Q&A: Microsoft’s Larry Cohen Talks About garage.com and Helping High-Tech Startups

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 27, 1999 — Microsoft Corp. has become a founding sponsor of garage.com, a company founded by former Apple Computer Chief Evangelist Guy Kawasaki, which helps prepare and link early-stage technology companies with high quality investors. Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Developer and Business Relations Group, established in Palo Alto, Calif., in November 1998, to provide a local Microsoft resource for the Silicon Valley software development and business community, will serve as the main liaison between Microsoft and garage.com client startups.

Following the announcement today, PressPass caught up with Larry Cohen, general manager of Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Developer and Business Relations Group ( http://www.msdn.microsoft.com/svdevcenter/ ), to get his perspective on the garage.com sponsorship and how it fits into Microsoft’s growing presence in Silicon Valley.

PressPass : Why did Microsoft become a founding sponsor of garage.com?

Cohen : We see our sponsorship of garage.com as a natural fit with Microsoft’s mission to empower developers by providing them with a wide range of technical and business resources. Garage.com ( http://www.garage.com ) actively seeks out developers and presents to them a value proposition that includes potential venture funding, access to legal support, organizational development and inroads to relationships of all kinds, including relationships with technology companies. The Microsoft Silicon Valley Developer and Business Relations Group (SVDRG) was formed to provide developers in this area with a local point of contact with Microsoft; our involvement as the first technology company to sponsor garage.com is another venue for our outreach in Silicon Valley.

PressPass : What do garage.com startups gain from this relationship?

Cohen : We’ll work closely with garage.com to help them understand Microsoft’s mission, strategy and technologies, so that garage.com can impart that information to start-up ventures. We’ll share our long-range vision with garage.com, so that its advisors and investors can help early-stage companies plot long-term strategies. Also, Microsoft is providing development tools and technologies, including a limited number of MSDN Universal Subscriptions, which garage.com may offer its client startups.

PressPass : Why was the garage.com sponsorship attractive to Microsoft? To garage.com?

Cohen : Early on, we knew that Microsoft’s profile in the Silicon Valley developer community would increase through working with garage.com. The SVDRG is primarily an enabling organization; we help developers create pathways to business success. Of course, I’d known of Guy Kawasaki for many years, and I had the opportunity to work with him briefly when I was at Claris and he was at Apple. Shortly before I moved back to Silicon Valley from Redmond, I sent Guy an email telling him I was returning to head up SVDRG. He was very receptive to hearing about Microsoft’s commitment to the developer community. I think that the garage.com folks also saw a very nice alignment in our goals — to empower developers with business and technical resources that would help them fully realize their ideas.

PressPass : Garage.com seeks to link entrepreneurs with venture capitalists and investors. As a sponsor company, does this mean Microsoft will be looking to fund start-ups?

Cohen : No, our objectives are really to provide developers with the information and connections they need – both business and technical. So, while our relationship with garage.com may help us introduce start-ups to the venture capital (VC) community, we’re not looking to make direct investments in these startups. Our primary goal is to maximize our exposure to start-ups, communicate to them the Microsoft value proposition, and discuss how they might work with us from a technical perspective.

PressPass : Prior to the announcement of Microsoft’s sponsorship of garage.com, was there any significant interaction between the two organizations?

Cohen : Yes. Guy Kawasaki is on the advisory board of SVDRG. We have also been doing a lot of work with the garage.com team, specifically Bill Joos. In fact, we recently sponsored their sold-out Bootcamp for Startups conference in early April, along with Red Herring magazine, which was a huge success. We’re very excited that garage.com will be holding two more Bootcamps for Startups this year: one in Silicon Valley in September; and another in Boston in October. We’re also very excited because garage.com is planning to have a Seattle Bootcamp in early 2000.

PressPass : You say that the relationship with garage.com is only one of SVDRG’s activities in Silicon Valley. What are some of the others?

Cohen : Examples include our participation in the Software Development Forum ( http://www.softwareforum.org/ ) — Microsoft is a top level sponsor and I’m on the executive advisory committee — and our charter sponsorship in Round Zero ( http://www.roundzero.com ), a forum for the exchange of entrepreneurial experiences and dialogue on technology trends. And of course there’s the upcoming opening of Microsoft’s new campus in Mountain View later this year; SVDRG will be moving into that facility, where we’ll be able to expand our labs, meeting rooms and conference facilities into a state-of-the-art environment.

PressPass : What is the charter of SVDRG?

Cohen : SVDRG provides outreach to developers and serves as a point of access into the Microsoft organization — in short, we put a human face on Microsoft for developers in Silicon Valley. Our charter is to provide a center where developers, entrepreneurs and other high-tech businesspeople have access to the resources they need to be successful building Windows-based applications and interacting with the Microsoft developer community. We’re equipped with state-of-the-art hardware and software, and we have facilities where developers working with Microsoft technologies can meet with Microsoft and others in the high-tech community.

Press Pass : How does SVDRG fit in with other developer programs offered by Microsoft?

Cohen : Microsoft is absolutely committed to supporting developers worldwide; we currently have more than 2,000 employees devoted to developer-focused marketing, research and development, and support, and we spend more than $600 million annually to help make developers successful. The SVDRG’s regional efforts complement a broad range of programs offered by Microsoft via MSDN, the Microsoft Developer Network. Specifically, SVDRG works very closely with the MSDN ISV Startups Program ( http://msdn.microsoft.com/msdnisv/startups/ ), which is a free co-marketing and business development program for emerging high-tech companies that currently works with more than 2,600 companies worldwide.

PressPass : How is SVDRG doing in general?

Cohen : Since opening about six months ago, we’ve worked with nearly 200 startup companies and 30 venture capital firms. We provide specific information about Microsoft products, technologies and long-range vision through executive roundtables and workshops, and through informal meetings.

PressPass : Are there plans for other centers like SVDRG outside Redmond?

Cohen : Yes, in fact Microsoft is creating a similar program in Boston.

PressPass : From a technology standpoint, what are the highest priorities now for SVDRG, in terms of education and providing resources to the development community?

Cohen : Our most pressing initiatives now and for the foreseeable future are in the areas of Windows 2000, Windows CE and the Windows DNA architecture.

PressPass : You spent four-and-a-half years working for Microsoft in Redmond, most recently as group product manager for the online real-estate service for MSN HomeAdvisor. How do you like being back in the Bay Area?

Cohen : I had worked in the Valley for Claris and Collabra, and I love the Bay Area. It’s really exciting to return to this area where there is such an incredible pulse of innovation on so many fronts: new companies, technology innovation, the investment community and the culture in general. Plus, it’s great to be able to visit my favorite
“East Coast style”
pizza place — Vito’s in Sunnyvale.

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