How Microsoft's ATO is following through with its $500M Funding Plans for African Startups

How Microsoft's ATO is following through with its $500M Funding Plans for African Startups

Microsoft, the leading software giant, announced a new program in early March this year to accelerate the growth of 10,000 African startups and fast-track investment in the continent’s startup ecosystem over the next five years. The opportunities are made available through Microsoft’s ATO, its Founders Hub on the Africa Transformation Office which provides startups with a variety of resources.

The firm also announced entering into strategic partnerships with venture capital investors to provide African startups with access to $500 million in potential funding, allowing them to scale quickly.

According to a press release, the ATO services include access to mentors, skilling content, tools such as Microsoft Azure and GitHub, and go-to-market and business support.

“Microsoft is also forming new partnerships with accelerators and incubators across Africa, including Grindstone, Greenhouse, FlapMax, and Seedstars, to provide market access, technical skills, and funding opportunities to industry-based start-ups.” These collaborations will “provide Africa’s start-ups with access to skilling programs, access to markets, including opportunities to co-sell with Microsoft, and access to technology, with support from Microsoft’s engineering and product teams for co-innovation opportunities,” the statement reads in part.

Meanwhile, Kunle Awosika, MD of Microsoft’s ATO, reiterated the company’s commitment to its earlier promise of investing in 10,000 African startups over the next five years in a virtual media event on Sunday, December 4, 2022.

The virtual media briefing came after Microsoft hosted a meet-up for startup founders and entrepreneurs last week through its ATO, emphasizing the founder’s critical role within the startup ecosystem. The event equally examined the critical role that corporate organizations, VCs, tech accelerators, and incubators can play in advancing startup innovation and growth across the continent.

Microsoft, according to Awosika, is already assisting over 1000 startups through its ATO, with the immediate goal of signing up 3 000 businesses.

A Look at Microsoft’s ATO Activity in Africa So Far

Microsoft established the Africa Transformation Office in 2021 to promote investment and growth in four key development sectors: digital infrastructure, skilling, small and medium-sized businesses, and start-ups.

The company says that after realizing that these lofty goals cannot be met alone, it entered into some strategic partnerships with governments, international organizations, and multinational corporations to enable African businesses to accelerate investments in Africa and boost digital service exports from the region.

Microsoft set to back 10,000 startups in Africa, partners with VCs and accelerators

Since its inception, the Africa Transformation Office has led programs and formed strategic alliances across the continent to develop digital infrastructure, equip SMEs with digital capabilities, encourage creative start-ups, and train today’s and tomorrow’s workforce.

It also mentions that the Africa Transformation Office has created and supported business and technical acceleration programs for startups in collaboration with three accelerators in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria.

The Africa Transformation Office has interacted with over 1500 African startups through a series of online and in-person interactions. The office recently hosted ten startups at GITEX in Dubai, including Q-Hop and BancX.

Microsoft has also partnered with several notable venture capitalists, including Banque Misr, Global Venture Capital, and Get Funded, Africa. It intends to expand this network over the next five years to provide more funding for expansion and economic growth.

The company has backed a growing relationship with its South African partner Technvst to give 30 African startups access to clients and opportunities to expand their markets. Microsoft has worked with other South African start-ups on new growth and market potential, including Finclusion, The Awareness Company, Anisoptera, Omnisient, and WalletDoc.

Microsoft’s Founders Hub in Africa

In 2021, the Africa Transformation Office established Microsoft’s Founders Hub in Africa. The self-service hub provides access to a variety of resources; including go-to-market and business support services, as well as tools like Microsoft Azure, GitHub, and Microsoft 365. According to Microsoft, this includes opportunities for startups to sell to their corporate and enterprise clients. It also assists startups with geo-expansion operations, allowing them to grow by opening stores in other countries or regions.

Nearly 150 South African start-ups are among the more than 1000 African start-ups that Microsoft is now assisting through Azure credit, developer tools, mentorship opportunities, and technical help on the Founders Hub.

Awosika says “Our goal is to enable start-ups to rapidly scale using investment funding, and by providing access to skilling programs, access to markets, and access to technology, with support from our engineering and product teams for co-innovation opportunities. We believe start-ups can contribute significantly to developing Africa’s digital economy and contribute to the wider economic growth of Africa.”