BuzzTable joins the Bing Fund

BuzzTable has agreed to take a strategic investment from the Bing Fund!  See their earlier announcement here.

Hailing from NYC and built by a team of hospitality veterans, BuzzTable is a suite of services catering to restaurants and guests alike. Using the services, restaurants get to spend more time managing and improving the guest experiences, and less time worrying about the waitlist or creating inefficient loyalty campaigns. For guests, no more big awkward buzzers to walk around with or repeatedly checking in with the host to see how the line is progressing.

Helping drive efficiency in an industry the size of restaurants is a formidable challenge for any-sized company. Startups who take on big bold challenges with the singular belief that they can simplify the experience at scale using technology and smarts, is at the core of what Bing Fund believes – disruption can come from many places.

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Check out the awesome 18-sec video announcement BuzzTable created on the fly!

Bing Fund Team

Deep Sea Excursion with Sonar

Today we’re excited to announce the latest addition to our growing portfolio of innovative startups in Sonar!

Sonar is interesting to Microsoft in a number of ways, both as a product and a business. Extracting knowledge from social signals. Fostering informed serendipity. Real-time geo data. A quality team with a mature service. The possibilities with the caliber of company like Sonar are numerous, and exciting.

And last but not least, you got to love the smart creative fun crew that came up with the world’s first Vine-nouncement!

Yes, you’re welcome.

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The Bing Fund Team

Geek spring breaking in Austin? Come see us and our new friends Sonar.

Shedding more light on Hackathon for Autism

Starting next month, Bing Fund is excited to kick off the first in a series of hackathons around autism. You can find additional details and registration info here.

Last week we started sharing details about the event, primarily on Twitter. Overwhelmingly the response has been positive with many of you expressing support and sharing the news. However, we also received some feedback questioning our motivation and methodology. By sharing the following, we hope to bring more clarity to the event:

Q. Why did you pick autism as a theme?

A. Autism is a neural development disorder that impacts millions of lives, including many Northwest-area families in the high technology industry.  Existing tools and solutions for families and institutions coping with autism are lacking.  Adoption of evolving technologies to support new functional scenarios is sorely needed throughout the lifetime of an individual with autism.

Q. Why the focus on children? What about helping adults?

A. Based on extensive conversations with researchers and top thinkers in the field of autism, we repeatedly heard this is where the biggest need was when it came to making a lifelong impact on people with autism – helping children grow independence. This is not to say adults can’t benefit from more help, they can. But while adults, generally, tend to have more diverse set of needs depending on where they fall on the spectrum, effective support for children is often lacking. This is where, as a tech community using a hackathon format, we felt we could drive the biggest utility around by building apps, for example. Based on what we learn at our first event, we very well may shift our focus to other age groups. If you have thoughts on this topic, always feel free to leave us a comment below.

Q. I saw the agenda. Why isn’t anybody with autism represented?

A. We are actively working with and looking for families touched by autism or autistic individuals to join us at the event. Participation by autistic individuals is absolutely critical to helping formulate and test the scenarios we want to tackle. In addition, we are still refining the agenda so ideas or suggestions on how we can better represent the community are welcome.

Q. What do you hope to achieve, exactly, through the event?

A. Quality prototypes—an online application for a mobile device, for example—which will be subsequently developed at future hackathons or independently by interested parties. The ultimate goal is to introduce a product to market that will help people in real life.

Every hackathon is a learning experience whether you’re a builder, a thinker, a subject matter expert, or even a spectator. This is true for us as a host – the Bing Fund – and we expect and encourage different thoughts and suggestions be shared as we go along.  Healthy dialogue is the lifeblood of a vibrant, passionate community. We appreciate the engagement, and if you’re in Seattle on March 22-24, I hope you can join us in any capacity.

Bing Fund Team

Online Dating, Reimagined

Bing Fund is excited to kick off 2013 by welcoming our next investment, LikeBright!

Hailing from fast-rising startup ecosystem that’s Seattle, LikeBright is innovating matchmaking in two fundamental ways – by socializing the process, and introducing better balance between men and women users. Traditionally, meeting somebody online has consisted of users signing up to a service, answering a series of questionnaires, and connecting with, well, strangers. And for females, the process could be even more taxing; on competing sites, men outnumber woman by a ratio of 4-to-1.

What LikeBright does is leverage your existing connections on social networks to help people meet their friends’ friends and match their friends up. In other words, you get the best of both worlds – the scale of your network to help source a match from, and the safety in trusting who’s being recommended by your friends and family. And by virtue of sourcing through social networks, the likelihood of playing on a level is higher.

To celebrate today’s announcement, LikeBright is kicking off a contest to find the World’s Best Matchmaker, where winners will be rewarded with a number of cool prizes! For contest details, check out their blog post.

Special shout out to Andy Sack of TechStars Seattle for connecting us to LikeBright! Today’s announcement is more evidence of an increasingly rich and vibrant ecosystem we have here in Seattle.

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NY State of Mind

After a quick jaunt in NYC last week with our friends from BizSpark and Windows Store AppLabs (holler General Assembly, Xconomy, WeWork Labs, NYMT! ) our heads are still spinning from the dizzying array of startups we had a chance to meet. Wow. NYC, you have a lot going on.For example, did you know the NYC startup ecosystem we are twice as likely to find female founders or co-founders than in the Valley? Many of the companies we saw there are super dialed in, the quality is incredible. We found at least 3 that we’re likely to invest in now and a few others with potential down the road. The experience last week in NYC is what makes this announcement even sweeter.

Selectable Media, a NYC-based ads platform startups, is officially joining the Bing Fund!

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Selectable Media enables consumers to unlock digital content and services in exchange for viewing and interacting with brand advertising. They already have a number of big brand clients under their belt who Selectable Media is helping reach higher brand recall and scaled engagement when compared to traditional ads. Through innovation, they are raising the bar on what consumers can expect from ads, and what advertisers can offer. At Bing Fund, we love companies taking this approach. Using technology and creativity, Selectable Media has identified a unique approach to potentially disrupt a massive market. Money.

Over the next several months, as we continue to do with our portfolio companies Buddy and Pinion, Bing Fund will be working closely with the team to exhaustively explore and identify the paths to help them reach the next level whether that’s through access to domain expertise Microsoft possesses, technology resources, or funding.

If your company is tackling a big challenge by uniquely marrying tech and creativity like Selectable Media is and you’re interested in joining the Bing Fund, visit Bing Fund site to let us know. But like any good relationship, fit is critical. To see what we’re looking for in companies first, check out the tips on pitching to Bing Fund (and other incubators).

Haunted House & the Huffington Post

Happy Halloween Everyone!

Hard to believe it’s been only four months since we launched the Bing Fund at Microsoft! I’m really happy with our progress, our team is fantastic… Check out our interview on the Huffington Post below. Also make sure you visit www.bing.com today to check out the animated haunted house!


When you are building your company, you always end up facing that one hardest thing, or a myriad of hardest things. Every founder has experienced it, and if they haven’t, they really haven’t been a founder.

At a recent event that gathered some of the top Silicon Valley innovators to talk about their failures, I dove into the hardest things Bing Fund general manager Rahul Sood has ever experienced.

The Bing Fund was recently created by Microsoft to serve as an angel investor for young start-ups looking to work in a few areas of the web.

A high school protégé interested in gaming, Bing Fund general manager Rahul Sood developed VoodooPC machines, the first liquid-cooled PCs, with an eye of making the best PCs on the planet. In a nutshell, they were bought — he turned down Michael Dell, who called him and emailed him personally — and joined HP. But, as he told a crowd gathered at FailCon in San Francisco on Tuesday, he takes responsibility for taking his eye off the ball and letting HP have too much control over hiring, believing that a bigger company would do its best to bring in the right talent.

The lesson that Sood offers to start-up founders as now general manager of the Bing Fund, based in Bellevue, Wash., is this:

We asked him what are the essential pieces of what he looks for in a start-up, and how he sees the developer and startup ecosystem. We thought it was important to get down to the bottom of what the head of an angel fund thinks about the world he invests in.

One takeaway from his talk, that sheds some light on this, is that he said that founders and developers should consider Microsoft as a friendly “archangel” investor, that is looking to support start-ups with access to Bing APIs and other technologies that other start-ups don’t get access to. In contrast to his experience with HP, he says that he feels immediately at home with Microsoft, because it’s run by people who want to do good for the world.

The Bing Fund currently works with two startups, both in BizSpark, and they are taking on more soon.

click here for the interview

Microsoft, the Startup…from Steve Ballmer’s perspective.

Bill Gates and Paul Allen

In 1975 there were no incubator, angels, or accelerators.

It’s hard to fathom that 37 years ago, the 90,000-person, global, multi-faceted company where I work was a startup that had a single product. ..even harder to believe, I’ve been working with this company’s products since the beginning, eventually becoming a hardware partner and manufacturer.

…and it’s mind blowing to think that among the thousands of entrepreneurs ideating, innovating, and inventing today, who are putting everything they have into realizing their inspired visions of the future, someone is creating a company that will someday have tens of thousands of employees, all around the world, working on suites of products that change the lives of everyone who use them.

Lots of people have written about the origins of Microsoft and what the founders did to make the company so successful. The Bing Fund team had a specific question, however, very relevant to what we are trying to do with the startups in our program. What helped Microsoft get past the “startup stage” to “critical mass?” What were the key factors to achieving the “ok-now-things-are-really-taking-off” level of success and maintaining it?

We all had our opinions, but then we said, “Hey, why don’t we ask someone who was there?” So we sent e-mail to Microsoft’s longest-term employee, Steve Ballmer, and asked him what he thought.

Here’s what he told us:

Ideas matter: For any startup to reach critical mass, it needs a great idea that is new, unique and valuable to individuals, businesses or both. The idea has to be one the founding team is passionate about. It has to be more than an incremental improvement over what an established company has already done. It has to be differentiated and novel. The idea Bill Gates and Paul Allen had in 1975 was that software powering a personal computer would unleash human creativity and productivity. The core idea still inspires us today to build technology that will radically improve how people learn, work and play.

Be tenacious: An uninterrupted march to greatness is unlikely. Startups are going to have setbacks. World events will happen. Competition will heat up. Teams will evolve. Startups need to stay focused and persevere to break through. Our big breakthrough moment came about 20 years after the company was founded with the release of Windows 95, a product that propelled the personal computer onto every desk and into every home.

Always be “part” startup: Getting to critical mass is one thing, but staying there is another. It’s incredibly important to maintain a fresh perspective and a willingness to take risks. As a company grows, it’s important to keep incubating new solutions and rethinking the great idea that got you started. Kinect is a terrific example of a technology we incubated, building on our existing entertainment solutions to deliver compelling new experiences for millions of people around the world.

As fast as technology moves, 1975 may seem like a long time ago. The world is a whole different place now, but Steve’s advice is pretty classic. Come up with an idea that has not only brilliance but longevity, so it can remain at the core of what you do; never give up, even if things looks bleak for a time; and always think like a startup.

What I admire about Steve is his sheer force of will. At every moment the guy puts his heart and soul into what he’s doing. For more than 3 decades he’s been more bullish on Microsoft with each passing year. He’d throw himself in front of a bus for this company, and that’s the kind of passion that entrepreneurs need to have, and never lose.