Microsoft Venture Offers Access to Entrepreneurs
BY Kasey Wehrum
May 17, 2005--For many entrepreneurs and small business owners, a corporate giant like Microsoft is similar to Mt. Everest: extremely large and very intimidating. However, a new project being launched by the software empire aims to change this perception.
Announced earlier this month, Microsoft Intellectual Property Ventures grants entrepreneurs and new businesses access to the company's multibillion-dollar research and development division through a licensing program. There are currently over 20 technologies developed by Microsoft research that are now available to emerging companies. The innovations range from artificial intelligence and gaming technology to wireless media applications and biometric security tools.
"This represents a very broad shift in the way Microsoft views intellectual property," said David Kaefer, director of business development. "We are working to make it more openly available. The applications being licensed will be mainly pre-commercial, stand-alone applications, which are ready to go today or very soon after," he added.
Kaefer said that the licensing model will be flexible enough to accommodate young start-ups where cash may be in short supply, including allowing for royalty payments and equity. "In the same way a venture capital firm provides capital for start-up companies, we hope to provide technology," he said.
As the program expands, the number and variety of technologies available for license will increase. The licensing agreements will also include a structure that allows for communication between the start-up companies and Microsoft's research team. "We are not just dumping technology over a wall," Kaefer said. "The opportunities are only limited by the creativity of the entrepreneurs and venture capitalists."
Staff editor KASEY WEHRUM has written for Inc. magazine on subjects ranging from the businesses behind professional bull riding to gadget inventor and father of the infomercial, Ron Popeil. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Worth, Budget Travel, and on MSNBC.com. He lives in Brooklyn.