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Dan’l Lewin, Don Dodge, and Dave Drach from Microsoft visited Techstars this past Tuesday. They did a great job of describing how startups could leverage Silverlight, PopFly, and the Microsoft Startup Zone.

I’ve been a fan on Don Dodge’s blog “The Next Big Thing” ever since his well-known rebuttal to the Microsoft is Dead linkbait of 3 months ago. Don has a post up tonight talking about his visit to Techstars and highlighting a few of our companies.

The dynamic of the session with our 26 founders was really interesting in and of itself. Only two of our ten startups utilize the Microsoft stack. Dan’l, Don, and Dave showed genuine interest in understanding why this was the case and I think they got some fantastic feedback from our founders. There is certainly the impression that “it’s just too expensive” and there are some very real reasons why this perception exists, even though it’s not necessarily true given the right connections or access to the best information. We also talked extensively about open source and how early stage companies can simply get their hands on “all the code” vs waiting for their particular bug to become important enough to get fixed. Whatever your religion on this topic is, you couldn’t help leaving this meeting feeling like Microsoft “gets it” and wants to do everything in their substantial power to win back the minds of more startups.

When I did my first startup, it was “pure” Microsoft. For us, this was a no-brainer at the time because we were building public safety software and reliability, support, and platform recognition were key to our ability to sell. The Microsoft Developer Network was a big part of our success, and today the company has evolved fully to .NET and it continues to scale affordably in the largest ambulance operations in the world.

We spent another hour with the guys from Microsoft by allowing our teams to each stand up and give their elevator pitches. After all, it’s not every day you meet the Corporate VP of Strategic and Emerging Business Development at a fifty billion dollar company. Make them nervous while you can, right? Each team had 2 minutes (a long elevator ride) to get their vision across to the group, and then got asked a few pointed questions. I think it was a great exercise for the Techstars teams.

Earlier in the day, the group from Microsoft had also visited many of the other promising companies in the area, showing their support for what’s going on here in Colorado. From what I heard, they were impressed with what they saw. The night ended with a quick talk at the Boulder New Tech Meetup.

Thanks to Dan’l, Don, and Dave for the time at Techstars. All in all, I felt that this was one of our best sessions of the summer so far. And I think they got to take something away from it too.

David Cohen
(@davidcohen) Founder & Managing Partner of Techstars, previously founder of several technology companies. David is an active startup advocate, advisor, board member, and technology advisor who comments on these topics on his blog at DavidGCohen.com