Microsoft is preparing a Bing angel investment fund

9 Jul 2012

Software giant Microsoft is tapping once again into the entrepreneurial ecosystem with a new Bing Fund, which will be headed up by a former general manager of its Xbox division Rahul Sood. The move is calculated to put pep back in the step of Microsoft’s Online Services Division.

The idea is to bring a wave of innovation to the Online Services Division (OSD) by investing in start-ups and collaborating with accelerator programmes.

The Bing Fund is understood to be in stealth mode with a launch expected mid-July.

According to a jobs posting for a “‘developer ninja’ with a passion for hackathons”, “Bing Fund, a small team working with start-ups and accelerators to bring a wave of innovation to OSD, is looking for a talented engineer with broad experience with Microsoft’s web/cloud stack (C#, ASP.NET, Azure), HTML/Javascript/jQuery, as well as one or more popular start-up stacks (LAMP, Ruby on Rails, PHP, AWS, Heroku, Google App Engine etc.)”

A culture shift at Microsoft?

It feels like Microsoft is endeavouring to bring entrepreneurial blood back into its ecosystem and is willing to make concessions that will prove attractive to start-up types with a disdain for procedure.

But for this to truly work, Microsoft itself will have to change. There is no sense just putting a Silicon Valley incubator programme in the middle of a regimented, industrialised bureaucracy full of regular reviews, checks and balances.

Start-ups need to able to breathe and think, to take risks and innovate.

Then they need to show that progress to investors who may or may not buy into the direction they are headed.

You get the sense that the software giant wants to be back in the frontline of innovation and win back the momentum across a plethora of battlefields from computers and smartphones, to search, social media, entertainment and gaming.

For that to truly occur, an organisational mindset shift is required. Time will tell if the Bing Fund is another stab at change that will be allowed to putter out, or a more strategic endeavour that will put Microsoft back in pole position.

Change isn’t, nor should it be, easy.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years