Microsoft Expands Free Azure AI for Startups Program

Microsoft announced on Thursday that it has expanded its free Azure artificial intelligence (AI) resource program for startup developer companies.

The program, called "Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub," was announced back in November, but it initially just provided free Azure AI resources for Y Combinator and M12 startups (M12 is Microsoft's venture capital funding organization). Now Microsoft is offering the Founders Hub program to other incubator organizations, namely the "AI Grant Fund, Alchemist Accelerator, Conviction, The House Fund, Open AI Startup Fund, Neo and AI investor Elad Gil," the announcement indicated.

The Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub program dangles "up to $150,000 in Azure credits for use toward Azure AI Studio" for startup companies leveraging AI. The program also offers tooling support, "tailored GPU virtual machine clusters," AI models as a service, plus one-on-one meetings with experts. There are eligibility requirements, though.

To be eligible for the program, startups must be:

  • Building a software based product or service
  • Privately held and for-profit
  • Pre-Series D or privately funded
  • Have not previously received more than $10,000 in Azure credits.

Such program details can be found at this sign-up page.

While the $150,000 in free Azure credits sounds like a good deal, not every program participant will get them. The Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub is actually a tiered benefits program, based on four levels ("Ideate, Develop, Grow, and Scale") at which Microsoft assesses the program's candidates. The benefits for Level 1 candidates (Ideate) aren't described. Level 2 candidates (Develop) get $5,000 total Azure credits, while Level 3 candidates (Grow) get $25,000 total Azure credits. It's just the Level 4 candidates (Scale) that are eligible for top credits under the program. Microsoft explains these nuances at this page.

Microsoft also has an extension to its Startups Founders Hub program, which is known as the Microsoft for Startups Pegasus program. It specifically offers help to "select B2B startups" that are working with companies.

"Seventy-five percent of Pegasus startups have landed deals with Fortune 1000 companies via increased reach across Azure Marketplace," Microsoft indicated, in its November announcement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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