Startup grows business thanks to early engagement with the UK Microsoft startup team

Endjin are a Microsoft Gold Partner for the Cloud Platform competency; but we didn’t start that way! When Microsoft asked us if we could share our experiences of working with them, I was delighted to do so.  Our involvement with the teams and individuals at Microsoft since Endjin was founded in 2010, has only been positive, creating new opportunities for us from being a small startup to a mature, profitable, sustainable business. 

So, have a read of my reflection of our experience of working with Microsoft below.  In short, if you are a startup looking for a credible cloud platform to build your solution upon, but more importantly, valuable business relationships and opportunities to help grow your business – you should be working with the teams at Microsoft.

At the beginning

Microsoft helped us from the very start.  When we founded the company in 2010, we needed an email address to register for all the bureaucratic processes required when forming a company (Companies House, VAT Registration etc.), so our first problem was “what email address should we use?”. So, while sat in the members lounge of Royal Festival Hall, we spun up an Office 365 account in under 5 minutes and for £5 per user per month, we had a full enterprise ready email system, a SharePoint environment to save our company formation documents, and a copy of Microsoft Office which enabled us to get on with some more work. In the last 7 years, we’ve never had to worry about IT Infrastructure (or backups), we’ve never had an “outage” of email, and we’ve never had to spend any time worrying about upgrading to newer versions of the platform – that’s all been taken care of as part of the service. Every time someone new joins the company, all we do is increase the subscription by 1 and that’s it. This is what it’s like to be “born in the cloud”.

BizSpark” gave us access to tools and software we didn’t have to pay for.  Once we had the company set up, the next step was that we needed to get access to development tools and products vital to any software development company. For a company with a bank balance of £0, suddenly having to pay for several MSDN subscriptions can be a daunting prospect. Fortunately, the BizSpark programme was created to help companies in that precise situation; once you enrol in the programme you have a year to bootstrap your business, build your products and make enough money to pay for your MSDN subscriptions or qualify for Microsoft Partner Status (and reap the benefits). Within week 1 we had access to everything we needed to start developing software in the Microsoft ecosystem.

More than just free cloud

Introduction to one of our first, and most long standing customers.  One of our early meetings with Microsoft was with the Developer Evangelism (now DX) team; we explained who we were, what our combined experience was and what we hoped to do as a new business. From this we were introduced to Milliman, who were looking to develop a new Azure based actuarial modelling platform that could do distributed computation. We helped with that project, and many more since as Milliman have evolved their product offerings.

Working directly with the Product Groups helps increase our expertise.  Our experience of pushing Azure to the limit with Milliman, led to an invitation to the Azure Advisors group; a forum which allows us to interact with the product team, post questions, provide feedback on the product roadmap, and get private access to unannounced new products and services.

Microsoft helped us take our solution to market.  When we met the UK Customer Advocacy team and told them about some of the project we had delivered, they were keen to transform them into full case studies. Last year we collaborated on three; how we helped Watchfinder adopt Azure to grow globally, how we helped Hymans Robertson embrace the Cloud, and how Milliman delivered hyper-scale compute on Azure. We were also given the opportunity to talk at events like Future Decoded, for example about Hymans Robertson being a 100-year-old start-up. The team also helped us market some of our Thought Leadership.

Help with our IP.  We recently started working with the Developer Experience ISV team to talk about how we could take the vast amounts of Intellectual Property we’ve amassed over the past 7 years and turn it into products and services, running on Azure, that could deliver an annuity based revenue stream to the company.

A final word

Finally, 7 years in to running a small business, we’ve become Microsoft Accelerator Mentors, which means that we can close the circle and offer advice to other start-ups (for example AppyParking & FitWell) who are at the beginning of their journey.

We didn’t realise just how much of a difference it would make working with Microsoft from the start.  Our relationship has grown from strength to strength and we are continuously discovering new opportunities with our partnership.

Microsoft works with businesses of all shapes and sizes. To find out if you’re eligible contact the startup team at startout@microsoft.com

 

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