If there’s one thing that startups and entreprenuers have in abundance, it’s oodles of energy. And that’s exactly what Think Next 2015 was buzzing with. It was heady cocktail of innovation, thought leadership, enterprises, partners, evangelists, startups, and, of course, the stars of the day: the graduating class of the Microsoft Ventures' Accelerator Winter Batch 2015.
On this misty morning in Delhi, the CloudCherry team reached the venue and kicked off the day with a quick catch-up with the fellow graduates (Canvasflip, Shotang, Flutura, KNOLSKAPE, Vymo, Vakilsearch and Vigyanlabs), who shared the exuberance of a graduating college class and donned the orange Think Next tees for a photo op. We were ready to take on the day.
The Microsoft Ventures team made sure that this day wasn’t a holiday for us, and we were first made to prove ourselves at the Think Next Market Access Programs (MAPs). The MAPs were pitch sessions dedicated to different industry verticals – Retail, Mobility, Education, Marketing and Financial Services. With an audience of industry leaders and business heads, startups were given five minutes each to present their product, which was followed by a rapid Q&A round.
We at CloudCherry put ourselves on the Retail & Marketing stages, and unlike other events where the audience is almost forced to be part of a session like this, we were faced with a relevant, engaged and truly interested audience. It’s never an easy task for any company, let alone a startup getting the undivided attention of head honchos who really wanted to know what you do. But Microsoft's established relationship with these leaders made it possible.
Next, we found ourselves in the Demo Zone giving walkthroughs to all attendees who were there to discover the next generation of technology that can help their business. The experience was casual yet focused; this is another highlight that made Think Next unique.
The stage was set to be lit on fire (not literally, of course!) and after an introduction by the ever-charming Ravi Narayan from Microsoft Ventures, we had Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India, speaking about innovation in India, how cloud and digital are heralding the changes in today’s ecosystem and the role start-ups are playing in this transformation. Steve Guggenheimer, Corporate VP and Chief Evangelist of Microsoft, took the stage next to speak about the #CoInnovate program, where corporate transformation and startup disruption aligned to deliver tremendous change. The one thing that came out loud and clear was that Microsoft has embraced the potential that startups offer, which is why they have made the ISV program a part of their global strategy. Startups rejoice, because thanks to Microsoft, we’ll all be getting unfettered access to their entire network, and the opportunity to trade our wares to every Microsoft customer across the world – enterprises, SMBs, and individuals.
And finally, in front of a stellar audience, the showstoppers took the stage. Given four minutes each, the graduates from the Winter Batch 2015 got the chance to showcase our products and really demonstrate why we were the chosen few.
We also had renowned author Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik take the stage and share a lovely talk, "A Level Called Storytelling," where he related mythology to the startup ecosystem, entrepreneurship, branding, leadership and more. To wrap it all up was the Think Next Roundtable: The Road to Startup Exits, which brought together some really great people from the ecosystem to share insights on acquisitions, valuations and the market dynamics around exits.
As a startup, we attend a lot of events all year round. Each has its own flavour, but what really stood out at Microsoft Think Next was the atmosphere – festive and vibrant, yet focused and effective.
On the whole, it was a day that really put startups in the spotlight. It gave us yet another nudge in the right direction. And most importantly, it gave us that confidence that we’ve got the big guns behind us, ready to give us all ammo we need to be the next big thing!