Business / #ForbesBusiness

February 22, 2018,   5:54 PM

Google, Microsoft And Amazon Are Now Ferreting Out The Next Tech Unicorn

Carla Sertin


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Google, Amazon and Microsoft could be omnipresent tech titans today but they too began as humble startups decades ago. Today these industry giants are pumping in their funds and expertise to ferret out the best ideas that are cropping up from the next generation of entrepreneurs.

On February 21, Amazon opened applications for its second Alexa Accelerator, a 13-week program for voice driven startups. Based on the e-commerce giant’s virtual assistant Alexa, Amazon’s Alexa Fund, which launched with $100 million in 2015, has an investment arm, university fellowship program and an accelerator.

The latter works in partnership with Techstars, an accelerator that counts alumni like Next Big Sound, which was acquired by Pandora in May 2015.

Through Alexa Accelerator, up to 13 startups will get access to an investment from Techstars and Alexa Fund as well as access to the tech and teams behind some of Alexa and Amazon’s technology. This could indicate that the accelerator’s ultimate goal is to make Alexa (and its surrounding technology) ubiquitous in the global market.

In its inaugural run last year, it hosted startups like Botnik, an AI-based custom predictive text keyboard by former The Onion editor Jamie Brew and cofounder Bob Mankoff, who has spent 40 years as the New Yorker’s cartoon editor.

In November 2017, Alexa Fund added $100 million in venture capital to target “international investment opportunities.”

Meanwhile, on February 14 Microsoft announced a new $500 million program, Microsoft for Startups, which aims to help startups grow their customer and revenue base, according to a blog post by Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Growth and Ecosystems Charlotte Yarkoni.

This includes Microsoft ScaleUp, an accelerator program, Microsoft Ventures, a VC investment team focusing on Series A and D, and Microsoft Reactors, which are physical spaces for entrepreneurs and the larger tech community to host events, like hackathons. Microsoft is set to open a London Reactor space, which will be followed by ones in Sydney, Berlin, Shanghai and Beijing.

Like Amazon, Google has also partnered with Techstars and three other U.S.-based accelerator programs for startups. The fifth edition of Google’s startup accelerator, Launchpad, started at the end of January 2018 and includes two unicorns—Brazilian fintech startup Nubank and real estate marketplace Grupo Zap Viva Real.

Apart from Google’s accelerator program, it has Startup with Google, a platform with resources for entrepreneurs, like access to Google products for app development and optimizing business. It also partners with community workspaces—including Astrolabs in Dubai, its only partnership with an Arab coworking space.

Although these tech giants dominate their respective segments, each of them has mentioned the importance of entrepreneurship in fostering innovation in the tech market.

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