Microsoft has announced the rollout of the Microsoft-Ashoka Accelerator, a new social entrepreneur accelerator program in partnership with Ashoka, the world’s largest network of leading social entrepreneurs. The program aims to nurture and grow an ecosystem of tech-enabled startups focused on social and environmental issues.
Launched under the aegis of the Microsoft Technology for Social Impact (TSI) team, the accelerator is part of Microsoft’s worldwide Tech for Good initiative. India and France will be the first countries to pilot the program in March 2019. Simplon.co, renowned for enabling digital transformation in the nonprofits sector, will lead the on-ground management of the program in India.
Announcing the partnership with Ashoka and Simplon in Mumbai, Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and President, Global Sales, Marketing & Operations, Microsoft Corporation, said, “Startups have become an engine for growth in India’s economy, catalyzing innovation. Our latest partnership with Ashoka and Simplon is an example of Microsoft’s continued efforts to support the country’s fast-growing startup ecosystem. We are excited about enabling young social entrepreneurs to tackle global issues by helping them build data-rich organizations that are fueled by cloud and AI technology.”
The Microsoft-Ashoka Accelerator will provide high-potential startups technology access, AI and cloud expertise and customized mentoring to accelerate the development of intelligent and effective solutions for social issues. Moreover, Microsoft for Startups will extend the benefits of its flagship program, ScaleUp, to help the shortlisted startups scale their projects and enhance their impact on society. This will include Azure credits, connect with local communities and experts as well as co-selling opportunities.
Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India, said, “Microsoft has always been an ardent enabler of the startup ecosystem in the country. This initiative is an endorsement of the potential of Indian innovators on the global stage. In partnership with Ashoka and Simplon, this program will support startups with technological and business expertise to sustainably scale their social and environmental impact.”
Ashoka will bring to the accelerator program their long-standing expertise in the social impact space, in addition to access to their extensive network of global and local fellows and early stage social innovators. According to Sunish Jauhari, India Leader, Ashoka, “The tripartite partnership between Ashoka, Microsoft and Simplon is going to be a new approach to help the leading social entrepreneurs of our time. Ashoka Fellows demonstrate unique system-change approaches to solve grave social issues. But the complexities posed by a huge population in diverse geographies makes it further challenging. We believe that this partnership between Microsoft, Simplon and Ashoka will unlock new ways and methodologies through technology for these remarkable changemakers, not only to accelerate their impact but to change norms on pressing issues in society.”
“The Ashoka-Simplon-Microsoft partnership is going to be a pioneering project for startups globally as the year 2020 gives a phenomenal advantage to social entrepreneurs to scale their businesses and have a much greater positive impact on the planet. Scaling social good is of optimum need in these challenging environmental and social times. The three partners bring complementary skills to the table – Ashoka Foundation brings the entrepreneurs, Simplon brings the understanding of IT and social entrepreneurship and will act as the vital integrator and Microsoft brings the much needed AI and intelligent cloud technology expertise,” said Frederic Bardeau, Co-Founder & President, Simplon.co.