Microsoft India on Wednesday announced two new initiatives for startups in India.

Curated for AI startups, the tech giant announced the second season of its Microsoft AI Innovate initiative and will introduce its second cohort. It also announced a hackathon for startups to provide resources and support to developers for creating digital solutions that “empower business innovation, social entrepreneurship, and sustainability.”

Call for nominations

Microsoft AI Innovate’s second season is inviting nominations from software-as-a-service (SaaS) startups whose core applications or services are built using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies. 

“Supported by SaaS Insider, the initiative is designed to help startups scale their operations, drive greater innovation, and build industry expertise,” Microsoft said in a statement. 

During the 10-week programme, startups will partner with Microsoft’s engineering and product teams to build their AI models. Additionally, they can work on relevant scenarios with Microsoft experts and receive mentorship and skilling opportunites.

 “Selected startups receive OpenAI preview and credits, access to industry and technology deep-dive sessions and AI masterclasses by experts, mentoring by startup founders and renowned industry leaders, skilling and certification opportunities, among other benefits,” the company said.

“Catering to both technical and business audiences, the programme brings together tech know-how, global GTM partnerships and engineering expertise,” it added. T

The debut cohort of 16 startups from fintech, manufacturing and logistics sectors graduated last month. 

Code hackathon

Presented in association with Techgig, the hackathon for startups will invite teams to turn their ideas into prototypes that are built on Microsoft Azure. 

“Designed to solve challenges around business innovation, social entrepreneurship and sustainability, the solutions can leverage the best-in-class tools, languages and open-source frameworks that offer flexibility, collaboration, and security of the trusted cloud platform,” it said.

Startups will be offered Azure masterclasses and hands-on training in technologies like Serverless, Kubernetes, Data Fundamentals, Java & .NET, Github and Azure AI & ML, among others. The top 100 shortlisted startups will receive $300 worth of Azure credits to build their prototype on Azure. The top three teams will win cash prizes while the top 25 startups are eligible to join the Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub programme.

“The disruptive vision of startups is catalysing our country’s innovation engine and we are excited to partner with every startup on this journey. With deepened focus on core AI startups in the second season of Microsoft AI Innovate, we are bringing the best of Microsoft’s AI capabilities in creating the magic with the power of data and AI. The hackathon provides an opportunity for some of the most innovative ideas to come to life on the trusted platform of Microsoft Azure. We are hopeful that both initiatives will help startups build securely and scale faster through the Microsoft ecosystem,” said Sangeeta Bavi, Director, Startup Ecosystem, Microsoft India.

Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub offers over $300,000 worth of benefits and credits, and free access to technology, tools, and resources they may need to build and run their business. 

Microsoft is partnering with companies such as OpenAI, which develops AI systems such as GPT-3 and Codex, to provide startups with benefits and discounts. Startups also have access to Microsoft Learn for training programmes.