There are 150 million startups in the world today with 50 million new startups launching every year. On average, there are 137,000 startups emerging every day. With competition that high, it is hard for new startups to succeed. Launching a first startup is much more than opening a website and organizing business. Entrepreneurship should be available to all, as anyone with an idea deserves a chance to innovate and grow.
How Are Startups Funded?
There are few rounds of funding startups generally raise money. Preliminary round known as bootstrapping is when the founders, their friends and family invest in the business. After that comes seed funding from so-called “angel investors,” high-net-worth individuals who invest in early-stage companies. Next, there are Series A, B, C and D funding rounds, primarily led by venture capital firms, which invest tens to hundreds of millions of dollars into companies. Finally, a startup may decide to become a public company and open itself up to outside money via an IPO, an acquisition by a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) or a direct listing on a stock exchange. Anyone can invest in a public company, and the startup founders and early backers can sell their stakes to realize a big return on investment.
How Microsoft supports Funding of Startups?
To further support startups and enable their growth, Microsoft for Startups formed Founders Hub, a platform that delivers personalized technical tools and business resources users need to launch and grow their startup. Founders Hub gives opportunities to users to sell their solution through Microsoft channels and marketplaces. It is a secure and compliant platform trusted by organizations large and small including 95% of Fortune 500 companies where insider guidance provides a step-by-step process to understand, when, how, and why to raise a round. Founders Hub helps remove traditional barriers to building a tech company by democratizing historically inaccessible resources including expert mentorship. How to succeed and stay relevant as a startup explained CTO of a mobilityONE and Microsoft’s Customer Program Manager, Renata Šoić.
From the perspective of Make IT Easy tech startup
Make IT Easy is Croatian tech startup that joined Founders Hub platform to use all its benefits. Their solution mobilityONE is global multilingual software in cloud. It is a simple and modular tool for mobility management and management of fleets from different companies based on the idea to manage all daily activities connected to the vehicles, as well as budgets and expenses. We talked with Damir Škrtić, CTO of mobilityONE, about the support they get by Founders Hub and their plans.
Today, startups have to face many challenges before they develop their business, starting from managing finances, to having suitable tools to launch and run their projects. How did your story start? Now that your business has entered its next phase, how can Founders Hub help in further accelerating the growth of your company?
Damir Škrtić: MobilityONE story started with the years of experience in leasing and fleet management of our initial founder Mladen Herceg and deep content, industry, and market knowledge. A group of co-founders coming from different industries each with over 20 years of experience, recognized the idea and joined the team. For me personally, after deciding to quit my corporate job and do something more entrepreneurial and exciting, I joined this group and helped structure and develop a modern product able to scale worldwide. We joined Founders Hub in the phase of finishing our MVP just before we started proving our product market fit. We also joined Microsoft Partner Network. At Founders Hub, we discovered we had access to tools, platforms, and credits. Technically, we are mostly Microsoft-based, and as any startup, we need to take care of how we spend available funds. Also, we extend our reach to experts, leaders, partners, and experience. You can never get enough knowledge, regardless of the experience you have. Our goal is also to extend the partnership with Microsoft, as we need to fit our solution to corporate landscapes worldwide and utilize Microsoft’s reach (including marketplace).
You’ve been developing your platform for almost 8 years to create a solution for fleet management for expert and leasing companies. What are your next steps?
Damir Škrtić: After a period of initial development of “conventional” product focused on a narrow customer base (leasing and fleet management companies), during 2021 we started to develop a modern SaaS platform able to scale worldwide and cover a wide customer base (any company utilizing vehicle fleets). We have developed an MVP and are now closing our first sales efforts and proving product-market fit. Our next steps include: strong market activities starting in Croatia and moving to the EU; continuous development of our product and incorporating customer feedback; integrating the platform with innovative solutions from identified strategic partners proving we have a core platform able to be extended with best-of-breed solutions for specific issues; integrating our platform with widely used productivity and ERP systems – Microsoft and SAP (including presence on Microsoft and SAP marketplaces); and funding the next phase of development through VC funds.
What is your advice for young entrepreneurs who are about to start their startup journey?
Damir Škrtić: First and foremost, get yourself a customer as soon as possible; feedback is important for your product, and the ability to get to the customer is important for funding. Additionally, get out and talk to people. There are many that might help you in a way you cannot imagine right now. And finally, don’t give up, but be ready to discard and scrap some of your ideas.
Croatia – country of unique opportunities for human-oriented AI development
Croatia has a very active startup scene, accompanied by an of investments in Croatian startups. For the past few years, we have been seeing significant growth of AI startups. Through a culture of dialogue between entrepreneurs and decision-makers at the national and European levels, Microsoft Croatia aims to help position the country as a country with unique opportunities for the development of human-oriented AI. Renata Šoić, Customer Program Manager at Microsoft, highlighted the benefits that Founders Hub can provide to its users and shared some helpful advice for those considering starting their own business.
Where do we as a region stand when it comes to startups development?
Renata Šoić: The Multy-country region has over 300 startups in the Founders Hub. Most amount comes from Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Serbia and Croatia. Great potential is in Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. We actively participate in conferences that bring together developer communities and startups to introduce them with Founders hub and its benefits for startups. Founders hub is a new, innovative and improved MS program for startups, and soon we are also preparing something for ISVs that are not startups, i.e., do not meet the requirements for Founders hub, and in this way, we will complete the whole and have offers for both startups and ISVs.
What are the benefits for startups that Founders Hub can provide?
Renata Šoić: Most important benefit is free access to Microsoft cloud solutions which can be used to build product or solution to develop and run a business. Croatian startups can use the support we provide through our Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub, which combines technology, expert guidance, and support they need to reach the next stage of their development. Our platform allows Microsoft-qualified startups to use free Azure loans worth up to $ 150,000, get free access to development and productivity tools, benefit from mentoring support from business leaders and technology experts, and receive special startup offers from Microsoft partners. I believe it is an excellent starting point for startup founders, providing them with valuable tools for the development of their idea while also freeing up extra time to be creative and build their success story.
Based on your experience, what is something that a business owner must pay attention to when starting a company?
When starting a new business, it’s not enough just to have a great idea. A new company has to be successful and competitive to stay relevant in the market. There are some steps that should be taken in order to succeed. First of all, business owners must research the market, possible customers and competitors before taking the first step in developing a company. Secondly, they have to know how and where to secure additional funds to start the business but also, pay attention to strategy, sales channels, and how to approach their customers. Through the Founders hub, Microsoft can provide great help not only in technological sense but also in the form of mentors, market support and marketplace that will help startups and their solutions to be available for customers in more than 150 countries worldwide.
Together with partners and customers, Microsoft continues to be on its mission to empower every person and organization to achieve more. Learning from each other is important and together we have found a way to make a difference while sharing awareness of the importance of education, striving for growth, and new experiences.