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Bright spark

Bindi Karia, Venture Capital/Emerging Business Lead at Microsoft, is known in the tech community as the ‘Queen of Start-Ups’, heading up the software giant’s BizSpark initiative.

Bindi Karia, Venture Capital/Emerging Business Lead at Microsoft, is known in the tech community as the ‘Queen of Start-Ups’, heading up the software giant’s BizSpark initiative.

A lot of people like their job. But as soon as Bindi Karia starts to speak about her role at Microsoft, it becomes very clear, very quickly, that she loves her job. Leading the software giant’s BizSpark team, Karia is instrumental in helping emerging businesses get a foot on the ladder at the top of which is Microsoft itself.

Young software-focused businesses can access BizSpark through network partners, what Karia calls an 'army' of other corporates, entrepreneur associations, venture capitalists and banks. “It’s people or organisations helping entrepreneurs out, who then become partners with Microsoft,” she says.

The benefits of establishing a link with Microsoft are obvious. Not only can entrepreneurs access software services and support via BizSpark, but being linked to a global industry behemoth opens doors to investment and customer base.

Motivating Microsoft is direct access to early-stage talent, nurturing innovations which fit with the company’s business objectives, and letting these entrepreneurs “build the products out” in Microsoft labs. “At our core, we are a platform company,” says Karia. “What we want is to convince developers to build using our platform, removing any barriers. We’re looking to the long-term, the next generation of partners.”

With one foot in the corporate world, and one foot in the domain of start-ups, Karia is in a unique position to see what the two can learn from each other.  “There is an infamous word used by start-ups – pivot,” she says.  “Start-ups try something and then, if it doesn’t work, they change it straight away. It’s harder for big guys. A lot of innovation teams I speak to within corporates are trying to learn from the approach of start-ups.

“One of the great things about BizSpark is that we can bring this thinking back to Microsoft. We present a report each year on what’s happening in the industry, giving the execs a chance to check we’ve got our finger on the pulse.”

Karia believes that as technology shrinks the marketplace, there are more opportunities than ever for growth and collaborations. “You can build anything, anywhere, and run it from wherever you are. It’s easier to globalise now – to access customers from all over the world, no matter how small you are. It’s also cheaper, as you can rent what you need from the Cloud, so companies can achieve scale more quickly.”

Working with so many entrepreneurs, Karia has developed a specific leadership style. “I call it the art of persuasion,” she laughs. “I work hard to find out what’s in it for them, and make them the hero. If they are helping me to do something, I want them to be recognised for it.”

The moniker ‘Queen of Start Ups’ is testament that this approach has gained her considerable respect from the companies under her wing. And this respect is mutual. “I am constantly engaging with thought-leaders, risk-takers – incredibly smart, brilliant CEOs who want to change the world. They inspire me every day.”

5 business lessons

  1. Be diplomatic: You can still be tough, but sometimes just being nice helps.
  2. Put honesty and integrity at the heart of what you do: Tell the truth – be straightforward. If you play games, you will get caught out.
  3. Listening is as important as talking: Absorb and then provide feedback after you have listened.
  4. You are nobody until you have failed three times: I’ve had some real setbacks, but have stepped back, evaluated, then refocused. The new generation of entrepreneurs have this attitude.
  5. Be careful what you put online:  People learn a lot from what you put out there, so manage what information is available. On the flipside, social media is a great medium for business leaders to put out positive messages and engage with people.

 

To find out more visit: www.microsoft.com/bizspark

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