Microsoft Ventures announces latest group of startups to receive $25,000 grants

Microsoft Ventures, the capital investment arm of Microsoft, has an ongoing project dubbed "Seattle Accelerator" aimed at helping entrepreneurs scale their businesses. The program provides business mentorship, technology and marketing expertise, office space, and other resources to companies identified as upcoming leaders in particular areas. Previously focusing on Productivity and IoT/Home Automation, Microsoft Ventures is now taking a look at Machine Learning and Data Science.

Over the past couple of years, $1B of venture capital has been poured into cognitive technologies, according to Deloitte, and there’s no doubt machine learning will be used to reinvent, digitalize, or eliminate business processes and products in the near future.

“Big data and advanced analytics techniques are touching more and more lives every day. We are on the cusp of doing remarkable things such as predicting disease outbreaks, drastically reducing wait times in emergency rooms, and even predicting and preventing crime. Nevertheless, we have barely scratched the surface in terms of the potential of these technologies to change the world. Microsoft’s goal is to make data science and machine learning broadly accessible – to every enterprise, every startup, and, over time, to everybody,” says Joseph Sirosh, Corporate Vice President of the Data Group at Microsoft. “The Cortana Analytics Suite empowers startups through our state-of-the-art platform and tools, and the startups that are part of the Seattle accelerator program are helping us get ever closer to that goal.”

Microsoft hit up 12 cities in the U.S. and Canada looking for good candidates for the next round of investments and narrowed the list of applications to 26 businesses. After a rigorous "Jury Day" process where each business was able to pitch their technology in front of over 50 jury members from all walks of life, including investors, partners, data scientists, psychologists, customers, and entrepreneurs, Microsoft culled the list down to the following:

- Affinio provides actionable audience insights that let brands and agencies understand social silent majority.
- Agolo builds proprietary summarization technology for analysts that improve accuracy of reporting by 4x.
- Clarify allows developers to search and understand audio and video using a simple API.
- DefinedCrowd is a platform that provides big data for Speech and NLP Technology by combining crowd sourcing and machine learning.
- Knomos is a knowledge network leveraging data visualization for legal research, education, and user collaboration.
- MedWhat is an artificial intelligence doctor that answers medical questions, has personalized medical conversations with the user about their daily health & wellness, provides medical reminders and follows up using the user’s health record and medical sensor data.
- OneBridge Solutions provides enterprise, mission-critical cloud apps for pipeline companies using MS Azure, Big Data and Machine learning.
- Percolata optimizes retail labor through sensors and mobile and web applications.
- Plexuss is radically changing the way universities find and recruit students.
- simMachines provides metric and non-metric nearest neighbor classifiers, recommendations, clustering and search with a new family of dense distance functions (cloud-based SaaS).

Each of these companies will receive $25,000 grants and business leadership and mentoring to help them advance their ideas. Microsoft Ventures does not directly invest in the businesses, but rather aims to help them turn their ideas into actionable business plans.

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