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Microsoft’s Azure Accelerator In China Debuts Inaugural Class

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As you may recall, Microsoft recently got into the startup accelerator game, launching its first self-directed and self-run accelerator in Israel. The program is different from Microsoft’s Kinect Accelerator, for example, because Microsoft is the owner and operator of these new programs, which are now rolling out elsewhere in the world, including India and China. Unlike your typical clone of YC, Microsoft is not snagging an equity stake nor providing funding for the startups it hosts. But it also doesn’t plan to run out of cash for its programs, either. (See Mike’s deep dive into the Israel-based incubator here).

This Friday, the Chinese accelerator will announce its inaugural class of startups, a unique group because of Microsoft’s focus on cloud computing businesses which already have products and end users.

A desire to pick and back companies with a clear and proven market is typical in China, so it’s not surprising to find Microsoft leaning in this direction here. “Another key difference,” explains David Lin, Microsoft Accelerator Director, “is that we co-locate the Accelerator workspace at Microsoft R&D campuses – this is the case for Tel Aviv and Bangalore as well.”

“In our case, the Beijing R&D campus, officially named Microsoft Asia Pacific R&D HQ, has over 2,000 engineers and scientists in a brand new 100,000 sqm (or roughly 1m sq. ft) campus,” Lin continues. “We have 20 top-notch internal mentors including 6 IEEE fellows and seasoned managers with combined professional experience of [est] 400 years in software/IT/tech. Additionally, we have selected very mature startups who have existing products and users. We classify these startups as being in the pre-A range and we believe that startups at this level of development are a perfect fit for the resources and mentorship we provide,” he says. “We have high expectations for our first session, and we expect that a very large percentage of our startup teams will become successful businesses.”

With the Chinese program, Microsoft has the opportunity to establish a foothold in the large and growing cloud computing market in China – a market which China itself has put heavy emphasis on through its own initiatives and investments. Microsoft is not the first U.S.-based entity with an interest in fostering entrepreneurship in China (to its own ends), of course. Just this year, a consortium of Chinese and American financial institutions launched a Silicon Valley-China tech accelerator called InnoSpring. And Chinaccelerator, a member of the Global Accelerator Network (formerly the TechStars Network), was the incubator where TechCrunch Disrupt Beijing 2011 winner OrderWithMe got its start.

While Microsoft is using its accelerators to promote its own cloud platform, Windows Azure, the startups selected for the Chinese program are actually developing on multiple platforms, including open-source. Seven companies in the current group, in fact, are building on open-source technologies, we’re told.

Microsoft’s accelerator is also being honored as an “Innovation Accelerator” by the administrative committee of the Zhongguancun Science Park, the Chinese “Silicon Valley” where the accelerator is located, the company says.

Below, is the first class of startups:

Snack Studio

A design driven team that creates high-quality Windows Phone 7 applications, with every app the product of extensive research and analysis, geared to facilitate user enjoyment.

Microcare

An innovative company dedicated to providing quality service for mobile APP networks. Its pioneering service platform, Devs Desktop Real Device Testing Suite, provides services tailor-made for App developers.

Fotoable

A mobile, multimedia company with special focus on photo-related applications in areas such as album management, special effects, and animation.

Unidust

Wormhole is a leading “Siri”-like voice assistant for Android that enables users to have a conversation with their phone, makes phones easier to operate, and helps solve life problems.

EachCloud

A webpage bookmark tool that puts the webpages that intrigue a user into a short summary, or a webclip. Users who have similar webclips and interests can find each other, and even become friends.

BanBao

BanBao is a free Personalized Social Information Companion for your Windows Phone that puts your friends, news and tweets in one place so you can access them anywhere, anytime.

OpenXLive

A mobile gaming social network platform that offers compelling features including leader board, achievements, multi-player and SNS integration.

ApeHills

Creator of edu-tainment oriented apps and language learning apps for the Japanese market. They believe that by getting addicted to life as though it were a video game, people can fill their lives with happiness.

FeiYan

An app that allows users to send coupons for a custom meal via text message, and to send virtual gifts and attend celebrations in spirit.

Atom

Creates social collaboration tools that help mid- to small-sized enterprises socialize and coordinate software.