator in Israel had to do with the center’s strategic location for Microsoft, and is part of its ongoing efforts to bring startup culture back to the company.
Israel has a very active startup community, Weisfeld explains. “We have 4,900 startups in Israel today, and the third largest V.C. spending in the world after Silicon Valley and New England,” he says. He also notes that out of the startups participating in Microsoft’s BizSpark One, a sort of “best of breed” selection from the larger BizSpark program, [which helps software startups by giving them access to Microsoft software development tools] 25 percent of the companies are located in Israel.
“Because we have such an innovation-driven and startup-driven R&D center, we came with a proposal to basically change the way Microsoft deals with entrepreneurs,” Weisfeld says of the program’s beginnings. “Part of that proposal was to start, for the first time in the world for Microsoft, our own startup accelerator.”
As part of the program, the startup companies will be offered free use of Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud platform for building and hosting web-based applications for two years. This will be given in lieu of seed funding, and the startup companies will also have access to Microsoft’s partners, who may serve as potential customers for the new companies, reports TechCrunch.
This is a bold move forward into the agile worlds of cloud computing and web applications for Microsoft. Would your startup be interested in a Microsoft accelerator like this here in the U.S.?